Genocide: From Armenia to Darfur

This post is published in advance of the National Women’s Studies Association conference in Montreal, Quebec from November 10 – 13 and in advance of American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans from November 16 – 19. #NWSA2016 #ASC2016 #Election2016 

Joachim J. Savelsberg presented insights from Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur to affected groups on several occasions. After a speech in Yerevan, Armenia, on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Savelsberg more recently addressed and exchanged ideas with refugees from Darfur and other troubled regions in the Middle East.

Savelsberg-RepresentingMassViolenceOne opportunity was offered by the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, participant in a movement among French universities that offer refugees a path back into higher education. In this context, Savelsberg lectured and discussed with a group of Sudanese, Syrian and Palestinian refugee-students. His lecture evoked much interest and intense discussions. Students primarily wanted to know what actions could put an end to the continuing and newly intensifying mass atrocities in Darfur. Why does the West not intervene with military force? Why does it not arm rebel groups who fight the Sudanese government? Why have peace negotiations not succeeded? Why have indictments by the International Criminal Court (ICC) not resulted in arrests? While not all answers could satisfy all members of the group, students took some comfort from the observation that UN and ICC interventions had advanced an international perception of the mass atrocities as a form of criminal violence. They shared the author’s hope that this trend will, in the long run, further delegitimize mass atrocities and challenge those political and military actors who bear responsibility. American institutions of higher education might, it seems, learn from French universities and their initiatives, which stand in sharp contrast to closed doors rhetoric (and policy) and to the rise of right-wing populist movements that enhance exclusion and risk advancing political-religious radicalization and criminalization.

Joachim Savelsberg at Darfur Women Action Group's Mobile, Engage, Empower to End Genocide Symposium.
Joachim Savelsberg at Darfur Women Action Group’s Mobile, Engage, Empower to End Genocide Symposium.

More recently, Savelsberg spoke to Citizens for Global Solutions in Minneapolis, MN and, in Washington, DC, at the 2016 Women and Genocide conference, organized by the Darfur Women Action Group (DAWG), with support from the Global Women’s Institute, George Washington University, and the Genocide Prevention Program, George Mason University School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His lecture followed reports in which women from Rwanda, Darfur, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Northern Nigeria spoke to their experiences in the context of mass atrocities. Like in Paris, careful scholarly analysis of the effects of new international institutions encounter impatience among those who are directly affected. Some scholars reinforce that impatience also at the DAWG event, as they focus on the weaknesses of new institutions. Savelsberg instead highlighted the historical novelty of international criminal justice, and alternative transitional justice institutions, urging patience in the exploration of the degree to which – paraphrasing Justice Robert Jackson – reason and some degree of the rule of law may eventually supplement the pure use of power in international relations. The experiment began only in the 20th century. It is a novelty in human history, initial malfunctions are expected and no reasons for dismissal. Representing Mass Violence documents how it may advance cultural change and promote hope.


Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur by Joachim J. Savelsberg is available as a free Luminos Open Access e-book and available for free download.


101st Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Author Joachim Savelsberg was invited by the President of the Republic of Armenia to present a talk on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Savelsberg delivered his lecture on April 23, 2016, at the Global Forum against the Crime of Genocide in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. The event was introduced by a speech by President Serzh Sargsyan and concluded with an address by Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Nalbandian. Other speakers included genocide survivors, several ambassadors, other scholars and activist-actor George Clooney. Savelsberg’s lecture addressed the relationship between human rights and humanitarian aid in the context of genocide. It was based on materials from his recent book Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur, available as open access online. Savelsberg also participated in the official wreath laying ceremony at the Armenian Genocide Memorial on April 24, the official day of commemoration, and at the inaugural award ceremony for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. Upon his return Savelsberg reported about his experiences to the Armenian community of Minnesota.


Author Spotlight: Joachim Savelsberg

Meeting with our authors is always a pleasure, and last month, it was wonderful to welcome Joachim Savelsberg to UCP’s offices in Oakland. Joachim Savelsberg, a world-renowned expert on mass atrocities, is author of the upcoming title Representing Mass Violenceset to release this August.

Upon publication, Representing Mass Violence will be available through Luminos, University of California Press’ new Open Access publishing program for monographs. Visit www.luminosoa.org to learn more.

Left to right: Jack Young, Elena McAnespie, Maura Roessner, and Joachim Savelsberg.
Left to right: Jack Young, Elena McAnespie, Maura Roessner, and Joachim Savelsberg.

“You look at countries like my own home country Germany in the way they memorialize the Holocaust, the way they live up to the responsibilities of the past. It does not do them any harm in the international community. To the opposite, it has increased acceptance in the international community,” says Savelsberg in his recent feature in the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s op-ed.

Be sure to listen to his interview with John Hines on WCCO Radio for more of Savelsberg’s profound analyses of the history of genocide.

Representing Mass Violence:  Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur
Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur

Representing Mass Violence uncovers competing narratives of international justice in the ways in which human rights crimes in Darfur (and also Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Cambodia) are represented around the world, particularly through the lens of the International Criminal Court.

This work stands apart from other accounts of genocide by focusing not on the crimes themselves or the immediate legal or political responses but on the distinct meta-narratives that develop in Western industrialized nations about the possibility of justice as administered through international judicial forces. Ireland, for instance, with its collective memory of extreme poverty, may officially support the ICC’s efforts but express strong skepticism about any judicial intervention that would interfere with food and aid delivery. And Germany, with its own history of genocide, is slow to apply the term elsewhere, recently making global news by acknowledging the Armenian genocide as such on its 100th anniversary.

These local, social, and political forces profoundly shape the ways in which mass crimes in Darfur and elsewhere are perceived and addressed. Only by understanding how they shape collective memories and representations of human rights crimes, Savelsberg argues, can we better respond to, and prevent, future atrocities.


4100 B.C. Was a Good Year for Wine

What’s your favorite vintage? 2005? 2007? How about 4100 B.C.? That’s the year scientists have dated the earliest known winery, discovered in a cavern in Armenia. The international team of researchers, based out of UCLA, found a vat they believe was used for pressing grapes, along with the remains of crushed grapes, seeds, vine leaves, storage jars, and drinking cups in an archaeological site known as Areni-1.

Patrick McGovern, scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia and author of Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages, told the AP, “The evidence argues convincingly for a winemaking facility.” In Uncorking the Past, McGovern explores a provocative hypothesis about the integral role libations have played in human evolution, from the rice wines of China and Japan to the corn beers of the Americas to the millet and sorghum drinks of Africa.

The winemaking site in Armenia was surrounded by graves, leading researchers to believe the wine was used in a ceremonial context. McGovern supports this theory: “Even in lowland regions like ancient Egypt where beer reigned supreme, special wines from the Nile Delta were required as funerary offerings and huge quantities of wine were consumed at major royal and religious festivals,” he explained.

The Wall Street Journal also covered the story, and created a video that features photographs from the dig site. Watch it below: