Despite its rapid proliferation over the past fifteen years, genocide and atrocity crimes prevention studies are often blinded by normative assumptions and conceptual blinder. This essay argues that any effort at prevention must begin with a first critical lesson, one revealed in the essay’s opening line and writing style. This first lesson suggests a path toward a more critical prevention studies, one involving critique, archeology, and pharmakon. In addition to discussing such conceptual bases for a critical prevention studies, this essay also models how literary strategies, ranging from narrative to poetic form, may help with such a critical endeavor, opening up spaces of reflection instead of closing them with too often dry and linear expository academic prose. Indeed, such openness and reflexivity – too rarely seen in the highly normative and prescriptive prevention literature -- is at the heart of this key first lesson for critical genocide prevention studies.


I’d like to thank Andrew Woolford, Nicole Cooley, and the reviewers for their thoughtful comments and suggestions on this essay. I’d also like to thank Christian Gudehus, Susan Braden, and the team at Genocide Studies and Prevention for their efficient review of this essay and publication of the special issue in which it appears. My appreciation as well goes to the University of Manitoba and Rutgers Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights for co-sponsoring the workshop at which this essay and the larger special issue began to be formulated.



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