Special Subject: Genocide

Module code: V1371
Level 6
30 credits in autumn & spring teaching
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Unseen examination, Coursework

Genocide, the term and the concept, was invented by Raphael Lemkin at the end of the Second World War in an attempt to intellectually grasp the horrors of what Churchill called a 'crime without a name': the Shoah. And it was Raphael Lemkin who in 1948 succeeded to get the UN General Assembly to ratify the Genocide Convention to prevent similar crimes in the future. Since then the term has become widely used in public and in academic scholarship describing mass murders as far back as the Assyrian Empire, but the practice did not come to an end with the Shoah turning the concept of genocide into a pivotal analytical tool in understanding the violent history of the 20th century.

Throughout the module you will combine an in-depth analysis of various genocides with an investigation of genocide as a generic concept. In the first part, you will examine the international discussion leading up to the adoption of the Genocide Convention and the Shoah as the event which not only shaped the specific content of the convention but also guaranteed the necessary support at the General Assembly. In the second part you will analyse case studies ranging from the killing of the Herero and Nama in German South West Africa to Darfur focussing mainly but not only on the social dynamics that lead to mass killings, the motivation of the perpetrators and the construction of the victim groups. In the last part, you will examine and contrasts various recent definitions of what constitutes genocide, exploring their merits and limitations and discussing alternative concepts.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of a closely defined topic.
  • Situate, evaluate and analyse primary historical sources.
  • Relate the interpretation of primary sources to secondary interpretations.
  • Construct sophisticated written arguments that demonstrate intellectual maturity and integrity.
  • Provide a coherent oral expression of their views.