Ethnic cleansing as euphemism, metaphor, criminology, and law

John Hagan, John Hagan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


Introduction Euphemistic uses of the concept of ethnic cleansing are often traced to “the burning tradition” in the Balkans and the “final solution” in Nazi Germany. In this chapter, we review the origins of these euphemisms and consider how they form a backdrop for understanding the further metaphorical influence of the imagery of ethnic cleansing. Cherif Bassiouni and an international commission of experts revealed the incriminating influence of ethnic cleansing as an activating metaphor, and in this way turned the understanding of the term on its head. The result was to spur an international response to the massive and ongoing atrocities in the former Yugoslavia. We examine the further evolution of a social scientific understanding of ethnic cleansing as a topic of criminological study – a topic that is now evolving alongside the law of ethnic cleansing and genocide in the current epicenter of mass atrocity: Darfur. This discussion requires that we enumerate the meaning and elements of ethnic cleansing. In doing so, we adopt a distinction between “atrocity crime” and “atrocity law” as advanced by David Scheffer. Accordingly, we distinguish the “criminology of mass atrocity” from “the law of atrocity.” The criminology of mass atrocity involves the social scientific study of the precursors of ethnic cleansing, although it may also involve studying factors influencing whether and when these crimes will be legally prosecuted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationForging a Convention for Crimes Against Humanity
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780511921124
ISBN (Print)9780521116480
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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