Representing mass violence - conflicting responses to human rights violations in Darfurv by Joachim J. Savelsberg (2015, Oakland, University of California Press)

Toni Pranic


The book Representing Mass Violence by Joachim J. Savelsberg, professor of sociology and law, about representations of violence in Rwanda, is a very thoughtfully conceptualised and written work. Though the theme of media analysis may sound limited, the way in which this research was planned, carried out and interpreted demonstrates a high level of theoretical and empirical craft. Savelsberg, along with his team, analysed 3387 news reports and conducted interviews. The outcome is this book, divided into 4 parts: Justice versus Impunity; Aid versus Justice: The Humanitarian field; Peace versus Justice: The Diplomatic Field; and Mediating Competing Representations: The Journalistic Field. Before the first part, the author gives a brief introduction to the research.He starts with a famous quote by W.I. Thomas, “If men define situations as real,they are real in their consequences”. This statement represents his guiding line in exploring the violence in Darfur in the first decade of the 21st century, which he does through perspectives of human rights, criminal law, humanitarianism, and diplomacy. The conflict was widely covered in the media but the coverage was influenced by various sources, which alone does not explain the variation in the representations of violence in Darfur. The author states that his main discovery is a response to the question ‘‘How do global actors, national contexts, and distinct fields interact to create at times conflicting social constructions of reality?’’. Among the important components of the research are discussions of the criminalization of human rights violations, the embeddedness of actors in competing fields (of criminal justice, diplomacy and humanitarian aid), the role of the media, interactions between global and national actors, and the consequence of knowledge on responses to violence.

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ISSN: 2062-087X

DOI: 10.14267/issn.2062-087X