The term “genocide” was coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1944, and in 1948 the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In this context, our group treats prominent atrocities of the twentieth century, which is known as “the Age of Genocide.” These genocides include the killings of Armenians in Turkey during World War I, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo, but our topics of interest extend beyond genocides of the twentieth century as well beyond the legal definition of genocide. This Unit addresses religious aspects of genocidal conflicts, other mass atrocities, and human rights abuses that have made a deep and lasting impact on society, politics, and international affairs. Our work is interdisciplinary and includes scholars from fields including History, Ethics, Theology, Philosophy, Jewish Studies, Church History, Anthropology, Political Science, Gender Studies, and regional area studies of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
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Religion, Holocaust, and Genocide Unit
Call for Proposals
The Religion, Holocaust, and Genocide Unit seeks proposals that address the dynamics among religion, mass atrocities, and human rights and invites individual proposal submissions and pre-arranged panels for the following co-sponsored calls. The Unit is committed to diversity and inclusivity, and pre-arranged panels should reflect gender and racial/ethnic diversity as well as diversity of field, method, and scholarly rank as appropriate:
Women, Genocide, and Native Peoples
For a possible quad-sponsorship with the Native Traditions of the Americas Unit, the Women and Religion Unit, the Religion, Holocaust, and Genocide Unit, and the North American Religions Unit, we invite proposals that interrogate the role of both religious history and myth in producing and sustaining Indigenous erasure and genocide. We particularly encourage proposals that consider history and myth of the Mayflower, including commemorations like Mayflower 400, in relation to the destruction of the Native Wampanoag Peoples, and the disruption of the Wampanoag matrilineal line. We also invite proposals that further explore the impact of settler colonialism in and beyond the United States, especially those that analyze religion in relation to the genocide of indigenous peoples from a gender perspective in the North American context, including North America in relation to other contexts affected by European settler colonialism (i.e., Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands). Proposals that interrogate the widespread killings and disappearance of indigenous women and girls as a form of genocide (e.g., the June 2019 Canadian National Inquiry) are welcome. Papers accepted for this session will be considered by Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal for possible inclusion in a focus issue.
Cruel Science and Religion
For a possible dual-sponsored session with the Science, Technology, and Religion Unit and the Religion, Holocaust and Genocide Unit, we invite papers on cruel science and religion. What are specific ways that “science” and technology have contributed to human rights abuses, genocide, and other mass atrocities? What role has (pseudo)-science and played in justifying such tragedies? Specific papers could focus on historical or contemporary examples of the intersection of science and violence (including both the role of technological development in facilitating genocide, and the role of genocide in facilitating technological development through medical experimentation on prisoner populations). Of particular interest are submissions that attend to how religious actors and institutions have abetted or resisted these instances of cruel science. Papers accepted for this session will be considered by Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal for possible inclusion in a focus issue.
Memorializing Oppression and Resistance
For a possible triad session with the Religion, Holocaust, and Genocide Unit, Ritual Studies Unit, and Religion, Memory, and History Unit. In 2020 a new memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. is due to be unveiled in Boston Common, located at one end of the "Freedom Trail" established in the 1950s along a line of sites associated with American independence and national ideals. It is not the first memorial added to the trail’s narrative, with the New England Holocaust Memorial erected in 1995 close to Faneuil Hall and the site of the Boston Massacre. With an eye to this evolving memorial landscape, we invite proposals that analyze the memorialization of oppression and resistance, with relevant topics including: the use of religious symbolism and tradition at memorial locations; memorial sites as mediators of sacred and transformative experience; memorial sites as centers of pilgrimage and ritual; and the intersections among historical contestation, politics, and the religious dimensions of the sites.
Genocide, Human Rights, and Religion in the Latina/o Americas
For possible co-sponsorship, the Latina/o Religion, Culture, and Society Unit and the Religion, Holocaust, and Genocide Unit invite paper proposals that connect religion, the Latina/o Americas, and human rights—with particular attention to genocide and genocidal acts. We invite analyses of ways in which governments and religious institutions influence one another in their conceptualizations of and justifications for violence. We are interested in proposals that evaluate Holocaust comparisons and connections. For example: the rhetorical force and practical implications of referring to the Guatemalan genocide as "the silent Holocaust"; debates concerning the description of U.S. border detention centers as "concentration camps"; the 2016 opening of a Holocaust Museum in Guatemala; and the 2018 meeting of the Latin American Network for Education on the Holocaust and Genocide. Additionally, we are particularly interested in papers that attend to the intersections of religion and authoritarianism, human rights, and post-conflict reconciliation and healing. For example: the roles that religious leaders played in the 1996 Guatemalan Peace Accords; the reactions of religious communities to Efrain Rios Montt's genocide and crimes against humanity conviction in 2013; the ritual practices surrounding Ixil Mayan genocide victims, particularly mourning and funerary practices without a body (the disappeared) or an identifiable body (mass graves); the November 2019 lawsuit submitted by Rohingyas and Latin American groups in Argentina under the principle of "universal jurisdiction"; the mass killing of Machupe peoples of Chile in the late 19th-century and their ongoing struggles; the Catholic Church and "Dirty War" of the 1970s and 80s in Argentina; and how Catholics, and increasingly, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, have defended human rights or contributed to coup attempts and human rights abuses in Latin American countries.
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Jay Geller, Vanderbilt UniversityMember Since: 2017
Steven Leonard Jacobs, University of Alabama, TuscaloosaMember Since: 2018
K. Christine Pae, Denison UniversityMember Since: 2019
Sarah K. Pinnock, Trinity UniversityMember Since: 2017
Benjamin Sax, Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish StudiesMember Since: 2015
David Tollerton, University of ExeterMember Since: 2018