In the U.S. educational system, courses focusing on genocide and other gross human rights violations developed in the early 1970s as part of a larger response to rewriting the curriculum by including subjects and issues traditionally ignored or silenced. University courses introduced issues of gender, class, race, and ethnicity, including histories of slavery, colonialism, and other atrocities perpetrated against individuals because they were members of targeted civilian groups. From the destruction of indigenous peoples of the Americas to the Great Famine in Ireland to the Armenian Genocide, new scholarship and courses emphasized the intentional patterns, brutality, range of accomplices, and ongoing denial by alleged perpetratorstates of these events. In the following decades, an increasing number of courses have been developed to deal with comparative genocide and other crimes against humanity, human rights issues, and connections with state policy and international affairs.
The majority of courses have focused on the Holocaust, in particular the Nazi destruction of European Jewry. Interest in World War II, liberation of the concentration camps, and the Nuremberg Trials, all contributed to interest in the subject. Popular representation and misrepresentation, such as the Pulitzer Prize winning play Diary of Anne Frank and the television mini-series The Holocaust, as well as literary works by Elie Weisel, Andre Schwartz-Bart, Primo Levi and others have generated further interest in the subject. Writings by Hannah Arendt as well as Raul Hilberg's Destruction of European Jewry, Lucy Dawidowicz' War Against the Jews, Zygmunt Baumann's Holocaust and Modernity, and Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men are among texts used in classrooms. Scholarship in the field is substantial and controversies and debates about interpretation continue among scholars, worldwide. Popular classroom resources include Art Spiegelman's Maus and films such as Claude Lanzmann's Shoah and Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List.
A small sample of the range of courses include: Sociology of the Holocaust, History of Anti-Semitism, Dutch Holocaust Literature, The Holocaust Theme in Western Drama, The Holocaust: Historical, and Philosophical and Literary Aspects, and The Holocaust and Law. This last course includes coverage of issues of reparations and restitution. The establishment of museums and memorials, worldwide, as well as the funding of university chairs and Holocaust Centers provide institutional support for study of the Holocaust. Most notable among these institutions is the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., which supports research and teacher training, as well as offering public exhibits and programs.
In the United States, primary and secondary Holocaust education has been mandated in some states. For example, the Florida school system focuses on the Holocaust, and the state of New Jersey mandates the study of other genocides as well. Peter Novick's The Holocaust in American Life provides a useful critique of the politics of U.S. Holocaust education. While many courses reinforce the Holocaust as "uniquely unique" and subscribe to the hegemonic model of understanding the phenomenon, some courses also include the study of Roma Gypsies and other groups that were targeted by the Nazis for elimination, and raise the issue of other genocides, particularly the Armenian Genocide, as possible precursors of the Holocaust.
Leo Kuper's work on genocide from the 1970s on (for instance, Genocide and Genocide: Its Political Uses in the Twentieth Century, 1981) was influential in the emergence of a small but growing number of international researchers and academics who were developing scholarship and multidisciplinary courses that emphasized a comparative approach to studying mass destruction. Definitions, content, classifications, and interpretations varied across this emergent discipline. Some relied on the definition developed by the U.N. Genocide Convention. Others added political and other categories. Rudolph Rummel coined the term "democide," which is a broad category that includes the murder of any individual or people by a government, including genocide, politicide and mass murder. An example of the analytic utility of Rummel's concepts can be found in his Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900. The pedagogical goal of such courses was to demystify genocide and move away from its depiction as irrational, as well as to counter an academic trend toward the "ghettoization" of genocide studies and the creation of hierachies of victimization. It was hoped that this could be accomplished by examining recurrent patterns of genocidal behavior in order to better understand it and to work toward prevention. Mass destruction in Cambodia (1974979) and Rwanda (1994), and targeted killings from Guatemala to Indonesia, as well as ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, ironically have provided ongoing course materials that have helped to prove how widespread such crimes are.
In 1980, for example, Kurt Jonassohn and Frank Chalk, on the faculty at Concordia University in Montreal, developed a two semester multidisciplinary model called A History and Sociology of Genocide (their book, published a decade later with the same title, is used as an introductory course text). Their course traces genocidal events from ancient to modern times. Most courses on genocide and ethnic cleansing last a single semester and concentrate on events in the twentieth century. Many such courses employ the text Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views, edited by Samuel Totten, William S. Parsons and W. Charny. This is a collection of specific genocidal events that occurred throughout the twentieth century, along with eyewitness testimony. African specialist Rene Lemarchand has taught a course entitled Comparative Genocide in the United States, Canada, and Denmark, and his presentation reflects the major themes generally touched upon in one semester courses. Lemarchand begins with conceptual and theoretical issues and follows with case studies divided into categories: Ideological Genocides (The Holocaust, Armenia, Cambodia); Colonial Genocide (Herreros), and Retributive Genocides (Burundi and Rwanda). A third section of the course discusses intervention and prevention strategies, including international tribunals, truth commissions, and the politics of denial.
Denial has become an increasing theme in genocide courses from the Turkish government's ongoing, official denial campaign of the Armenian Genocide to the trial of Holocaust denier Clifford Irving and including the continued denial by the United States of its complicity in different stages of genocide in settings ranging from Cambodia to Guatemala. The publication of the multi-volume Encyclopedia of Genocide (1999) and the Journal of Genocide Research (2002), as well as Samantha Power's Pulitzer Prize and Lemkin Award winning "A Problem from Hell" America and the Age of Genocide (2002) reflect growing scholarship and interest in the field. A text aimed specifically at educators is Teaching about Genocide (2002) coedited by Joyce Apsel and Helen Fein, providing resources, essays, centers (such as the Cambodian Genocide Project at Yale University), and syllabi devoted to genocide studies.
In 1995 the International Association of Genocide Scholars (www.iags-isg.org) was founded by Israel Charny, Helen Fein, Robert Melson, and Roger Smith, and in 2002 more than 200 members participated in the fifth biennial conference on Genocide and the World Community at the Irish Human Rights Center, University of Ireland, Galway. The last decade has seen a shift in the study of genocide and other life-integrity violations, another rewriting of history that places greater emphasis on human rights, international law, and foreign policy. From truth commissions in Central America and South Africa to release of documents on state terror and mass killings in the Soviet Union, to debate on "just humanitarian military intervention," from Kosovo to Iraq to the AIDS pandemic, new undergraduate and graduate courses have multiplied. The establishment and rulings of the international criminal tribunals, the proceedings against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, the establishment of the International Criminal Court, new national constitutions from South Africa to Russia, transnational terrorism, and military interventions throughout the world have all contributed to the increase in human rights clinics in law schools and courses in international human rights law, including international criminal justice, refugee law, and comparative constitutional law.
Jack Donnelly's International Human Rights (1997) is one of the widely used introductory undergraduate texts on the subject, and contains a valuable essay on further suggested readings by topics and areas. A growing interest in legal studies, politics, and history as they relate to genocide and human rights issues is reflected in courses such as Women and Rights in Africa, Health and Human Rights, Anatomy of War Crime Trials, The Culture of Human Rights in Latin America, China and Human Rights, and Truth and Reconciliation or Justice and Vengeance. These courses reflect a cross-disciplinary interest in crimes against humanity and other forms of violence as an integral part of modernity, from state building to foreign policy and globalization. In addition to academic courses, the establishment of human rights centers around the world has contributed to the process of documenting past and present abuses and attempted to address the ongoing challenges of war, humanitarian crises, recovery, and prevention. Legal and other scholarly journals such as the Human Rights Quarterly provide forums for the burgeoning research in the field. Growing on-line scholarship and internet sources provide access to ongoing resources and reports. For example, www.umn.edu/humanrts/center/hronline connects to the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library, which contains over 14,000 documents on treaties and other international instruments, U.N. documents, and other resources. Internet websites provide links to monitoring agencies such as Human Rights Watch and Freedom House. The trend is toward the development of more undergraduate and graduate curricula that include multidisciplinary courses on human rights, crimes against humanity, and related subjects.
SEE ALSO Biographies; Films, Dramatizations in
Andreopoulos, George, ed. (1994). Genocide: Conceptual and Historical Dimensions. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Apsel, Joyce, and Helen Fein, eds. (2002). Teaching about Genocide: An Interdisciplinary Guidebook with Syllabi for College and University Teachers, revised edition. Washington, D.C.: American Sociological Association.
Chalk, Frank, and Kurt Jonassohn, eds. (1990). The History and Sociology of Genocide: Analyses and Case Studies. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
Donnelly, Jack (1997). Human Rights and International Relations, 2nd edition. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.
Gellately, Robert, and Ben Kiernan, eds. (2003). The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kuper, Leo (1981). Genocide: Its Political Use in the Twentieth Century. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
Novick, Peter (1999). The Holocaust in American Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Power, Samantha (2002). 'A Problem from Hell': America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Basic Books.
Terry, Fiona (2002). Condemned to Repeat? The Paradox of Humanitarian Action. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Totten, Samuel, William S. Parsons, and Israel W. Charny, eds. (1997). Century of Genocide; Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views. New York: Garland Press.
Totten, Samuel, and Steven Leonard Jacobs, eds. (2002). Pioneers of Genocide Studies. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Press.
Weiss, Thomas G., and Cindy Collins (2000). Humanitarian Challenges & Intervention, 2nd edition. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.
Joyce A. Apsel
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