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Organic purity and the role of anthropology in Cambodia and Rwanda

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Straus investigates the ideology of two genocidal regimes in the developing world: the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and Hutu Power in Rwanda. Although the regimes were quite different - one Communist, the other nationalist - he argues that their ideals converged around a notion of organic purity. Both regimes pursued extraordinary violence to meet the ideal: mass destruction was a method to achieve organic purity. Straus further contends that anthropological writings provided the necessary ideational building blocks for this ideal. In promoting a violent return to a mythic past, both murderous regimes embraced the images and concepts of European archaeology and ethnography.

Keywords: Cambodia; Communism; Rwanda; anthropology; genocide; nationalism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Political Science, University of California at Berkeley, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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