Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Session D2 4: Accountability and Deniability
Tuesday, 20/July/2021:
7:30pm - 9:00pm

Session Chair: Natalia Sineaeva-Pankowska, 'Never Again' Association, Poland
Location: Room 4


Faking Facts: The Case of

Sarah Afaf Samwel

Carleton University, Canada (FCA) is a genocide denial website masquerading as a fact-checker. Founded in 2015 to correspond with the centennial anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the website claims to offer "another side" to the story of the Armenian Genocide, primarily that it didn't happen and the mainstream narrative is a lie. FCA operates at the intersection of online misinformation and genocide denial. It is a safe haven for those who wish to deny instead of grapple with the uncomfortable truth of the Armenian Genocide. Although no one claims ownership of the site, there are direct parallels in their content with the Turkish official position and propaganda.The site's rhetoric also aligns with Jones's (2011) genocide denial statements. So, well intentioned readers trying to inform themselves may be ingesting propaganda and genocide denial. This may lead to the reader to engage in memoricide. Memoricide is the willful destruction of the memory and cultural treasures of a targeted group so that any narrative that remains is the one promoted by the perpetrators (Civallero, 2007). In the digital age, FCA inserts itself as an agent of memoricide. However, it is not engaged in a destruction of instutitons or documents, but rather of the Armenian narrative. The destruction of the Armenian narrative eradicates the memory of the genocide and, therefore, of the the Armenian people. Indeed, this form of memoricide may become common as more and more information is produced and consumed online. In this presentation, I will explore how FCA both utilizes its veneer of a fact-checker to maintain its credibility and how this can lead to a form of digitial memoricide.

Genocide Knowledge and Epistemic Circle

Joachim J. Savelsberg

University of Minnesota, United States of America

The presentation summarizes core arguments from a new book, entitled: Knowing about genocide: Armenian Suffering and Epistemic Struggles (University of California Press, 2021). It asks how repertoires of knowledge emerge, among Armenians and Turks and in world society, and what dynamics they unfold. By knowledge, I do not mean certified knowledge but simply humans’ taken-for-granted assumptions about the world. The epistemic circle begins with everyday exchanges, or micro-politics. They involve conflicting pressures to silence, deny or acknowledge. Knowledge entrepreneurs, actors with privileged access to channels of communication, often set the parameters for such exchanges, exercising epistemic power. Some practice radical denial, even against overwhelming evidence, a pattern that reaches beyond the issue of genocide, especially in the current era of authoritarian populism. Knowledge entrepreneurs also initiate large collective rituals to confirm a sense of community among their followers and to solidify knowledge. Finally, when radically distinct repertoires of knowledge face one another, conflicts and struggles erupt. They unfold in distinct social fields such a politics and law, embedded in national contexts and in world society with its pronounced human rights scripts since the end of the Second World War. I finally argue that denialism in the context of (partial) human rights hegemony likely produces effects that are counterproductive in the eyes of those who deny mass atrocities. This presentation provides an overview of the epistemic circle while going into greater depth for two of its components.


Daniel Rothenberg

Arizona State University, United States of America

Cuxum Alvarado was working as a landscaper in Waltham, MA when he was identified as a former member of the civil patrol that played a key role in the Guatemalan genocide in the early 1980s. He was identified through careful research supported by social media and digital data now widely accessible to almost anyone. He was arrested in 2019 and deported to face trial in 2020 for rape and sexual violence against indigenous Maya Achi women committed as part of the country’s genocide (one of the groups profiled by the Guatemalan Truth Commission in a region they found ‘acts of genocide’ committed by the State and by State-supported actors, such as the civil patrols). What does this case, and others like it, mean for genocide accountability and potential prevention in an era when hiding, even thousands of miles from one’s home country, is increasingly difficult? This paper explores this issue by arguing that digital identification of alleged genocide perpetrators is an enormously powerful tool for improving accountability, though one which presents a series of potential risks. The paper focuses on the case of Guatemala in which large numbers of Guatemalans–both victims and perpetrators–have migrated to the United States, where they have often re-constituted their lives in diaspora communities, often seeking to avoid formal reckoning with the trauma and impact of ‘la violencia’ (‘the violence’ as the genocide is known locally). As digital traces expand in their reach and as citizen investigators and others expand their searches, the possibility of improved accountability as well as potential prevention expands along with the potential for false claims, overlapping and conflicting legal regimes (U.S. immigration and Guatemalan domestic justice, for example), and a variety of shifts in the meaning, impact and possibility of being named a genocide perpetrator.

Victimizers in documentary cinema. A possible taxonomy

Lior Zylberman

CONICET/CEG-UNTREF, Argentine Republic

This paper is part of an investigation on the representation of genocides in documentary film. After having made an approach to what I have called a “comprehensive approach” –pointing out thematic motifs and poetic-rhetorical functions–, in this instance my interest is to think how the perpetrators are (re)presented; in that sense, my goal with this paper is to present a taxonomy of the representations of the victimizers in documentary film. To this end, after presenting some possible debates on the subject, I will suggest forms and modalities of representation of the victimizer in documentary film. Thus, two main discursive forms will be presented –visual and verbal– and four modalities of representation –archive, evocative, declarative and participatory– being the combination of both what will allow the analysis of the different strategies of representation of this actor in documentary filmmaking.

Esta presentación es parte de una investigación sobre la representación de los genocidios en el cine documental. Después de haber hecho un acercamiento a lo que he llamado un "enfoque integral" -señalando motivos temáticos y funciones poético-retóricas-, en este caso mi interés es pensar cómo se (re)presentan los perpetradores; en ese sentido, mi objetivo con este trabajo es pensar una taxonomía de las representaciones de los victimarios en el cine documental. Para ello, tras dar cuenta de algunos posibles debates sobre el tema, sugeriré modalidades de representación del victimario en el cine documental. Así, se presentarán dos formas discursivas principales -visual y verbal- y cuatro modalidades de representación -archivo, evocativa, declarativa y participativa- siendo la combinación de ambas lo que permitirá analizar las diferentes estrategias de representación de este actor en el cine documental.