The aporia of collective violence

Praeg, L. (2008) The aporia of collective violence. Law and Critique, 19 (2). pp. 193-223. ISSN 0957-8536



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From the theoretical perspective of René Girard, Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida the Rwanda genocide of 1994 may be interpreted as an instance of foundational violence. Given the constant reference in the Rwanda genocide discourse to the failed revolution of 1959, it is perhaps rather a case of deferred foundational violence. Useful as this notion of “foundational violence” may be, as theoretical category it is also hugely challenging because the implicit claim is not just historical (“states are routinely founded on violence”) but analytical (“founding moments are per definition violent”). The result is a profound tension between, on the one hand, the need to understand the event as somehow unexceptional or typical of the founding of new socio-political orders and, on the other hand, the need to judge it as exceptional, an “outrage,” a crime against humanity. This paper treats the tension between the unexceptional and exceptional as aporetic, that is, as a profound puzzle consisting of two equally valid imperatives which are nonetheless mutually exclusive. It is also an attempt to find a way beyond the impasse.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:The original publication is available at
Uncontrolled Keywords:Rwanda genocide; human rights discourse; aporia; Girard; Hobbes; Derrida; founding violence; Truth and Reconciliation Commission, TRC; Rwandan Tribunals; international law; impasse; Rwanda; Rwandan genocide
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Political Studies and International Studies
ID Code:1086
Deposited On:17 Sep 2008
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:19
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