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To Kill or Not to Kill? The Challenge of Restraining Insurgent Violence [Evidence from Bosnia and Croatia, Summer 1941]
This paper reconstructs the dynamics of local violence in a rural region of Bosnia and Croatia during the summer of 1941. Mass killings by some local residents of their neighbors triggered an insurgency, which was characterized by retaliatory massacres. Yet these revenge killings did not occur in all areas where prior violence had occurred. Examining the microhistory of local violence in this region makes it possible to engage with a macro theoretical puzzle: What explains why violence does not always occur in contexts in which it seems over-determined to take place? Empirically rich answers to this question will be of use to scholars of political violence because they will help illuminate which specific elements must be absent and/or overcome for mass killing to occur in particular times and places. This paper is based on sources discovered in archives in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, as well as published and unpublished memoirs by participants in wartime events.
Max Bergholz is Associate Professor of History at Concordia University in Montreal. His research has won support from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies, and his articles have been published in journals such as American Historical Review. In November 2016, Cornell University Press published his first book, Violence as a Generative Force.