LectureHop: Arguing Eliticide
Written by Bwog Staff
Climbing twelve floors of the colossal IAB to make it to Dennis’ Gratz lecture on elitocide, Bwog’s Official Anti-Elitist Sarah Camiscoli was surprised to see that the “lecture” was only set up to accommodate Mr.Gratz, a moderator, and a small round table filled with professors and graduate students who were critical (or perhaps just confused) by the charged neologism that has caused quite a raucous on the social science scene.
The term “Elitocide” was born in 1992 when Michael Nicholson, British TV reporter, used it to express the elimination of dozens of reputable individuals in a town in northeast Bosnia and Herzegovina. But, unlike most of the empty “-isms” and “-izations” that can rob a humanities major of his or her command on the English language, Gratz visited SIPA to defend the term as a valid and absolutely necessary means of depicting the elimination of local non-Serb elites in Bosnia.
To persuade the round table of IAB academic hounds of the importance of accepting this clever neologism on the international stage, Gratz put up a bland PowerPoint presentation with his definition of the term, thematic maps of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the U.N. Convention on Genocide. Arguing elitocide as a unique sociological phenomenon that defines a particular type of targeting of reputable members of local communities in a genocidal context, Gratz was adamant about the opportunity to distinguish and thus determine different types of genocide for research and interventional purposes.
While Gratz’s presentation held our attention, his admission that his claims of genocide were often unproven led to a pretty heavy spit fire round with the twelve audience members sitting before him. To one member that asked, “Is that the real number? How do these things relate?” (in regards to statistical information), Gratz merely responded with a list of limitations in answering the question such as, “I am speaking from [an] elitist point of view who have education, money, and most importantly reputation.” Another person asked “Would it strengthen your argument if your definition of elite was narrower?” and Gratz simply responded, “In my fieldwork, it was the best I could come up with.” At this point, it became clear that the round table’s understanding of the term in their critical discussion was extending no further than my understanding of Kant’s categorical imperative last Tuesday.
Still, Gratz explained some interesting elements of elitocide when responding to comments such as the fact that “elite” refers to people not just with money or education, but with reputation. For example, one of the targeted members in the extermination in Bosnia was a butcher who many community members would go to for advice. Elaborating further on how elitocide challenges many notions of class structure, Gratz used a term coined by one of his colleagues: a “network of local relationships.” For Gratz and his supporters, this “network” does not imply elite on a “general state level,” but on a local level for those who have legitimate influence on the minds of citizens in their closely-knit area. Making perhaps his most controversial statement of the hour, Gratz claimed that knowing this, “we need to go around the legal point of view to serve as indicators for a genocidal outcome so politicians can act faster.” In a serious backlash, audience members claimed that such a vague, wide notion of genocide that would beckon international action could result in using genocide to describe “a killing in of one white man or one black man in Brooklyn.”
As the discussion moved in a general debate of the term “genocide,” Gratz stated, “I know it was genocide; no one can tell me otherwise.” Moments later, Gratz was faced with adamant opposition by a listener who replied, “To say ‘I can’t show it, but I know’…is a major issue…to jump to the assumption is problematic.” Somewhat taken back by the rebuttal in the cramped room, Gratz responded with, “The Pandora’s box…is who is to be blamed?…[M]aybe in 50 years…they will have a better perspective.” Feeling metaphysically assaulted by the theories and aggression in the room, your correspondent decided to choose her “meta” battles and take a step out. Another endless debate at Columbia had extinguished a small part of her soul and a large chunk of her time.