Young woman with a raised fist protesting in the street

In an article exploring the relationship between social movements and genocide, Aliza Luft suggests that the discipline of genocide studies has been mainly composed of historians who have largely abandoned theoretical explanations of genocide in favor of rich, historical analyses. These historical pieces have broadened the field of genocide studies, focusing on the historical moment and context of each genocide. Luft, using the theoretical perspectives developed by social movement scholars, however, demonstrates how this sociological literature could enhance genocide studies.

I want to make clear that this blog post does not seek to equate social movements with historical or contemporary genocides. It is not my intention to say that social movements are genocides. Rather, I seek to illustrate that these two phenomena operate on a spectrum of contentious politics, and both social movement scholars and genocide scholars may learn more about their respective disciplines by looking at the commonalities and differences between them. Furthermore, I seek to suggest, that maybe genocide scholars could learn a few things by turning to this contemporary moment in the US.