Ohanessian Dialogues

Faculty leaders:
Alejandro Baer (Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies),
Evelyn Davidheiser (Institute for Global Studies),
Barbara Frey (Human Rights Program)

From the mass killings of indigenous populations by colonial powers, the Armenian genocide of 1915, the Shoah, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Mayan killings in Guatemala, to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, mass atrocities have plagued every continent inhabited by humans. With the generous support of the Ohanessian Endowment Fund for Justice and Peace Studies of the Minneapolis Foundation, IGS launched an initiative that we called The Ohanessian Dialogues on Mass Atrocities and Their Aftermaths. The Ohanessian Dialogues draw on the rich community of human rights scholars and practitioners in the Twin Cities and further the reputation of this region as a leader in the study and prevention of mass atrocities.

Starting in 2014, we initiated the Ohanessian Dialogues with a signature conference entitled Genocide and its Aftermaths: Lessons from Rwanda, marking the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. We followed this with a series of activities in 2015 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. In 2016, we expanded the Dialogues to include contemporary instance of mass atrocities, including disappearances.

In the 2016–18 cycle, we built on our earlier work to create new opportunities for raising public awareness and for developing the next generation of scholars and practitioners who will contribute to the prevention of mass atrocities. We organized a series of workshops, symposia, and conferences around the theme of documenting mass atrocities, focusing on the collection and analysis of data on the one hand and the representations of mass atrocities in scholarly, educational, and artistic works on the other.

On a parallel track, we created an Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity, designed and managed collaboratively by a partnership of Mexican human rights organizations and transnational academic institutions that will investigate, organize, and analyze information about disappearances in Mexico. This collaborative project uses strategic litigation and policy responses to counter the impunity that permits these atrocities to take place so consistently in Mexican society.

Additional interventions to be realized under the Ohanessian Dialogues rubric:

  • April–May 2017: A short-term course for undergraduate and graduate students on Holocaust Art: History, Representation, Commemoration, and Preservation, taught by Yehudit Shendar, former deputy director and senior art curator at Yad Vashem, Memorial and Museum (Israel).
  • April 2017: An International Symposium on Comparative Genocide Studies and the Holocaust. The symposium will create a space for productive dialogue on the particular place of Holocaust scholarship and commemoration in the US and Western Europe, against the background of a new generation of scholars dedicated to the empirical study of mass violence in a variety of cases across the globe.
  • Spring 2018: A capstone project entitled “CSI for Human Rights. Given the increased interest in technology, data, and DNA in convicting (or exonerating) persons for crimes, we will bring the sciences in dialogue with the social sciences and humanities in relation to human rights.