Genocide and Social Death

  • Claudia Card


This chapter develops the hypothesis that social death is utterly central to the evil of genocide, not just when a genocide is primarily cultural but even when it is homicidal on a massive scale.1 It is social death that enables us to distinguish the peculiar evil of genocide from the evils of other mass murders. Even genocidal murders can be viewed as extreme means to the primary end of social death. Social vitality exists through relationships, contemporary and intergenerational, that create an identity that gives meaning to a life. Major loss of social vitality is a loss of identity and consequently a serious loss of meaning for one’s existence. Putting social death at the center takes the focus off individual choice, individual goals, individual careers, and body counts and puts it on relationships that create community and set the context that gives meaning to choices and goals. If my hypothesis is correct, the term “cultural genocide” is probably both redundant and misleading—redundant, if the social death present in all genocide implies cultural death as well, and misleading, if “cultural genocide” suggests that some genocides do not include cultural death.


Political Group Mass Murder Genocide Convention Cancerous Uterus Genocidal Intent 
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© Claudia Card 2005

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