I am seeking feedback regarding my theory of warfare "Identicide". My working paper is at and I am currently writing a book on the topic with Dr. Brian Osborne. 


Comments and feedback would be most helpful from interested scholars and practitioners, include those specializing in genocide, cultural/human geography, and other related social science disciplines,


Thank you very much for your assistance.



Tags: Dr. Sarah Jane Meharg, Peace and Conflict Planners, genocide, identicide,

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Hey I am interested by your research topic. I am from Rwanda and a researcher in the area of conflict resolution. Recently, I spent much time in the Center of Conflict Management (C.C.M) in Kigali. This center hosts two Master programmes: (1) on genocide studies and (2) and conflict resolution. I could read a lot on the genocide but I am more interested in the aspect of "popular" involvement. Instead of common belief that the genocide is prepared by the states or government. In Rwanda, there is much from a long ethnic hatred against "Tutsi". From, this perspective, "hate" was predominantly and for years developed  among perpetrators- and the way the killings were conducted exemplifies the will to eliminate an ethnic group without "leaving none to tell the story".


So, why do you use "identicide" instead of "ethnicide"?



Sarah, you have sent a wrong response. I am Eraste Iyamuremye and my comments were on "identicide and ethnicide" in the case of Rwanda. Ethinicity in Rwanda instead of becoming the source of diversity it developed into political means of division, hatred and violence which lead us to genocide.



Hi Eraste, I think you mixed up my reply to Vaughn, as I have not yet responded to your inquiry regarding identicide and ethnocide. Thanks for your question, and I will post a reply soon.


Dear Sarah

Thank you for sharing your paper which I found interesting. A couple of questions ...


Are you familiar with Mahmood Mamdani's work on the Rwandan genocide? He makes an argument that it was the conversion of ethinc identity into political identity (and the notion of alien) which underpinned that genocide. I wondered how this relates to the notion of identicide. Does identity conversion involve initial identicide? 


Are there contexts where particular identity formations may require destruction for new nation building to occur. For example the racist Aparthied oppressor identity which was strongly tied to spatial and cultural symbols?


best wishes with your book



Thank you for your thoughts on identicide. I am familiar with Mandami's work and think that his hypothesis is strong/sound. Group identities can be shaped through various means (some of the most obvious being violent methods). The first stages of shaping identity is by nuanced, covert means (information campaigns, changes in place names, changing symbolism and meaning of places, and others), while later stages include obvious and overt methods. Therefore, identity conversion does indeed involve identicide.


The case study I am more familiar with is the de-sovietization of Eastern Europe after the fall of communism. Statues were toppled, place names changed or reverted back to their 'original' names, books were burned, places of high symbolic meaning were desecrated. From one perspective, this act of 'identicide' was considered good and positive, while from other perspectives it was considered as negative. Identicide can be accidental in many cases (especially at the beginning of the process), however this and your example are good ones of how a strategy of identicide was applied in order to create a vacuum for new nation building to begin. The vacuum created by the destruction - and re-symbolization - allowed for the new elements of a nation's identity to emerge.


I am still ruminating about your idea on engineering identicide for positive outcomes (i.e. getting rid of apartheid, sovietism, others...), however what keeps coming up is that some communities/individuals were negatively affected by the so called 'good intentions' of the identicide engineers (in these cases). Who are we to say what is good or bad, or for whom? Of course, we understand the greater good that comes about with the eradication of apartheid, but others would disagree with us. Therefore, is it logical to conclude that such destructive acts - whether engineered for positive or negative outcomes - can be categorized as identicide because they are intended to target and change/destroy/alter existing elements of identities?


Looking forward to your thoughts on this, Vaughn.

Hi Sarah and Yves,  I now see you engagement with my response. I need to think about this for a bit ...


While reading Sarah's article I was thinking about the recent process of changing the names of places, streets etc in South Africa and backlash from communities which value the history associated with the old names. Yet the old names are a source of pain for so many in SA. Positive or negative outcomes are in the eye of the beholder. The act of replacing names and symbols is also an exercise of power.  



Hello Sarah and Vaughn:

Actually before folks like my countryman Mahmood Mamdani made that case, authors such as Lemarchand, R. in e.g. Burundi: Ethnocide as Discourse and Practice (1994) make a comprehensive argument showing how ethnicity has been used in political discourse over and over thus perpetuating several genocides in Burundi, before the 1994 Rwandan one.

That said, though, there is something intriguing with respect to the threory of "identicide" in the twin nations of Rwanda and Burundi. While the former has instituted a politics of ethnic suppression (ethnocide???), Burundi on the other hand pursues and has institutionalized a politics of ethnic implantation. While it might be sort of criminal in Rwanda to identify people by their ethnicity (Tutsi, Hutu, Twa), Burundi has on the other hand instituted ethnic quotas for jobs, education etc...It currently stands at 60% (Hutu) versus 40% (Tutsi). The Twa and others (Asians etc) are I guess to insignificant to make any quota!!

Yet, these are two countries that are so linked to each other in every respect; which really makes one wonder where the politics in Rwanda of "we all Rwandans" leave Burundi where it is "we are Tutsi and Hutu first, before we become Burundians"!

Dear William,
I love your comments. I believe that ''ethnic, religious, or cultural differences do not create rifts by themselves; on the contrary, diversity can be a source of mutual enrichment...It is when respect and recognition are failing, that those who feel humiliated are prone to highlight differences in order to ''justify'' rifts that were caused, not by these differences, but by something else, namely by humiliation!''Evelin Lindner.
To me, the politics in Rwanda of ''we all Rwandans'' is not bad. However, the big issue here is how to name the 1994 genocide? Was it ''Rwandan'' Genocide?, or ''Tutsi'' genocide? The history of Rwanda is so complex...
I believe,-in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Rwandan, Burundian and some Congolese became Tutsi, Hutu and Twa first, before they become what they are today: Rwandan, Burundian, or Congolese. My own view of ethnic and national identity is that it is constructed.

Yves - exactly! Identity is a social construct (as is ethnicity, religion, ideology, and others). Even collective memory is a construct, so fashioned by the political elite and community leaders.


While I read your last comment, I was thinking of xenophobia and its relationship to the process of identicide. Xenophobia - the hatred of the other - is at the heart of identicide, much as it is with other cides, such as ethnocide. However, the point that is most important is that identicide is a process that functions as the precursor to genocide, and is something unto itself as well. Identicide captures ALL the ways in which xenophobic actions are meted out on civilian populations - from the targeting of their ethnicities (ethnocide), the targeting of memories (memoricides), the targeting of women (gynocide), the targeting of homes (domicide), the targeting of places and their names (topocide), and so on. All of these elements make up the whole person (i.e. an identity is constructed out of ethnicity, place, memories, ideas, religion, families, etc.) and this is why all of these types of violent acts are a part of the broader term identicide.


And, as you have mentioned, it is uncertain whether the genocide in Rwanda was a Rwandan Genocide or a Tutsi Genocide. What is certain is that identicide took place in Rwanda against Tutsi (and backlash of identicide against other belligerent groups, especially the Hutus).

The questions raised by Vaughn are inspiring. I am trying to think about what Samuel P. Huntington wrote in his book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order: ''People define their identity by what they are not. As increased communications, trade, and travel multiply the interactions among civilizations, people increasingly accord greater relevance to their civilizational identity.''

I am wondering if there is a connection between the role of modernization in our 21st century open world and the idea of identicide for positive outcomes.

Any comments?

This is a phenomenal question, Yves!!

This is so relevant to neo-colonial discourses. The outcomes though might not necessarily be positive. I have in mind peoples who might actually want their identities erased so as to assume a perceived high civilizational status. These could be benign stuff e.g. skin bleaching in Africa and Asia, eye surgery in Asia assume the identity of the master culture.


Dear William,

Your comment is VERY interesting. I absolutely agree with you. Evelin Lindner(1) called what you are talking about: ''voluntary self-humiliation''. 




(1) Evelin Lindner, see Stop Voluntary Self-Humiliation! How Bystanders Can Help Preserve Cultural Diversity in :Making Enemies Humiliation and International Conflicts, PRAEGER SECURITY INTERNATIONAL, 2006, p.158-160 


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