ISBN: 978-0-19-091562-9

Corinna Jentzsch

Leiden University

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The study of political violence against civilians has recently become increasingly sophisticated, but has largely evolved in disciplinary silos. This extremely comprehensive handbook seeks to overcome this separation and approaches ‘serious, large-scale, collective, and organized acts of violence’ against civilians under the umbrella term ‘atrocity crimes’. This concept includes genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and the crime of aggression. The editors explain the focus on ‘crime’ by highlighting that criminology’s interdisciplinary approach can unite the scattered field of atrocity studies. The volume’s first five parts analyze different types of atrocities; their causes, actors, and victims; and reactions to atrocities. The last part consists of illustrative case studies. Alongside more classic topics such as the role of natural resources, ideology, the state, the international community, and transitional justice processes in atrocity crimes, chapters also provide new perspectives on meso-level actors (Ch. 10), non-lethal violence such as torture and forced disappearances (Ch. 11), bystanders of violence (Ch. 13), corporations (Ch. 17), and, importantly, methods of data collection on atrocity deaths (Ch. 21). The intriguing case studies demonstrate to what extent political violence and peacemaking are part of distinct state-building trajectories. The editors deserve much praise for compiling 37 chapters within a common, thought-provoking interdisciplinary framework, and for bringing together such a distinguished group of authors. The chapters, helpfully, do not stick to a narrow legal terminology and situate atrocity crimes in their broader social and political context. More chapters like the one on child soldiers (Ch. 15), which analyzes the tension between legal definitions and lived realities of children in armed conflict, would showcase the benefits of such interdisciplinary debates even more.