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In 1994 I was in graduate school, trying hard to juggle teaching, getting started on my dissertation and having something of a real life.

The real life part suffered most of all.  But every once in a while, the world around me would startle me out of my cave and remind me that life was proceeding without me.

The genocide in Rwanda was one of these events. Along with the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, it made me question whether academics was a meaningful career choice and what I could and should do right then, in the midst of massive violence against innocents.

And then, by the time I had actually started thinking hard about it, the genocide in Rwanda was over.  As most people now know, something like 800,000 people were killed in about a hundred days.

July was the 20th anniversary of the end of the genocide.  To mark that occasion, we’re going to depart from the usual format of the show.  Instead of interviewing an author about his or her book, we’re going to spend an hour or so thinking more broadly about events in Rwanda and how we now understand them.  Three experts on the Rwandan genocide will help us do so:  Lee Ann Fujii, Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf.  During the discussion we’ll move from the motivations of the killers to the ways in which the genocide has been remembered (or not) to what movies and books they would recommend for people who want to learn more.

The podcast is, however, to some degree inspired by a single book, Alison des Forges remarkable Leave None to Tell the Story, published in 1999.  The book is a tour de force of careful research and analysis and set the direction for research on Rwanda.  Nevertheless, it is fifteen years old.  Since then, we’ve had hundreds of studies examining the genocide and its aftermath.

So today w’re going to spend a few minutes assessing that new research, using the broad question of “What do we know about Rwanda 20 years after the genocide?”  I hope you enjoy the discussion.


Martin ShawGenocide and International Relations: Changing Patterns in the Transitions of the Late Modern World

August 8, 2014

Works in the field of genocide studies tend to fall into one of a few camps.  Some are emotional and personal.  Others are historical and narrative.  Still others are intentionally activist and aimed at changing policy or decisions. Martin Shaw‘s works fit into a fourth category.  A historical sociologist, Shaw brings the very best of [...]

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Samuel TottenGenocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains of Sudan

July 18, 2014

Most of the authors I’ve interviewed for this show have addressed episodes in the past, campaigns of mass violence that occurred long ago, often well-before the author was born. Today’s show is different. In his book Genocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains of Sudan (Transaction Publishers, 2012), Samuel Totten addresses the violence against the people of the Nuba Mountains [...]

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Michael BryantEyewitness to Genocide: The Operation Reinhard Death Camp Trials, 1955-1966

July 15, 2014

My marginal comment, recorded at the end of the chapter on the Belzec trial in Michael Bryant‘s fine new book Eyewitness to Genocide: The Operation Reinhard Death Camp Trials, 1955-1966 (University of Tennessee Press, 2014), is simple:  ”!!!!”  Text speak, to be sure, but it conveys the surprise I felt. One can ask many questions about [...]

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Wendy LowerHitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields

July 7, 2014

It seems quite reasonable to wonder if there’s anything more to learn about the Holocaust.  Scholars from a variety of disciplines have been researching and writing about the subject for decades.  A simple search for “Holocaust” on Amazon turns up a stunning 27,642 results.  How can there still be uncovered terrain? Wendy Lower shows it [...]

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Benjamin LiebermanRemaking Identities: God, Nation and Race in World History

June 27, 2014

What do you say to someone who suggests that genocide is not just destructive, but constructive? This is the basic theme of Benjamin Lieberman‘s excellent new book Remaking Identities:  God, Nation and Race in World History (Rowman and Littlefield, 2013). The book surveys two thousand years of history to explain how people have used violence to reconstruct identities. [...]

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Mark LeveneThe Crisis of Genocide: 2 Vols. Devastation: The European Rimlands, 1912-1938; Annihilation: The European Rimlands, 1938-1953

June 3, 2014

I imagine one of the greatest compliments an author of an historical monograph can receive is to hear that his or her book changed the way a subject is taught. I will do just that after reading Mark Levene‘s new two volume work The Crisis of Genocide (2 Vols. Devastation:  The European Rimlands, 1912-1938; Annihilation and [...]

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Susan ThomsonWhispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda

May 24, 2014

This spring, I taught a class loosely called “The Holocaust through Primary Sources” to a small group of selected students. I started one class by asking them the deceptively simple question “When did the Holocaust end?”  The first consensus answer was “1945.”  After some discussion, the students changed their answer.  The new consensus was simple. [...]

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Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. SchwanitzNazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East

May 11, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] This book tells a remarkable and–to me at least–little known but very important story. In Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Yale UP, 2014), Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz trace the many connections between Germany–Imperial and Nazi–and the Arab world. Their particular focus is on a fellow named Amin al-Husseini, the [...]

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Richard WeikartHitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress

May 3, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] For many years now, historians have wondered whether Hitler had any sort of consistent ideology. His writings are rambling and confusing. His speeches are full of plain lies. His “table talk” reflects a wandering, impulsive mind distinguished by a remarkable disconnection from reality. There are obvious themes: strident German nationalism, radical [...]

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