Announcing the Spring 2017 International Symposium on Comparative Genocide Studies and the Holocaust: Conflict and Convergence

"Comparative Genocide Studies and the Holocaust: Conflict and Convergence"
February 16, 2017

Thursday-Saturday, April 6-8, 2017
International Symposium
"Comparative Genocide Studies and the Holocaust: Conflict and Convergence"

The symposium will address the particular place of the Holocaust against the background of recent knowledge on genocide and mass violence across the globe delivered and disseminated by a new generation of historians, social scientists, and educators. We plan to address definitional, methodological, theoretical, and pedagogical challenges in the field of Holocaust and Genocide Studies from a range of disciplinary perspectives. We are specially interested in addressing debates about comparison and singularity, as they have unfolded with regard to the status of the Holocaust in the context of genocide studies in recent years.

The symposium aims to foster an intellectual space for productive dialogue between scholars, curators and educators dealing with the Holocaust and with genocides in various context. Our keynote address will be the 2017 Ohanessian lecture by Timothy Snyder. 
This conference is presented for University of Minnesota students, faculty, and Twin Cities educators and curators.

Registration for the keynote address and the symposium is required.

Register for Keynote Address on Thursday evening
Register for Symposium Events on Friday and Saturday

Thursday, April 6

*Conference Keynote* and 2017 Ohanessian Lecture
7:00 pm, Coffman Theater, Coffman Union

Timothy Snyder, History, Yale University
"The Politics of Mass Killing: Past and Present"
Response by Professor Gary Cohen, History, University of Minnesota

The Holocaust has defined countless lives and reshaped our world—and yet, when it comes to our understanding of just why and how this genocide took place, much research remains to be done. One of our generation’s most acclaimed and respected historians, Timothy Snyder has spent years in the painstaking effort to recover the experience of the victims, the intentions of the killers, and the history of the Europe they shared. Professor Snyder’s lecture is based on his book Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, which is a remarkable work of scholarship that offers a new and innovative interpretation of the Holocaust—and a frightening warning about our future. In his most recent book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Snyder argues that today our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the 20th century, and that we are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism.

Organized by the Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair, cosponsored by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, the Center for Austrian Studies, and the University of St. Thomas' Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, Aquinas Chair in Theology and Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences, and Grants and Research Office. Made possible with support from the Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Fund for Justice and Peace Studies of the Minneapolis Foundation. 

Friday, April 7

Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Room 25

9:00 am
Sign in

9:15 am

9:30 am
Opening Lectures: Charting the Field

  • Andrew Woolford, Sociology, University of Manitoba; President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars
  • Phillip Spencer, History, Kingston University; Director of the Helen Bamber Centre for the Study of Rights, Conflict and Mass Violence
  • Respondent: Barbara Frey, Director UMN Human Rights Program

1:00 - 3:00 pm
Panel 1: Comparative Genocide Research: Theoretical and Methodological Challenges
This panel will engage comparative analysis and typological models for historicizing and contrasting large scale violence against civilians. Questions to be discussed include the following: To what extent is research on genocide and mass atrocities filtered through the lens of the Holocaust or conditioned by existing international law definitions? How are differences and similarities accounted for (for instance between the Holocaust and colonial genocides in the XVIII and XIX centuries)? What conceptual tools, theoretical orientations and methodologies are shared across disciplinary divides?

  • Alexander Hinton, Anthropology and Global Affairs, Rutgers University. Director of the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights
  • Eric Weitz, History, The City College of New York
  • Hollie Nyseth Brehm, Sociology, Ohio State University
  • Wolf Gruner, Jewish Studies and History, University of Southern California. Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research
  • Chairs: UMN graduate students Suzy Maves McElrath (Sociology) and Emily Mitamura (Political Science)

3:00 - 3:30 pm

3:30 - 5:30 pm
Panel 2: Holocaust, Genocide and the Politics of Naming
Despite the existence of a legal definition brought forward by the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, the concept of genocide is at times expanded by scholars and activists to encompass different categories and methods of extreme violence, including state terror against political enemies, war crimes and other massive human right violations committed by state and non-state actors. We strive to foster a discussion on the varying effects of the genocide frame when it is adopted in different contexts. How have such frames facilitated or inhibited knowledge and action vis-a-vis unfolding events of mass violence, as well as remembrance, justice, and reconciliation in their aftermath? The panel will examine where and how terminology pertaining to the history of the Holocaust and the concept of genocide is applied and will discuss the potential and limitations of cross-fertilization between scholarly and political/activist and legal agendas.

  • Carlos Pabón, History, University of Puerto Rico
  • Joachim Savelsberg, Sociology, University of Minnesota. Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair
  • Alejandro Baer, Sociology, University of Minnesota. Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
  • Chair: Erma Nezirevic, UMN graduate student (Spanish and Portuguese)
  • Related insight from ongoing dissertations projects: Paula Cuellar (History), Suzy Maves McElrath (Sociology), Wahutu Siguru (Sociology)

Saturday, April 8

Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Room 50B

9:00 - 11:00 am 
Panel 3: Teaching and Commemorating the Holocaust and other Genocides: Global Perspectives
Holocaust commemoration and education has been for decades a model example to sensitize to the dangers of hatred, discrimination, and dehumanization. This panel will explore the opportunities and challenges of Holocaust education and memorialization from the perspective of different institutions in Europe and North America. Panelists will address changes in how Holocaust history and memory have served as global reference points to raise awareness about other genocides and about state violence and human rights abuses generally. 

  • Irit Dekel, Religious Studies, University of Virginia
  • Elke Gryglewski, Director, House of the Wannsee Conference Educational and Memorial Site, Berlin
  • Krista Hegburg, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 
  • Adam Muller, Dept of English Film and Theater, University of Manitoba
  • Chairs: UMN graduate students Joe Eggers (2016 graduate of Liberal Studies) and Michael Soto (Sociology)

11:00 am - 12:00 pm

12:00 - 2:00 pm
Panel 4: Teaching and Commemorating the Holocaust and other Genocides in Minnesota
This panel will continue the discussion opened in the first panel and address the context of Holocaust and Genocide education and commemoration in Minnesota, specifically against the background of a local history of genocide of the Native American population and the histories of various immigrant groups.

  • Laura Zelle, Director of Tolerance Minnesota 
  • Dan SpockDirector of the Minnesota History Center Museum Program, Minnesota Historical Society
  • Dan Wildeson, Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education, St. Cloud State University
  • Nancy ZiemerEducator, Park Center Senior High School, Brooklyn Park
  • Chairs: UMN graduate students Brooke Chambers (Sociology) and Brieanna Watters (Sociology)

2:00 - 2:15 pm
Concluding thoughts by the organizers and farewell

Symposium co-organized with the Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair; made possible by the Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Endowment Fund for Justice and Peace Studies of the Minneapolis Foundation.