The Institute for Global Studies, the Human Rights Program and the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies were recently awarded a second $150,000 two-year grant from the Ohanessian Endowment Fund for Justice and Peace Studies of the Minneapolis Foundation in support of the Ohanessian Dialogues on Mass Atrocities and Their Aftermaths, an initiative that began with the Foundation’s first award in 2014.
From the mass killings of American Indian populations, 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 launch of the Ohanessian Dialogues in 2014, we aimed at contributing to the prevention of and recovery from such atrocities by raising public awareness and encouraging student involvement. 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.
The signature conference of the Dialogues, “Genocide and its Aftermaths: Lessons from Rwanda” held in April 2014, marked the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, and brought together scholars, policy makers, NGO representatives, and survivors. The conference was coupled with a conference for undergraduate students and with a daylong workshop for K-16 educators. We followed these events with a series of activities in 2015 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide and in 2016 we expanded the Dialogues to include contemporary instances of mass atrocities, including enforced disappearances.
As documentation is the first step in preventing mass atrocities, we plan to spend these next two years of the Dialogues conducting a series of workshops, symposia and conferences organized around the theme of documenting mass atrocities. A team of students in Minnesota are already analyzing secondary sources of data related to disappearances in Mexico while students in Oxford and Mexico City through a separately funded initiative are work with human rights organizations in analyzing primary sources of information for the purpose of creating and Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity. We hope that a systematization of information will lead to strategic litigation and policy responses to counter the impunity that permits these atrocities to take place so consistently in Mexican society.
While data collection and analysis is critical, we also recognize the need for representation and public awareness-raising through art. Accordingly, the Dialogues will offer a three-week course “Holocaust Art: History, Representation, Commemoration and Preservation” in spring 2017 which will be open to the public, public lectures, and an educator workshop. Around the same time, we will be hosting an international symposium on comparative genocide studies and the Holocaust. The symposium, which will include a workshop for K-12 educators, will address the particular place of Holocaust scholarship and commemoration in the U.S. 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.
We are thrilled to have this opportunity to extend the Ohanessian Dialogues initiative. Through increasing public awareness, sound scholarship on root causes and remedies, and enhanced educational capacity that impacts a new generation, we hope to contribute to the prevention of and recovery from mass atrocities.