Investigating Genocides

May 5 and 6, 2021
5:30-8:00
Zoom – registration required below

In a 1949 interview, Raphael Lemkin stated, “I became interested in genocide because it happened so many times.” Although he coined the term “genocide” to describe the systematic murder of Europe’s Jews, his interest went beyond the Holocaust. Lemkin dedicated his life to genocide prevention and to studying patterns of injustice and violence that pervaded history and spanned the globe.

MCHE’s mission calls upon us to utilize the lessons of the Holocaust to combat genocide. Through this partnership with the University of Missouri-Kansas City, we present public history workshops focused on other genocides. Graduate students from Dr. Andrew Bergerson’s World History Colloquium will present case studies in genocide, lead participants in a discussion about each study, and highlight the insights that these genocides might provide about the Holocaust.

Over the course of two evenings, workshop participants may choose 4 out of 8 different topics for breakout sessions. Please see sessions below for complete descriptions of the topics. Through registration, we ask you to mark your preferred topic in each session. Every effort will be made to honor these requests.

May 5 – Session 1 Topics

Armenian

Led by UMKC student Mackenzie Schulte

Between 1894 and 1916, the Armenians suffered several massacres at the hands of Young Turks, the leaders of the Ottoman Empire. In response to the slow disintegration of the Empire, they attempted to homogenize their population by expelling, and then subsequently murdering, anyone who did not fit the new Turkish ideal. This presentation focuses on the role of three factors in the transnational history of the genocide: the Turkish state, the policy of ethnocide, and the German foreign policy. Workshop participants will learn about not only the similarities and differences, but also the historical connections to the Holocaust.

Huguenots

Led by UMKC student Solveig Klarin

Is genocide a modern phenomenon? This session explores this question by comparing the Holocaust to the persecution of the French Huguenots in the sixteenth century. The majority of the atrocities occurred during the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598), where Catholics massacred the Reformed Protestants. By examining atrocities like the massacre of 1572, wherein prescribed violence by the state rapidly escalated into violence committed against civilians, workshop participants will gain clearer insights into the origins of genocide.  

May 5 – Session 2 Topics

Rwandan

Led by UMKC student Lauren Bouas

After the assassination of President Habyarimana in the Spring of 1994, the people of Rwanda experienced a genocide in which individuals participated for a wide range of reasons. Using comparison to the Holocaust, this session will explore the motivations of both perpetrators and rescuers during the Rwandan genocide. Ordinary citizens faced localized social pressures and circumstances which led to their decisions to both participate in murder and try to rescue. Participants in this workshop will understand how surprisingly ordinary situations impacted the decision making processes of Rwandans during the genocide.

California Native Americans

Led by UMKC student Norman Caruso

Abstract: Between 1846 and 1873, white settlers in California employed violence, racist attitudes, and government sanction to reduce the Native American population from 150,000 to 30,000. However, some scholars are still hesitant to refer to these events as genocide. Through comparison to the Holocaust, this presentation will outline Caruso’s definition of a ‘genocidal atmosphere,’ which includes crucial factors such as dehumanization, forced labor, violence, dispossession of land, and the role of the government and the press. These genocidal atmospheres in both California and Nazi Germany created a context for outright genocide. In California, the state government legalized and funded volunteer militias in 1850 to carry out killing expeditions. In Nazi Germany, the SS formed the Einsatzgruppen death squads in 1939, which played an integral role in the extermination of Jews.

May 6 – Session 1 Topics

Darfuri

Led by UMKC student Alexandra Kern

Between 2003 and 2005, an estimated 300,000 Darfuri were killed and another million were displaced in a counterinsurgency turned genocidal slaughter in Western Sudan. The press has often reduced the conflict to a either a racially motivated clash between Arabs and black Africans or the first example of the coming climate wars. This workshop will examine the interplay of political manipulation, artificially induced scarcity, Arab supremacy, and climate change in creating an atmosphere ripe for genocide. Through comparison to the Holocaust and other genocides, workshop participants will explore the differential between ethnic cleansing and genocide to determine where both cases fall along that continuum. 

Irish

Led by UMKC student Ryan Hood

The English have been colonizing Ireland for 850 years, but the early modern period was marked by extreme violence and a more determined plan to erase the people and history of Ireland. This workshop will be discussing the English genocide in Ireland starting with the Tudors in the 1530s and continuing in the Cromwellian reconquest in the 1650s. The English used four methods familiar from the Holocaust and other world genocides to wipe out the Irish people and create room for English expansion and settlement: mass murder, starvation, expropriation, and cultural erasure, which repeatedly revealed their genocidal intent.

May 6 – Session 2 Topics

Uigher

Led by UMKC student Michael Sprague

Despite mounting international pressure, Chinese state officials continue to deny the existence of concentration camps in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Yet there is credible evidence that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is systematically repressing Uyghurs through forced migration, forced labor in fields and factories, brainwashing, and compulsory sterilization and abortion. If estimates of the numbers of Uyghurs placed in concentration camps are accurate, it is the largest-scale genocide of a religious minority since the Holocaust. The CCP defends these actions under the pretext of Chinese national security in a broader War on Terror. In drawing comparisons between the Uyghur genocide and the Holocaust, workshop participants can better understand the deceptive practices of genocidal states in the past and present.

Guatamalan

Led by UMKC student Madeline Thompson

From 1981 to 1983, the Guatemalan military government used the pretext of civil war to hunt Maya living in the highlands of the country. Yet as in the Holocaust and many other genocides, activists seeking justice and scholars seeking understanding face challenges when it comes to sources because communities, individuals, victims, and perpetrators provide different accounts that require the exercise of academic criticism. Participants in this workshop will learn more about the ethical sensitivity required for reconstructing the histories of genocide and how we can responsibly criticize sources to uncover the difficult truths and testimonies surrounding genocide. 

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