Four-time Fulbright recipient and Wittenberg University Professor Emeritus of Sociology Keith Doubt examines the destructive impacts of war on society in his latest book Sociocide: Reflections on Today’s Wars, recently published by Lexington Books.
Author of six books on Bosnia and an expert on the sociological impact of the Bosnian War, Doubt coined the term “sociocide” to refer to the killing of a society. In his latest book, he expands his work to study contemporary wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and others, and draws upon the fields of anthropology and philosophy in addition to sociology.
He wrote the book after class discussions with students in his War, Identity, and Justice seminar while ideas were fresh in his mind. The course focused on genocide, war crimes, nationalism, terrorism, and the concept of justice in the contemporary era.
“From the study of the recent war in Bosnia, we developed a sociology of war, an anthropology of identity, and a philosophy of justice,” explained Doubt. “We applied this body of knowledge to the conflicts and wars in Algeria, Rwanda, Chechnya, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. Our learning goal was to develop a perspective that is comparative, critical, and historical, one that is objective as well as moral, humanistic as well as empirical.”
Several members of the Wittenberg community were involved with the book. Peggy Hanna, retired department of sociology administrative assistant, and Sophia Reutter, class of 2020, provided editorial assistance, while Jeffrey Boucher, class of 2010 and one of Doubt’s former honors students, contributed to a chapter on Iraq.
While a student at Wittenberg, “the war in Iraq was constantly in the news, especially in 2007 with the troop surge,” said Boucher, currently an assistant general counsel for JPMorgan Chase Bank. “As I was in class with Professor Doubt learning about Bosnia in the 1990s and I was reading reports of the war in Iraq, I started to see similarities between the two.”
Together they wrote an article on the subject that was published in 2009 in the journal Forum Bosnae. That article was later revised and published as a chapter in Sociocide.
“It was a great opportunity to work with Professor Doubt and the type of experience that makes Wittenberg such an amazing place,” Boucher said. “I am honored to be published. It was a great opportunity at the time and now ten years after graduating, my Wittenberg experience continues.”
Doubt also addresses the current coronavirus pandemic in a chapter that looks at capitalism as a sociocidal force.
“I talk about how the classical social theorists, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber, are each afraid of capitalism for different reasons and in different ways and apply this to the pandemic,” Doubt explained. “I analyze what Weber calls the spirit of capitalism in view of how this spirit has responded to the pandemic.”
Describing Sociocide as “a must read” for students, teachers, and others, Charles Lemert, Wesleyan University professor emeritus of social theory, praises the book as “original, serious, well-informed, and clearly written – a tribute to an author who has not only read widely but lived seriously and spent time in one of the world’s most troubled places.”
Doubt has studied Bosnia for more than 25 years and spent several summers living and teaching there. Although he recently retired from teaching at Wittenberg, he has not retired from his academic pursuits, including translating a book of poetry by a Bosnian poet and working on a study about flying national flags at Bosnian weddings. He is currently on the Fulbright Specialist roster, which allows for short-term exchanges for U.S academics and established professionals at host institutions, such as universities, government agencies, museums, medical institutions, or non-governmental organizations, around the world.