Today's lecture on the former Yugoslavia reminded me of a passage in Steve Poole's book Unspeak (which is in the library) that Reporting Conflict students might be interested in.

On pages 91-98 he discusses the invention of the term 'ethnic cleansing', and how it was cynically adopted by the international community - only obliged by treaty to intervene in cases of 'genocide'.

'Ethnic cleansing' is not defined in international law, unlike genocide. Poole discusses the way the term subsumed genocide and other crimes against humanity (such as forced deportation) without creating an obligation for other countries to intervene. He also describes the confusion over the definition of genocide, which encouraged further hesitancy to call what was happening genocide.

So the phrase 'ethnic cleansing' shouldn't be lazily adopted to describe events, past or present.

The rest of the book is good, too, by the way.


Yes, the book is fantastic, clever and right about so many things.  

I would have been really happy to have talked about this today in class if I had noticed this post in time.  

'Ethnic cleansing' - book Reporting Conflict students might be interested in