David Bruce MacDonald

David Bruce MacDonald

David Bruce MacDonald has an international reputation in the academic fields of Comparative Indigenous Politics, US politics, International Relations, nationalism studies, genocide and human rights. Born in Leeds, UK in 1973, he was raised in Canada, and is currently Associate Professor in Political Science at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. From 2002 to 2008, he was a senior lecturer at the Political Studies Department, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. From 1999 to 2002 he was Assistant Visiting Professor in the Social Sciences at the Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris - Paris Graduate School of Management, Paris[1]. He was the deputy editor and book reviews editor of Millenium: Journal of International Studies.He holds a PhD in International relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science which he attended as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. He also holds an MA in Political Science from the University of Ottawa, and a BA from Carleton University.[1]


Work on the former Yugoslavia

Much of his previous research has focused on nationalism and identity politics, a subfield of International Relations. This intersects with the study of genocide and ethnic conflict, which has more historical and sociological dimensions. His first book sought to understand how the Americanization (or cosmopolitanization) of the Jewish Holocaust and its accompanying imagery has been used by national and sub-national groups seeking to achieve greater internal cohesion, while mobilizing their populations to achieve collective goals, anything from state apologies and compensation to territorial aggrandizement. At one level, the Holocaust privileges marginalized groups and their claims for justice or redress at national and international levels. It reframes group history, and promotes the belief that vulnerable groups have the right to ensure their security in a hostile environment. The Americanization process has influenced identity politics, from American Indians, and Serbs and Croats, to more recent attempts by American conservatives to redefine anti-Americanism, promoting their country’s vulnerability and new-found mission after 9/11. However, as his research has shown, there is a twin danger involved. Many groups who use the Holocaust end up trivializing its imagery and belittling its victims, while ironically decontextualizing their own histories in the process. During field research in the former Yugoslavia during 1994 and 1999, MacDonald tried to solve the puzzle of why actors assiduously claimed victim status, while simultaneously engaging in ethnic cleansing and other war crimes. His first critically acclaimed book Balkan holocausts? (Manchester University Press, 2002)[2], critiqued the widespread use of Holocaust imagery, while examining how the history of Serbian-Croatian relations was rewritten during the 1990s. The “borrowing” of Holocaust imagery reflected the success of its Americanization, and its emergence in popular discourse as a symbol for absolute evil. Claims to victimhood performed an instrumental function. They rallied co-nationals behind the government. Internationally, such claims helped confuse outside observers, leading to myths of “ancient ethnic hatreds” which helped Western leaders avoid plunging too deeply into the conflict. MacDonald went on to lead a team of scholars within the “Scholar’s Initiative”, created by Professor Charles Ingrao at Purdue University . This is an international project of historians and social scientists, attempting to write an impartial history of the conflict. He acted as team leader of “Living Together or Hating Each Other?”. Here, the team attempted to understand how perceptions of vulnerability and fear of outsiders helped provoke conflict, while exploring the role new narratives can play in promoting healing and reconciliation. The report concluded with a healthy skepticism about the likelihood of overcoming strongly held animosities in the near future, especially when nationalist oriented political parties and media institutions continue to exert tremendous influence in public life.

Identity politics and genocide

His second book, Identity Politics in the Age of Genocide (Routledge, 2008)[3], examined how Holocaust Americanization impacted on other ethnic and social groups. The book featured theoretical chapters about the Holocaust’s use/misuse by ethnic and social groups, and dissected claims of Holocaust uniqueness (with analysis of fourteen arguments). I follow this with case studies of how Americanization has impacted on indigenous historical representation in America , Australia , and New Zealand , and amongst Diaspora Chinese, Armenians, and Serbs. Certainly, invoking the Holocaust helps draw public attention to a group’s claims. However, as MacDonald demonstrated, there is a twin danger involved. Many groups who use the Holocaust end up trivializing its imagery and belittling its victims, while ironically decontextualizing their own histories in the process. In a recent article in the Canadian Journal of Political Science, MacDonald added a Canadian First Nations case study as well.

U.S. politics

Dr MacDonald's most recent book Thinking History, Fighting Evil (forthcoming with Lexington / Rowman & Littlefield, 2009)[4] applies his theoretical work to the study of American domestic and foreign policy. The presents the most thorough exploration to date of how World War II analogies, particularly those focused on the Holocaust, have colored American foreign policy-making after 9/11. In particular, MacDonald book highlights how influential neoconservatives inside and outside the Bush administration used analogies of the “Good War” to reinterpret domestic and international events, often with disastrous consequences. On the surface, World War II promotes a simple but compelling range of images and symbols: valiant Roosevelts and Churchills, appeasing Chamberlains, evil Hitlers, Jewish victims, European bystanders, and American liberators. However, the simplistic use of analogies was precisely what doomed the neoconservative project to failure. This book explores the misuse of ten key analogies arising from World War II, and charts their problematic deployment after the 9/11 attacks. Divided into eight chapters, Thinking History, Fighting Evil engages with timely issues such as the moral legacies of the civil rights era, identity politics movements, the representation of the Holocaust in American life, the rise of victim politics on the neoconservative right, the instrumentalization of anti-American and anti-Semitic discourses, the trans-Atlantic rift between Europe and the U.S., and the war on terror. While the book focuses on the post-9/11 security environment, it also explores the history of negative exceptionalism in U.S. history and politics, tracing back Manichean conceptions of good and evil to the foundation of the early colonies.



  • Identity Politics in the Age of Genocide: The Holocaust and Historical Representation, Routledge, 2008, ISBN 0415430615
  • Thinking History, Fighting Evil: Neoconservatives and the Perils of Historical Analogy in American Politics, Lexington / Rowman & Littlefield; 2009.
  • The Ethics of Foreign Policy, London: Ashgate Press, 2007, co-edited with R.G. Patman and B. Mason-Parker

Book chapters

  • “The Power of Ideas in International Relations” in D. Nabers and N. Godehardt (eds), Regional Powers and Regional Orders (London: Routledge, 2011)
  • Co-authored “Introduction” and “Conclusion” with R.G. Patman and D. Nabers in The Bush Leadership, the Power of Ideas and the War on Terror (2012)
  • “Historical Analogies and Leadership in Bush Administration Foreign Policy” in The Bush Leadership, the Power of Ideas and the War on Terror (2012)
  • “Americanization” in George Kurian, et al., The Encyclopedia of Political Science (Washington, DC: CQ Press / SAGE, forthcoming 2010)
  • “America’s Memory Problems: Diaspora Groups, Civil Society and the Perils of ‘Chosen Amnesia’” in Jing-Bao Nie, Nanyan Guo, and Arthur Kleinman (eds), Japanese Wartime Medical Atrocities: Comparative Perspectives on Science, History and Ethics (Routledge: 2010)
  • “Subaltern Discourse and Genocide: Serbian Victimization and Historical Justifications for War: 1980-2000”, in Nicholas Robins and Adam Jones (eds), Genocides By The Oppressed: Subaltern Movements and Retributive Genocide (Indiana University Press, 2009).
  • (editor and primary contributor), “Living Together or Hating Each Other?,” in Charles Ingrao and Thomas Emmert (eds) Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies: A Scholar’s Initiative (Lafayette, ID: Purdue University Press, 2009)
  • “Subaltern Discourse and Genocide: Serbian Victimization and Historical Justifications for War: 1980-2000”, in Nicholas Robins and Adam Jones (eds), Genocides By The Oppressed: Subaltern Movements and Retributive Genocide (Indiana University Press, 2008).
  • “Putting Canada’s ‘Canadian Holocaust’ in Perspective: Comparative Indigenous History in Western Settler Societies” in Shuli Barzilai, Arza Churchman, and Allen Zysblatt (eds) Coping with Crisis: Conflict Management and Resolution (Jerusalem: Magnes Press / Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2008)
  • “America’s Memory Problems: Diaspora Groups, Civil Society and the Perils of ‘Chosen Amnesia’” in Jing-Bao Nie, Nanyan Guo, Arthur Kleinman (eds), Japanese Wartime Medical Atrocities: Comparative Perspectives on Science, History and Ethics (Routledge: forthcoming 2009)
  • “The Importance of Being European: Narratives of East and West in Serbian and Croatian Nationalism” in Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski and Andrzej Marcin Suszycki (eds), Nationalism in Contemporary Europe (Berlin: LIT Verlag; Lanham, MD: Lexington Books / Rowman & Littlefield, forthcoming 2008).
  • “Exceptionalism, the Holocaust and American Foreign Policy”, in The Ethics of Foreign Policy (London: Ashgate, 2007).
  • (co-authored with Robert G. Patman) “Introduction: Ethics and International Relations” in The Ethics of Foreign Policy (London: Ashgate, 2007).
  • (co-authored with Stephen Haigh and Robert G. Patman) “Conclusion: Some Reflections on Ethics and Foreign Policy” in The Ethics of Foreign Policy (London: Ashgate, 2007).
  • “India: Security in the Twentieth Century and After” in Paul Bellamy and Karl De Rouen (eds) International Security and the United States: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Publishing, 2007).
  • “Serbs and the Jewish Trope: Nationalism, Victimhood and the Successor Wars in Yugoslavia: 1986-2000”, in Wojciech Burszta, Tomasz Kamusella and Sebastian Wojciechowski (eds) Nationalisms Across the Globe: An overview of the nationalisms of state-endowed and stateless nations (Poznan: Wyzsza Szkola Nauk Humanistycznych i Dziennikarstwa, 2005) pp. 97–129.
  • “Regionalism: New Zealand, Asia, the Pacific, and Australia” in Robert G. Patman and Chris Rudd (eds.) Sovereignty Under Siege? The Case of New Zealand (London: Ashgate Press, 2005) pp. 171–192.
  • “Balkansturm 1999? Die Vereinigten Staaten, die NATO und die Bombardierung Jugoslawiens”, in Adam Jones (ed.), Völkermord, Kriegsverbrechen und der Westen, trans. Ulrike Seith, Petra Weber, and Alexis Rada (Berlin: Parthas Verlag GmbH, 2005) pp 324–50.
  • “The Fire in 1999?: The United States, NATO, and the Bombing of Yugoslavia”, in Adam Jones (ed.) Genocide, War Crimes, and the West: Ending the Culture of Impunity (London: Zed Books, 2004) pp 276–299.


  • ““The Genocide Question and Indian Residential Schools in Canada”” with Graham Hudson Canadian Journal of Political Science (forthcoming 2012)
  • “Bush’s America and the New Exceptionalism: The Holocaust, Victimhood and the Trans-Atlantic Rift” Third World Quarterly Vol. 29 No. 6 (September, 2008)
  • “First Nations, Residential Schools, and the Americanization of the Holocaust: Rewriting Indigenous History in America, Australia, and Canada”, Canadian Journal of Political Science (December 2007). pp. 1–21. Lead Article.
  • “Imagining the Twentieth Century: Retrospective, Myth, and the Colonial Question” PORTAL Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies Vol. 4, No. 1 (2007) pp. 1–27.
  • “Pushing the Limits of Humanity?: Reinterpreting Animal Rights and ‘Personhood’ through the Prism of the Holocaust”, Journal of Human Rights Vol. 5, No. 4 (2006) pp. 417–39.
  • “Globalizing the Holocaust: A Jewish “useable past” in Serbian and Croatian nationalism”, PORTAL, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2005) pp. 1–31.
  • “Forgetting and Denying: Iris Chang, the Holocaust and the Challenge of Nanking”, International Politics (2005) pp. 403–28. Lead Article.
  • “Daring to compare: The debate about a Maori ‘holocaust’ in New Zealand”, Journal of Genocide Research (September, 2003) pp. 383–404.
  • “The Quest for Purity: Linguistic Politics and the War in Croatia”, Slovo: An inter-disciplinary journal of Russian, East European and Eurasian Affairs, Vol. 15 No. 1 (2003) pp. 5–21. Lead Article.
  • « La Croatie : un exemple d’épuration langagière? », Raisons Politiques, No. 2 (May, 2001) pp. 127–148.
  • “The Myth of “Europe” in Croatian Politics and Economics”, Slovo Vol 12 (2000) pp. 68–103.
  • “Political Zionism and the ‘Nebeski Narodniks’: Towards an Understanding of the Serbian National Self”, Slovo Vol. 10 Nos. 1-2 (1998) pp. 91–114.


  1. ^ Balkan Holocausts?: Serbian and Croatian Victim-centred Propaganda and the War in Yugoslavia, By David Bruce MacDonald, Manchester University Press, 2002, ISBN 0719064678, p. 308 (Biography)

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