The Macabresque: Human Violation and Hate in Genocide, Mass Atrocity and Enemy-Making (Hardback)Edward Weisband (author)
Hardback 480 Pages / Published: 16/11/2017
- We can order this
Studies of genocide and mass atrocity most often focus on their causes and consequences, their aims and effects, and the number of people killed. But the question remains, if the main goal is death, then why is torture necessary? This book argues that genocide and mass atrocity are committed not as an end in themselves but as a means to pursue sustained and systemic torture - the spectacle of violence - against its victims. Extermination is not the only, or even the primary, goal of genocidal campaigns. In The Macabresque, Edward Weisband looks at different episodes of mass violence (Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Holocaust, post-Ottoman Turkey, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, among other instances) to consider why different methods of violence were used in each and how they related to the particular cultural milieu in which they were perpetrated. He asserts that it is not accidental that certain images capture our memory as emblematic of specific genocides or mass atrocities (the death marches of the Armenian genocide, mass starvation in the Ukraine, the killing apparatus and laboratories of the Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia) because such violence assumes a kind of style each time and place it arises. Weisband looks at these variations in terms of their aesthetic or dramaturgical style, or what he calls the macabresque. The macabresque is ever present in genocide and mass atrocity across time, place and episode. Beyond the horrors of lethality, it is the defining feature of concentration and/or death camps, detention centers, prisons, ghettos, killing fields, and the houses, schools and hospitals converted into hubs for torture. Macabresque dramaturgy also assumes many aesthetic forms, all designed to inflict hideous pain and humiliating punishments, sometimes in controlled environments, but also during frenzied moments of staged public horror. These kinds of performative violations permit perpetrators to revel in their absolute power but simultaneously to project hatred, revenge and revulsion onto victims, who embody the shame, humiliation and loss felt by their torturers. By understanding how and why mass violence occurs and the reasons for its variations, The Macabresque aims to explain why so many seemingly normal or "ordinary" people participate in mass atrocity across cultures and why such egregious violence occurs repeatedly through history.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of pages: 480
Weight: 764 g
Dimensions: 237 x 167 x 38 mm
"This book offers an important theoretical bridge between the research census that perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities are ordinary people, and recognition that they commit violence of extraordinary cruelty. Contributing a complex psycho-social framework, Weisband adds depth of analysis to the exploration of this conundrum within the study of mass violence."
--Bridget K. Conley, Research Director, World Peace Foundation at The Fletcher School, Tufts University
"For many years, the study of perpetrators has been dominated by the 'ordinary men' paradigm. Edward Weisband's book offers us a much-needed alternative. Centered on the notion of performativity, The Macabresque provides an interdisciplinary, multidimensional explanation for the origins of genocide and atrocity crimes that everyone working in the field should read."
--Alexander Hinton, Director, Rutgers Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights
"Edward Weisband has produced a stunning piece of scholarship. In his carefully developed formulation of the disturbing-yet essential-notion of 'the macabresque' he has succeeded in combining an unflinching yet astute mode of historical and empirical analysis with a set of incisive and theoretically expansive formulations. This rigorous study will redefine how we understand the psychical and political reality of genocide, torture, and mass atrocity. Every now and again one comes across a book that shifts an entire constellation of scholarly thought and produces an irreversible change in how one thinks of human nature. Edward Weisband's The Macabresque is just such a book."
--Derek Hook, Associate Professor of Psychology, Duquesne University
"Edward Weisband's The Macabresque is a creative and profound interrogation of the contemporary theater of cruelty. Its questions are compelling and its critical thinking is conceptually wide ranging and provocative."
--Michael J. Shapiro, Professor of Political Science, University of Hawai'i, Manoa
You may also be interested in...
Please sign in to write a review
Thank you for your reservation
Your order is now being processed and we have sent a confirmation email to you at
When will my order be ready to collect?
Call us on or send us an email at
Unfortunately there has been a problem with your order
Please try again or alternatively you can contact your chosen shop on or send us an email at