Interview with William Noseworthy

Photograph of William Noseworthy

Political Violence: Comparing State-Sponsored Violence in Cambodia & Indonesia

The Jewish Holocaust serves as the foundation of understandings of genocide, but governments around the world have pursued genocidal policies towards groups under their control at various times. For instance, during the era of decolonization and establishment of independent rule in Southeast Asia, those who rose to political leadership often took advantage of their powers to exploit ethnic and racial tensions in consolidating their rule. Whether those actions have been labeled “genocide,” however, depends on a complex politics, including whether those who perpetrated the violence fell into the “communist” or “anti-communist” camps of the Cold War.

In Episode 4 of our Series on Political Violence, Joy Block and Galen Poor talk with William Noseworthy, Assistant Professor of History at McNeese State University. As a specialist in Southeast Asian History, Noseworthy compares the political violence in Indonesia under Suharto and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Although Cambodia’s communist-sponsored violence was quickly labeled “genocide” by the United States, Noseworthy looks deeper into how both events pursued policies of genocide in their actions. Whether directed against communists or non-communists ostensibly, violence in both countries held strong ethnic and sometimes religious components. Join us as Noseworthy helps us move past communist vs. anti-communist debates and look at the violence that actually occurred.

Interested to find out more about this topic? Learn about the political violence experienced in mid-20th century Indonesia in the recent documentaries The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. Dig in to Cambodia’s experience of genocide through the work of Ben Kiernan. Or take a look at the “Cambodia Son” video Billy mentions at the end of the interview.

Stream or download our conversation here.

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