The Role of Ideology in Mass Atrocities by Dr Jonathan Leader Maynard

  • Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building, Manor Road Oxford OX1 3UQ

A light sandwich lunch is provided for seminar participants at 12:50. 

In explaining why atrocities such as terrorism, genocide and ethnic cleansing occur, scholars, international organizations, governments and public commentators frequently imply that ideology plays a prominent role. But I wish to suggest that this role is not well understood. Most declarations of ideology's importance are either causally unspecified or causally narrow, and typically rely on vague references to 'hate speech' or 'extremism' that do not effectively enhance scholarly or public knowledge. In this paper I clarify what the best theoretical explication and empirical research suggest regarding ideology's role in atrocities and violent conflict. I suggest that proper understanding of ideology's role requires answers to two key questions: 1) how do certain ideologies causally contribute to violence?; and 2) what processes and conditions generate those violence-promoting ideologies? I will sketch outline answers, based on the existing empirical evidence, to both these questions.

Jonathan Leader Maynard is a Departmental Lecturer in International Relations at New College and the Department of Politics and International Relations at University of Oxford, as well as a Research Associate of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict. His research focuses on the role of ideology in political violence and armed conflict, especially forms of violence against civilians. He is currently working on a book on this topic, Ideology and Mass Killing: How People Justify Terrorism, Genocide, and Other Atrocities, for Oxford University Press.