Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Political Science and Legal Studies

Faculty Advisor

Professor Michal Ben-Josef Hirsch

Second Advisor

Professor Christina Kulich


This paper evaluates the historical stances of the United States with the international norm against genocide. It further examines how U.S. positions in precedent cases of genocide may help frame the U.S. response to the current crisis in Xinjiang, China. This paper reviews the historical record of the instances when the U.S. government has designated past atrocities to be considered genocides, and identifies patterns of continuity and change in the decision-making process of the U.S. This work then applies the theories of liberalism, constructivism, and realism to interpret the actions of the United States when deciding to recognize genocide formally.

Using this historical framing allows for the discussion and exploration of the motivations and implications of the U.S. decision to call the ongoing violence in Xinjiang a genocide. This decision highlights the ongoing tension between the international norm against genocide and the legal definition of genocide. This paper finds that while the U.S. is affected by both continuity and change in its relationship to genocide, its current acknowledgment of genocide in Xinjiang more strongly reflects a change in the historical relationship of the U.S. to genocide designations.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.