(The Emotional Toll of) Studying Genocide: The Zoryan Institute Creates a Space for Open Dialogue Amongst Scholars

TORONTO, ON – The International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies is proud to announce that 19 scholars have graduated from the Zoryan Institute’s two-week Genocide and Human Rights Program (GHRUP) 2018 at the University of Toronto. Course director Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey guided the students in their interactions with texts, lectures, debates and discussions. She tactfully recognized the importance of creating a safe space for open dialogue, stating that: [Insert quote from Elisa].

The study of genocide and of human rights naturally includes shocking and difficult subject matter. Many might ponder what motivates a student to dedicate their research and studies towards the incomprehensible actions of humankind. Some of GHRUP’s students come to the program with no personal experience besides a genuine interest in exploring the field of human rights and genocide studies. Other GHRUP students asserted that their interest in the field was spurred by personal or familial connections to genocide and human rights abuses. Their connections meant that they understood the lasting impacts of human rights violations and genocidal events on cultures worldwide. Most students agreed that they were motivated by their desire to expose these atrocities and prevent future human rights violations.

A personal connection to genocidal events and a motivation to prevent them does not lighten the load of this field of study. For two weeks, spending 8 hours daily navigating a range of topics from case studies such as the Holocaust, Armenian and Rwandan Genocide, to the psychology of genocide, genocide denial, and gendered genocide, has the potential to take a mental toll. Dr. von Joeden-Forgey often emphasized the importance of self-care, encouraging the students to share with each other how their research and study impacts them emotionally. The class of GHRUP 2018 identified the importance of supporting one another and maintaining community as they grapple with the incomprehensible concept of human rights violations and genocide. Though GHRUP has come to an end, the knowledge and friendships that the class of 2018 has fostered will continue to grow. IIGHRS looks forward to seeing future collaborations amongst this year’s students.

GHRUP 2018’s class included students from 10 countries, and various academic and professional backgrounds including lawyers, teachers, historians and field workers. The students enjoyed interacting and learning amongst people from different national and professional backgrounds. This cultural, academic and professional diversity demonstrated commonality in the class’s vision for human rights, reconciliation, and genocide education. Some students explained how this collective desire to learn about human rights and genocide gave them hope: that others care as deeply as they do in the study of human rights, human dignity, and prevention of genocide. After class hours, IIGHRS invites students to a variety of extra-curricular activities including walking tours, visits to museums, Niagara Falls and group dinners.

The evening activities enable the students to develop strong relationships amongst themselves, and provide an opportunity for them to discuss further the topics of that day.

On the final day of the program, the students enthusiastically presented to their colleagues, professors and the Zoryan staff their personal projects and research. Their presentations covered a range of topics and regions, from femicide in South America to the impact of images on the Armenian revolution, and the status of the Rohingya in Myanmar. The diversity of issues addressed combined with each student’s specialized knowledge made for an informative day filled with constructive debate.

Officially launched in 2002, the Institute has since welcomed nearly 500 students from over 41 countries to join in engaging in research and publication in the field of Genocide and Human Rights Studies. The Institute is pleased to announce that 70 of our GHRUP graduates have gone on to teach genocide studies in universities around the world, and 11 of our Turkish GHRUP graduates have written dissertations on the Armenian Genocide following the program. This demonstrates the Institute’s great success in educating and developing a new generation of human rights and genocide scholars. Inspired by GHRUP, many have gone on to utilize the methodological approaches introduced to them in the program. Through a comparative and interdisciplinary analysis of cases of genocide, students are exposed to a wide range of topics from a diverse set of instructors. The program encourages an open-minded and inviting setting in which students can learn, question and debate. With the option to take this course for credit towards a graduate level credit at their home institutions, GHRUP offers a unique program like no other.

If you are interested in contributing to the Institute’s GHRUP Scholarship Program or if you are interested in learning more about the course, please visit www.genocidestudies.org or contact admin@genocidestudies.org.

The Zoryan Institute and its subsidiary, the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, is the first non-profit, international centre devoted to the research and documentation of contemporary issues with a focus on Genocide, Diaspora and Homeland.