Does Durkheim Make a Contribution to Understanding One Alleged Cause of Persecution?

in Volume 9 (2003): Issue 1 (Dec 2003)
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Prolegomena Four caveats have to be entered at the outset. The first is that the term persecution is hard to define in a way that covers phenomena which some scholars would want to include, especially in the light of recent historical events. One calls to mind words commonly associated with phenomena of the past - martyrdom, massacre, torture, jihad. But in modern times further terms are crying for inclusion in a definition of persecution - the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing, genocide, communal violence, physical abuse, the violation of human rights. The task of trying to find a definition of persecution which would cover these and other terms is complex and demanding. It raises such difficult issues that some might want to argue that the diverse nature of phenomena that could be included under the concept of persecution makes the task of definition impossible. Indeed, the word persecution, some might go so far as to assert, is best abandoned as a workable concept. Since these issues are so large, they have to receive special attention which is beyond the scope of this paper.