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About the Research Cluster



Alida Liberman




The Network

As a first step for a future Holocaust and genocide program, a social online network (ning based) of interested faculty was formed with the help of the Shoah Foundation Institute after a meeting on December 10, 2009. The community, including more than 40 faculty (USC Dornsife, Annenberg and Keck school, and HUC), provides us with expertise in Religion, History, Psychology, International Relations, Political Science, Literature, Languages, Journalism, and Medicine. The network will serve as a natural foundation for the research cluster and provide most of the team researchers. However, the community will also develop ideas and collaboration apart from the cluster. We plan to enrich the basic network, whose main aims are to connect, communicate and collaborate, in the near future in different ways, first to include students, secondly, to extend it to Law, Business and Film at USC; and thirdly, to reach beyond the campus. This might serve as a base in the future for a wider social and academic community in Southern California interested in the subject of the Holocaust and other genocides.

The Structure

The cluster consists of different sections. Some will be established to enhance research, others to support interdisciplinary communication and teaching. The former include five Ph.D. summer fellowships for USC grad students and one short term visiting fellowship for a Ph.D. candidate working on a subject related to our theme from another university, as well as the organization of an annual international academic workshop. The latter will include USC-internal workshops, talks by guest speakers, student research projects, the development of a minor in resisting genocide and of a graduate certificate in Holocaust and genocide studies.

The Research

The proposed cluster will approach the question, what enables people to oppose or resist racist ideologies, state discrimination practises or the active participation in mass atrocities, through an interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration in three different steps, focusing consecutively on societies, groups or individuals. For all three research sectors, the cluster investigates the economic, cultural, religious, ethical, political, psychological, and social conditions in the pre-stages, during the actual genocide and its aftermath. This project takes historical specificity seriously while simultaneously seeking to identify certain universal concerns. For the research existing resources at USC, including the Shoah Institute archive and Holocaust book collection, will be used as well as new documentation produced relevant for the core questions, especially with the survivor communities in the wider Los Angeles Area. Based on their own research, the team members will lead the discussion with a wider audience of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students via internal seminars, talks by invited guest speakers and the international workshops.

First year focus: The Society: led by political science, international relations, history, comparative literature (Possible additions: law, communication, sociology)

Second year focus: The Group: led by sociology, anthropology, religion, history (Possible additions: business, art)

Third year focus: The Individual: led by psychology, religion, history, languages (Possible additions, anthropology, biology, neuroscience)

To address these questions, the cluster focuses on the Holocaust and other Genocides in world history, but also on current mass violence. The research will combine already existing research experience on the Holocaust, Armenia, Rwanda, and Cambodia with the new focus of the cluster. We would encourage applying the proposed approach to new projects on Genocides in areas such as Guatemala, East Timor, Bangladesh and Papua but also on “counter cases” such as South Africa, Kosovo and others. The study of those “counter cases” of segregation of and discrimination against certain groups in given societies, will allow us to investigate genocidal conditions from a different angle, to compare similarities, to find differences, and to cross check the hypotheses developed at the research cluster.

Curricula components

In the three years of the project, we will create an interdisciplinary minor in Resisting Genocides and a graduate certificate in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

The Undergraduate minor “Resisting Genocides”
: The minor will comprise existing classes in USC Dornsife as well as new courses designed by the members of the research cluster team and our colleagues. For example, History offers upper-division courses on the Holocaust in the Twentieth Century, Life and Death in Nazi Germany, as well as Mass Violence and Genocide in Modern World History. Political Science offers a course on Terrorism and Genocide and another on World Political Leadership, which discusses genocidaires such as Adolf Hitler. Psychology offers a course on Post-Genocidal Trauma. Judaic Studies has a General Education class in the Social Issues category and teaches sections of Arts and Letters concerned with representations of the Shoah. There are two courses in the Problems Without Passports program, on the German Holocaust and the genocide in Cambodia. There have been Freshman Seminars taught on the topic, including a section on Holland during the Holocaust and a section taught by Rabbi Susan Laemmle and Chip Murray on Rwanda.

New curricula will be developed as part of the proposed interdisciplinary minor. For example, Wolf Gruner is now designing a new course on Comparative Genocide that could be the gateway or capstone course to the minor. Margaret Rosenthal is now offering a course on Italian Jewish writers of the Holocaust as a 499 course and plans to propose this subject as its own 400-level course to be included in the listings of the Department of French and Italian. Nancy Lutkehaus is developing a course on the anthropology of genocide and violence, and also hopes to team-teach an interdisciplinary course at either the undergraduate or graduate level. Judith Halberstam of English is teaching a new class on gender and sexuality in the Holocaust for the General Education program.

Other coursework will emerge from our discussions for the undergraduate minor, especially regarding upper division research oriented courses developed by members of the cluster using the resources at USC.

The Graduate certificate program: The series of graduate seminars and events would enable PhD students to collaborate and network with students and faculty in other disciplines, whether the humanities, the social sciences and/or the natural sciences. The interdisciplinary education available from members of the cluster and the opportunities for research with USC Dornsife collections will develop their methodological and analytical skills. The community of scholars gathered around this topic will enhance their curricula as well as improve the placement of those USC graduate students.