ABSTRACT

Avram Noam Chomsky may be the most prominent and significant public intellectual of the post-Second World War period. His contributions to linguistic theory continue to generate debate and controversy. Given the centrality of a human-rights and mass-violence critique in Chomsky's political output, as well as its voluminous quantity over fully half a century, it is appropriate to inquire about the place of “genocide” in his analysis. He has over the years been the subject of controversy for stances taken with regard to Holocaust denialists' right to free speech, the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, and the genocide of Rwandan Tutsis in 1994. Chomsky's framing is thus in line with the “hardest,” meaning most restrictive and exclusionary, of genocide definitions in the existing scholarship. His best-known description of the Nazi Holocaust, in Peace in the Middle East?, portrays it as “the most fantastic outburst of collective insanity in human history”.