Genocide in Twentieth-Century History: The Power and the Problems of an Interpretive, Ethical- Political, and Legal Concept

Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto | October 19–20, 2018

Each year for the past five years, HREC has organized a conference designed to engage scholars from a range of academic disciplines and demonstrate the relevance of Holodomor studies to their fields. On October 19–20, 2018, HREC gathered international specialists at the conference “Genocide in Twentieth-Century History: The Power and the Problems of an Interpretive, Ethical-Political, and Legal Concept.”

The conference, which was co-organized with the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), examined how the concept of genocide has evolved and adapted, looking at both the contributions and challenges of the concept as a way of understanding the twentieth century. The idea originated with HREC advisor Andrea Graziosi (University of Naples), whose research includes his discovery of remarkable Italian diplomatic correspondence describing the Holodomor, found in the archives of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

HREC/CIUS’s Frank Sysyn described the conference as “a milestone in the study of the Holodomor, marking its integration into broader discussions of genocide.”

Participants came from Canada, the US, Australia, Israel, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and the UK. They included Dirk Moses (University of Sydney), Douglas Irvin-Erickson (George Mason University), Anton Weiss- Wendt (Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities, Oslo), Annette Timm (University of Calgary), Rotem Giladi (Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture), Ronald G. Suny (University of Michigan), Alexander Korb (University of Leicester), Michelle Tusan (University of Nevada), Scott Straus (University of Wisconsin), Robert Cribb (Australian National University), Christian Gerlach (University of Bern), Mark Kramer (Harvard University), Deborah Mayersen (University of Wollongong), Anna Shternshis (University of Toronto), Doris Bergen (University of Toronto), and Antonio Ferrara (Italian National Agency for the Evaluation of the University and Research Systems-ANVUR, Italy). HREC is preparing papers based on the conference presentations for publication.

“We’re pleased that the conference succeeded in establishing the importance of analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the genocide concept and that the published proceedings will constitute a valuable work,” said Professor Graziosi.

Following introductory remarks from Lesley Cormack, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta, and Randall Hansen, Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto, the first panel began, on the emergence of the term “genocide.” Other panel topics included “The evolution and the concept of genocide,” “The colonial-post-colonial experience,” and “Rethinking the term “genocide.”

A panel entitled “Discovering the genocidal nature of the twentieth century” featured papers addressing the Holodomor by Andrea Graziosi (University of Naples) and Norman Naimark, Professor of East European Studies (Stanford University).

The academic conference also included two evening lectures open to the public. The first, given by Professor Naimark, considered the question “Is There a World History of Genocide?” Professor Naimark is the author of such works as Stalin’s Genocides (2010), which includes a chapter on the Holodomor, and Genocide: A World History (2017), and is presently finishing a book project, “Stalin and Europe: The Struggle for Sovereignty, 1944–1949.” The second evening lecture was also the 21st Toronto Annual Ukrainian Famine Lecture, delivered by Liudmyla Hrynevych (HREC in Ukraine), as described below.

Genocide Conference — Grants and Workshop Supporting Early Career Scholars

HREC provided support to nineteen early career scholars to offset the cost of attending the conference, including from University of Alberta, Northeastern University, University of Notre Dame, University of Southern California, State University of New York at Binghamton, George Mason University, Stockton

University, University of Michigan, and Presidency University in Kolkata, India. Both the early career scholars and presenters received four HREC publications related to the Holodomor.

HREC and the Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre hosted a workshop at St. Vladimir Institute for the early career scholars on the Sunday morning following the conference.

The event was an opportunity for academics at the start of their careers to reflect on how the conference themes relate to their own research interests, and for HREC to share information on

its projects. At the workshop, the early career scholars received valuable advice on publishing in academia from conference presenter Professor Dirk Moses (University of Sydney), a renowned genocide scholar and the editor of the Journal of Genocide Research.

Kristina Hook, a PhD candidate at the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Anthropology and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies who received a HREC grant to attend the conference, commented, “I was inspired to begin outlining an idea for an academic paper, which I know flowed from listening to the interesting conference presentations. It was also extremely useful to learn about HREC’s many projects.” Kristina’s dissertation investigates how the legacy of the Holodomor influences political identity in Ukraine.

Conference organizers included the University of Toronto’s Petro Jacyk Program for the Study of Ukraine at the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy; the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies; and the Chair of Ukrainian Studies.

The event was featured on the front page of the Ukrainian Weekly. The article can be accessed through the following link: