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This article will argue that genocide law-the legal nomination of forms of violence as genocide and what we mean by that nomination-has engendered a discourse on global violence . This discourse, I suggest, reinforces ways of separating the world into political subjects and apolitical objects. The former reside within a world where the violence of genocide is deemed to be radically absent. The latter live with the constant threat of genocidal violence; put otherwise, the objects of the discourse are susceptible to genocidal violence . Genocide describes the state of violence or anomie within whose proximity they live.


This article analyzes the discourse on genocide from two angles: the legal genesis of the term in the 1940s and subsequent legal "capture" of the concept of genocide, and a recent socio-political critique of the legal meaning of genocide. The article suggests that a cross-disciplinary critique of genocidal violence not only describes the event and the victim, but also produces knowledge of them as discursive "objects." The key issue is the "surveillance" role of the outside observer, also produced as such in discursive relation to the object. At stake in this view of genocide law as epistemology is the capacity to re imagine law in order to help us make hard choices about how, whether, and when to intervene in events that may be characterized as genocide.