Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Book Talk. Architectures of Violence: The Command Structures of Modern Mass Atrocities by Kate Ferguson
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Please join us for a discussion with Kate Ferguson, author of Architectures of Violence: The Command Structures of Modern Mass Atrocities (Oxford University Press, 2020). Moderated by Laura B. Cohen (Kupferberg Holocaust Center) with Tanya Domi (SIPA/Harriman Institute) as discussant.

Paramilitary or irregular units have been involved in practically every case of identity-based mass violence in the modern world, but detailed analysis of these dynamics is rare. Through exploring the case of former Yugoslavia, Kate Ferguson exposes the relationships between paramilitaries, state commands, local communities, and organised crime present in modern mass atrocities, from Rwanda and Darfur to Syria and Myanmar.

Visible paramilitary participation masks the continued dominance of the state in violent crises. Political elites benefit from using unconventional forces to fulfil ambitions that violate international law—and international policy responses are hindered when responsibility for violence is ambiguous. Ferguson’s inquiry into these overlooked dynamics of mass violence unveils substantial loopholes in current atrocity prevention architecture.


Kate Ferguson is a foreign policy expert specialising in atrocity prevention and civilian protection. She is Co-Executive Director of Protection Approaches, a charity she co-founded in 2014 to change how the world views hate and other forms of identity-based violence – and by so doing, change the way communities, governments and international institutions respond to and prevent it. She is the first Chair of Policy at the European Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of East Anglia. Kate has an MPhil in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Oxford and a PhD from the University of East Anglia. She tweets at @WordsAreDeeds.


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