The category of genocide refers to a specific form of collective violence that has become known as the “crime of crimes”, and it is one of the most ubiquitous in international politics. Yet its usage is relatively recent, and it is as much a historical artefact as it is a descriptor of political reality.  How did the notion of genocide come into being? What did it refer to in the past, and what does it refer to in the present? Who has the right to accuse whom of having committed genocide? Why do some acts of collective violence receive the label of genocide, whilst others do not? Is it possible to compare cases of genocide, or is each case unique? Why is the Holocaust so central to the way in which genocide has been understood? Does genocide always involve mass killing? How does genocide memory impact future generations? What might reparations for genocide look like? 

This course will examine the huge variety of possible answers to some of these questions by introducing students to genocide studies – a multidisciplinary field that has primarily emerged outside of IR – and that draws on sources from anthropology to economics, from history to law, and from political science to sociology.  Against the background of diverse disciplinary approaches, we will explore major theoretical and empirical debates in the field. Structured around a reader, students will learn about concepts, practices, problems, measurement, aftermaths, trauma, and humanitarian prevention. Students are encouraged to enter this class with an open mind and with sensitivity as we together explore a difficult topic from multiple disciplinary perspectives. The common usage of the ‘G’ word often makes us feel as though we know exactly what genocide looks like. This class will provide a scholarly perspective -- expanding our sense of what genocide was, is, and might be. 

Empirical cases to be discussed include Australia, Cambodia, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, Nazi Germany, Guatemala, Iraq, Northern Ireland, the Ottoman Empire, Rwanda, Uganda, the Soviet Union, Sudan, and the former Yugoslavia, among others. The course is designed to equip students with the analytic tools necessary for making sense of the evolution of the international system from the nineteenth century to the present - and for critically assessing the promise and limits of responding to collective violence.