The MacArthur Consortium workshop "Slaughter of the Innocents: Understanding Political Killing" focused on mobilization for large-scale killing and genocide. How does such violence become possible? Rather than concentrating on effect and prescription, participants devoted their attention to diagnosis and causal understanding. The workshop had three main areas of investigation:
- the historical sociology of mobilization for large-scale killing,
- the phenomenology of genocide, and
- the role of memory in such mobilization.
In exploring a topic that has become highly problematic and pressing in the context of civil wars, the workshop addressed changing institutions of violence and issues of identity. The workshop aimed to raise as many questions as it answered, as well as to set an agenda for future interdisciplinary understanding.