«Writing history… aims at calming the dead who still haunt the present, and at offering them scriptural tombs.»
Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History, New York and Chichester, Columbia University Press, 1988.
The Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence (OEMV) is a regularly updated electronic database focusing on massacres and genocides of the 20th century. Currently, there is no tool available that documents and classifies our knowledge by continent, country and historical period. The OEMV’s first objective is to fill this gap by offering reliable historical description and interdisciplinary analysis of both well-documented and less well-known 20th century massacres. Resources provided include chronological indexes, case studies, analytical contributions on socio-political violence in a given country, a glossary of the terms most often used in the field of genocide studies as well as theoretical papers written by the most representative authors in the field.
Such a unique database will not only be valuable to scholars, but also to the NGO community, international legal experts, policy makers and journalists. It is a unique online publication in the academic landscape, responding to high academic criteria while being available to the wider public. Our first aim is to undertake an unprecedented effort to bring together the highest quality scholarship in the field.
This project was initiated in 2004 by Sciences Po Paris (Center for International Research and Studies). It has taken us nearly four years to get the OEMV ready to be put on line. Considering the highly sensitive nature of this project and the relative novelty of this field of research, this maturation period has proved valuable. The gradual construction of this web site is the result of genuine teamwork on the part of computer specialists and researchers, who endeavored to coordinate technical, scientific and ethical criteria.
At the very core of the project is collective research that involves the most prestigious scholars in the field of mass violence from all over the world. It therefore creates opportunities to learn and exchange in a comparative perspective on topics as varied as the Ottoman Empire, the Holocaust, Africa of the Great Lakes, South-East Asia, etc. In other words, knowledge produced by our team of scholars is essential to understand the similarities and the specificities of extreme violence perpetrated in the 20th century.
The innovative aspect of this project is moreover confirmed by its fundamental opening to multidisciplinary. Phenomena of mass violence are so complex that they necessarily require a multidisciplinary approach: not only that of the historian, but also of the psychologist, the anthropologist, the political scientist, etc. The make-up of our steering committee and of our International Academic Advisory Board testify our will to multiply the angles of analyses in order to better understand the destructive conducts that seem so puzzling.
The researchers involved with the OEMV mean to make it the international online publication of reference for the spreading of knowledge on mass violence, whether it is qualified as genocide, ethnic cleansing or massacres. As scholars our foremost responsibility is to build up knowledge and share it. Bearing in mind the vital role some intellectuals and academics have played in past mass violence, today’s scholars have a responsibility to initiate and build this demanding initiative. We will work vigilantly against any attempt to manipulate this site or exploit it for communitarian, political or ideological purposes.
In accordance with «open access» objectives, we hope to offer every type of audience free and simple access to these research findings. Building peace also requires an understanding of the legacy of violence, the dark side of peace. As it offers a universal public service, access to our website is free of charge.
We gave particular attention to the drafting of methodological recommendations that all potential contributors must comply with. In this sense, the OEMV is not based on the spontaneous participation of Internet users. The knowledge gathered here comes from the best specialists of a historical case or a theoretical issue, most of who are researchers and academics (and their PhD students). Furthermore, each paper is peer-reviewed before being published online.