Fall 2018 - HIST 285 D100

Studies in History (3)

Genocide in Hist Context

Class Number: 7469

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    RCB 6125, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 15, 2018
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    RCB 8100, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Lauren Rossi
    Office: AQ 6235



Special topics. Breadth-Humanities.


In 1948, the United Nations adopted a convention that defined genocide, a crime committed many times before then but not developing conceptually, legally, or even linguistically until the twentieth century. The ratifying nations promised to prevent genocides, to intervene in those that broke out, and to bring perpetrators to justice. However, genocides have continued to occur into the twenty-first century, and the signers of the convention have spent more time arguing over the definition and its limitations than acting against perpetrators.

This course will explore modern genocide in its historical context in order to analyze and critique various definitions of genocide, underscoring both the usefulness and limitations of the genocide convention and introducing students to the complexities of politics, international law, and historical perspective when it comes to applying the term and enforcing legislation. An interdisciplinary approach is inherent in our exploration of this topic: we will be reading material produced by historians but also by psychologists, journalists, criminologists, legal scholars, political scientists, and survivors. Over the semester, we will attempt to answer the following questions: what are the various definitions of genocide, and why is there a plurality? How did genocide manifest itself before the twentieth century, especially during the nineteenth century? In what context was the UN genocide convention drafted and signed? What are its limitations for understanding historical events? Topics include imperialism and colonial conquest; settler colonialism and genocide; revolution and war; Raphael Lemkin and the 1948 genocide convention; evolving legal and scholarly definitions of crimes against humanity from the end of the First World War; sexual violence during war and genocide; issues of memory, justice, and the prevention the genocide; and various case studies, including the Holocaust; the indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia; Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire; the Herero and Nama in Southwest Africa; the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides; and ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Balkans. Other controversial cases, including contemporary events in Darfur and the Congo, the genocidal behaviour of Boko Haram and ISIS, and the targeting of groups such as the Yazidi and the Rohingya, will also be discussed.


  • Tutorial obligations: 10% attendance/participation, 5% primary document presentation 15%
  • Short paper - in lieu of midterm 20%
  • Group presentation: 15% shared with the group, based on oral presentation, 15% for individual written report 30%
  • Final (take-home, open book) exam 35%



Adam Jones, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction (3rd edition, 2017) Available free online via the library catalogue.

James Waller, Becoming Evil (2nd edition, 2007)

Jean Hatzfeld, The Antelope’s Strategy (2009)

Plus selected readings posted on Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html