INTS 221-002/3.0 Global Issues in the 21st Century: Comparative Genocide Studies
Instructor: Dr. Becky Jinks
The Holocaust is undoubtedly the best-known genocide of our time. Thousands of books have been written about it, many films have been made, almost every European capital city has a museum dedicated to it, and it has had an immeasurable impact upon the world we live in today. But the Holocaust is also only one example of the much broader phenomenon of genocide, which has afflicted (by some counts) well over 50 other groups during the twentieth century, including in Namibia, Armenia, Cambodia, and East Timor. This course seeks to understand the roots of this human violence by making connections across cases from very different times and places, and also explores issues relating to genocide in the present. Students will examine a few of the best-known cases of genocide - from North America and Australia to Bosnia and Rwanda - and will use some original documents and survivor testimonies to gain an understanding of the motives and experiences in each case. The latter part of the course then steps back in order to debate the competing explanations for genocide, such as ideology, human aggression and war, and the modern nation-state system, before exploring the difficulties of prosecution and prevention, and the politics of memory and genocide denial - in other words, the way that genocide remains an important political and moral issue in the twentieth century.
The goal is not that students will merely learn to ‘recognise’ genocide, or learn the horrid facts of several cases. Rather, through discussion and debate, that students will gain an understanding of why and how human violence occurs by thinking laterally through several different cases and comparing and contrasting deep, structural factors and immediate ‘triggers’ for genocide. The seminars and assessments (whether written or oral) are designed to provoke reflection as opposed to delivering empirical information and expecting this to be regurgitated. This course, therefore, will give you a new window on humanity whilst honing your skills of critical reflection and debate, writing skills, and presentation skills.
Field Studies for this course generally constitute a visit to the Imperial War Museum’s Holocaust Exhibition, or to the Wiener Library’s collection in London. At the museum, students are encouraged to think through how events such as this are presented to the public through text, photographs, audiovisual displays, artefacts, and architecture, and what understanding and knowledge such exhibitions might (and might not) give to the public. At the Wiener Library, students explore the collection of original artefacts that include photographs, newspapers, and (their pièce de résistance) a Nazi children’s board game, and think about what these can illustrate about how genocide was perpetrated.
In most weeks, a set of primary documents will be discussed in class. Furthermore, students will be encouraged, where possible, to incorporate primary research into their work.
- 10% attendance and participation (5% each)
- 10% class mini-presentation
- 20% field study response
- 25% first essay
- 35% final essay