The study of genocide is a prime example of a bind that historians encounter in their profession: a phenomenon about whose reality there can be no doubt is defined by the politicians in a most unsatisfactory way, but as the historians and social scientists cannot agree on an acceptable alternative, the faulty definition devised in the course of political horse-trading stands, and is universally accepted. One may even suggest that even if the academics did come upwith an agreed definition, the politicians would have gained the upper hand. So we have, in the UN Convention of 1948, a messy mix-up between partial and total destruction of a people that does not define what the meaning of destruction of a people might be, between groups variously defined as ethnic, national, racial and religious with no attempt to differentiate between them, no definition as to what is meant by group killings, and more. But that is what we have, and we are dragged, howling and protesting, into using the Convention as a practical guide to what we try to describe, namely massive tragedies caused by humans to humans.
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