Several aspects are examined in relation to identity: intra-familial murders, rapes and violation of filiation, animalisation and/ or reification, the search for somatic marks of difference in the Other’s body. For instance, close attention will be paid to conformism within a group in practices of cruelty. The question of extermination will therefore be raised, especially when it was carried out in order to keep one’s group untouched or extract from it individuals regarded as potential enemies. The aim is therefore to understand the construction or reconstruction of identity through the lens of extreme violence being enacted.
As a desecration of places, attack on bodies and destruction of cultures, mass massacre is also understood as an attack on the sacred, even though the latter has a vague definition in the context of war. While the sacred is understood in opposition to the secular in classical theological, judicial, anthropological and philosophical literature, mass massacre forces us to go beyond this simple opposition. Laws, social bonds, bodies and political entities raise the question of the porous border between the inside and the outside. The crossing of the moral and corporal boundary modifies – in comparison to the state of war – the shape and contents of how the enemy is designated. Besides, mass massacre invites us to rethink the difference between desecration and desacralisation. The religious dimension is therefore very much broadened: the themes of homo sacer, sacrifice, the symbolism of the temple and refuge, impurity and disorder must be revisited in light of the analysis of mass massacre. Complex entwined representations emerge through this phenomenon of transgressing several laws and norms. The narratives known through texts must be completed by analysing missing or horrifying images. This initiates a reflection, not just on witnessing, but also on what is visible, showable and ostensible. This, in turn, feeds into understandings of the sacred in mass massacres, as the nodal point in the interplay between exhibition and occultation – understood as political phenomena. In this sense, travelling back and forth between Antiquity and the contemporary world is very fruitful.
In connection with gender, our aim is to show that transgressions are gendered in their modalities, actors and victims. Such an inquiry invites us to confront norms and war practices but also categorisations and social and cultural hierarchies (men/ women, free/ slaves, young/ old…). The aim is therefore to study ‘masculine domination’ in its most violent modalities. We also aim to assess the importance of feminine violence in sources, to highlight these sources’ polyphony and how victims of such violence speak up, ask for justice and reparation, and execute their vengeance (see tragedies, funeral inscriptions…).