This article introduces the idea of ‘‘life force atrocities’’ and investigates the role they have played in twentieth-century genocides, arguing that genocide is a gen- dered crime intimately associated with institutions of reproduction. Using exam- ples from established cases of genocide, such as the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, Bosnia, and Rwanda, as well as from conflicts not generally under- stood as genocides, such as Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the article outlines two types of life force atrocities that have been common features of these conflicts: inversion rituals and ritual desecrations. Each of these instances of ritualized atrocity targets the family unit within victim groups and betrays a preoccupation with the group’s life force in its physical and symbolic dimensions. Since life force atrocities play on gender roles and hierarchies to tor- ture family members, this article focuses on the relational way in which ge ́no- cidaires instrumentalize gendered violence to destroy the sacred realm of the family as part of the larger effort to destroy a group. The presence of life force atrocities during a conflict can therefore function as an early warning sign of a genocidal logic at some level of the political or military hierarchy. They also offer us insight into the state of mind of the perpetrators who, I argue, see themselves as engaged in a battle with the generative force of the victim group. In some cases, as in Sierra Leone and the DRC, this battle becomes generalized, and soldiers target the life force as such, attempting to destroy (via families) the civilian world in its totality.
von Joeden-Forgey, Elisa
"The Devil in the Details: “Life Force Atrocities” and the Assault on the Family in Times of Conflict,"
Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal:
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