Decolonizing the Genocide Database
Brigham Young University, United States of America
This paper frames and describes an ongoing project that seeks to offer a broader database of genocide cases. The purpose of this project is to explore and attempt to fill database and analytical gaps. Current collections tend to be either heavily qualitative as witness archives or limitedly quantitative in their scope of cases. As part of a faculty mentored research project, students collaborated working in different areas. These areas include: review of case studies (50 broad cases ranging from 1788 to present day) and literature review of mass violence and genocide; review of definitions of genocide and offering a collaborative definition for the cases reviewed; review of existing databases to determine what has been done, solidify the importance of ours, and determine what value we are adding from our approach; and compilation of a poster and working towards an online database. Some preliminary analysis of this database shows innovative connections between imperialism and genocide, not widely addressed by the field at present. This paper argues for and addresses this project, its potential for decolonizing the study of genocide and enabling broader thinking about how we measure and understand this concept. This database is further representative of digital ways of engaging with genocide for a global scholarly audience.
“The Culture of Terror during the Guatemalan Genocide in Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo’s Digital Archives”
University of Texas at Austin, United States of America
This paper explores the culture of terror the Guatemalan government promoted during the early 1980’s genocide as recorded in Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo’s (GAM) online digital archive. According to Guatemala's two truth commissions, REHMI and CIH, the Guatemalan army annihilated anywhere between 440 and 626 Indigenous Maya villages during Guatemala’s thirty-six-year armed conflict. Although the state, through its government agents such as the army and law enforcement agencies, attempted to exterminate most of the Maya population during two dictatorships, it also targeted specific individuals that the state regarded as subversive or in association with the guerrilla movement, regardless of evidence or lack thereof. Government agents often attacked individuals in their homes before publicly torturing and executing them, or they forcibly disappeared their targets, thus converting them into what researchers such as Carlos Figueroa Ibarra regard as ‘the disappeared”--los desaparecidos. Through various detailed witness accounts, the GAM archive demonstrates Guatemala’s permanent state of exception to strategically promote fear and thus generate the culture of terror civilians lived under. This paper analyzes case studies that show that government agents seldom hid their identity, or were easily identifiable, while carrying out acts of violence. As a result, this archive is currently an active tool to prosecute and bring perpetrators to justice.
Guatemala; Culture of Terror; Digital Archives
Memory Beyond the Memorial
Weber State University, United States of America
In the aftermath of the 1994 genocide within Rwanda the country has been transformed. Among these transformations was the creation of a series of memorials to document, preserve, commemorate, and focus national attention on the concept of “Never Again.” In 2016, the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) estimated there were 265 official memorials and 113 private sites designated as genocide cemeteries; however, this number is ever changing as memorials are created, centralized, or merged. These memorials are physical representations of the genocide, preserved in memory and seen as “home” to many Rwandans.
Increasingly, Rwandans have explored ways to expand this memory beyond the memorial itself. Rwandans have engaged in the creation of graphic novels (published both in print and digitally online), with photography, artwork, and song. In addition there has been an increased emphasis within the country to record and digitize testimonies, the creation of films and theater productions based on the genocide, and many more expressions of memory which document the genocide.
This paper will explore the way that Rwandans bring memory beyond the memorial space itself, in addition to how memorials themselves engage in the digital world. It asks the question of how these new narratives engage with both Rwandans themselves, and with the outside world. It will conclude with a brief look at how these narratives impact our understanding of the genocide and the narratives of the state, the survivor, the denialists, and the genocidairs.
This paper is based on fieldwork in Rwanda which occurred between 2011 and 2019, in addition to the explorations of digital transmissions of memory.
Digital Programming and the Small Holocaust Education Center: Examining Paths and Obstacles to Visitor Engagement
Kupferberg Holocaust Center, Queensborough Community College, United States of America
As Holocaust education centers and commemoration venues shift to virtual and remote programming (due to Covid-19 and creative trends), so has the need to formally assess how effectively these evolving platforms engage their visitors. The ability to analyze the efficacy of visitor engagement in a digital context is especially important for small organizations, whose budgets and stakeholders differ greatly from large museums and memorials. This presentation will focus on how effectively small Holocaust education resource centers are transitioning to visitor-centered, collaborative digital programming using original, empirical research that examines the following questions:
- How has visitor engagement at small Holocaust education centers been affected, if at all, with the shift to digital programming?
- How have small Holocaust education centers’ ability to fulfill their mission been impacted, if at all, by this shift?
- How do visitors’ demographics affect their engagement, if at all, with digital programming at small Holocaust education centers?
- What obstacles (budgets, human resources, administrative jurisdiction, political landscape, community sensititives, etc.) are these small centers facing, if any, in their ability to implement visitor-centered digital programming?
This presentation summarizes data and insights from a survey recently administered digitally to visitors and administrators at The Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center (KHC) at Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York, located at one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse colleges and counties in the United States. To this end, the KHC has been offering an increasing amount of virtual programming and digitally-based support services to supplement its in-person offerings, including: an original virtual exhibit; online library study guides; internet-based testimonies of local Holocaust survivors; student-centered, immersive pedagogy projects; online presentations from visiting scholars; and remotely-managed student internships. It is also anticipated that the unique diversity of this research population will make findings and recommendations more generalizable.