The Permanency of Mass Atrocities: The fallacy of "never again"?

Adrian Gallagher, Richard Illingworth, Euan Raffle*, Ben Willis

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The terminology of ?never again? has been studied in Sociology, Cultural Studies, and History. Yet, remarkably, the field of International Relations has hardly analysed the term. This is despite the centrality of ?never again? in prominent debates over humanitarian intervention, the Responsibility to Protect, and mass atrocity prevention. Addressing this, the article seeks to foster a conversation over the term?s use. To do this, we first utilise an interdisciplinary approach (Anthropology, Area Studies, History, International Relations, and Security Studies) to show how the meaning of ?never again? has changed significantly over time. Second, we analyse five real world problems: i) the quantitative problem, ii) the nuclear problem, iii) the regime change problem, iv) the weak state problem and v), the P5 problem. We find that the blanket call of ?never again? oversimplifies the complexity of mass atrocity prevention and creates an unrealistic goal that cannot be achieved without radical global reform. Going forward, we call on those invoking the phrase to explain what they mean by it and why they are using it as part of a broader reassessment of the term?s use in International Relations.


    • genocide
    • mass atrocities
    • never again
    • responsibility to protect


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