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The Collective Dynamics of Genocidal Violence in Cambodia, 1975–1979

  • Peter B. Owens

While previous research conceptualizes genocide as an outcome of complex interactions between multiple social factors, the specific ways in which these factors interact and combine with each other, and how their individual effects may be mediated through such interaction, remain to be empirically specified. Using historical accounts given by survivors of the Cambodian genocide, and drawing from insights in the collective action literature, this study presents a configurational and comparative analysis of the collective dynamics of genocidal violence. The analysis focuses on how changing local patterns of relational and cognitive collective mechanisms created distinctly local patterns of violence, affecting both levels of victimization and the targeting of different groups over time. While the expansion and consolidation of central state power accounts for a generalized increase in violence, official framing practices mediated how groups became targeted. These findings confirm and extend the insights of other meso-level studies of genocide, and demonstrate the utility of comparative configurational methods for further inquiry.

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