Conceptions of Genocide and the Ethics of Memorialization

  • Jeffrey Blustein


Conceptions of genocide can be broadly divided into individualistic and collectivistic. According to the former, genocide is essentially a crime against (many) individuals; according to the latter, it is a crime against a group, which is not reducible to an aggregate of the individuals who belong to it. This chapter argues for the latter on the grounds that it is necessary to capture the distinctive moral evil of genocide. It also argues for a non-consequentialist way of accounting for the ethical value of memorializing genocide. This is called an expressivist approach and three attitudes that memorials may express are highlighted and explored: respect, self-respect, and fidelity to the dead. Different accounts are then presented to explain how these attitudes can belong not only to individuals but also to groups and how, therefore, an expressivist ethic of remembrance for groups is possible. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the principle of warranted self-testifying, according to which those who suffer harm are in an ethically privileged position to testify to it. This principle is applied to group memorialization of genocidal harm, conceived as a group practice.


Genocide conceptions Expressivism Respect Self-respect Fidelity to the dead Principle of warranted self-testifying 



I want to thank Dennis Klein, Colleen Murphy, and Margaret Walker for comments on earlier drafts.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.City College, and Graduate CenterCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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