Theorizing Violence in Mongolia

Johan Elverskog, Southern Methodist University

Franck Billé, Sinophobia: Anxiety, Violence, and the Making of Mongolian Identity. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2014. 272 pp. $57 (cloth).

Christopher Kaplonski, The Lama Question: Violence, Sovereignty, and Exception in Early Socialist Mongolia. Honolulu: Univeristy of Hawai'i Press., 2014 280 pp. $54 (cloth).

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In early 2015 an intellectual kerfuffle erupted about the state of violence in our contemporary world. On one side of this debate were scholars like Steven Pinker (2012) and Richard Bessel (2015), who argue that things are getting better; namely, the amount of violence today is at historical lows. This is an argument that others, such as John Gray and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, find preposterous. Whatever the case may be, it is certainly true that violence still exists in today’s world and that many scholars are trying to explain it. Indeed, understanding such violence is the driving force behind the excellent books under review here—two works that not only bring Mongolia into these larger intellectual debates but do so through an engagement with two distinct theoretical approaches to the question of violence: Giorgio Agamben’s political philosophy and Lacanian psychoanalysis...