The Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University will launch an innovative cross-disciplinary Ph.D. in Genocide Studies to begin in the fall. The new degree program will contribute to elevating Clark’s reputation as a small research university that is committed to innovation across disciplinary boundaries and to utilize this innovation to address sensitive political, social, and cultural issues in the world beyond academia. Since its inception in 1998, the doctoral program has offered a specialized Ph.D. track through the History Department, training students in the history of the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, and other cases of genocide and mass violence around the globe. Yet, understanding the complex causes and manifestations of mass violence demands expertise in numerous fields. To that end, faculty members from eight academic departments have long contributed coursework encompassing a range of disciplinary approaches.
The Strassler Center currently has three endowed chairs dedicated to historic genocides and their holders are trained historians. Yet, a broader definition of genocide studies has emerged that addresses large-scale human rights abuses and events of mass violence in the past as well as in the present, while inter- and multidisciplinary approaches have increasingly shaped the field. At the same time, the societal relevance of genocide studies has widened the career goals and prospects of its students; they now pursue nonacademic careers as leaders in government, NGOs, and various pedagogical institutions such as museums, memorials, and teacher-training initiatives. Offering broader methodological, conceptual, and empirical training that transcends history as a discipline and goes beyond European and Armenian genocides will accommodate students pursuing these career paths and will attract a more diverse range of qualified national and international students planning for such positions.
The Ph.D. in Genocide Studies will rely on a curriculum that trains students not primarily in the diachronic, but in the synchronic dimension of genocides and thus in disciplines such as anthropology, psychology, political science, sociology, literary studies, legal studies, and pedagogy. In order to enact these changes, the Center has initiated the addition of faculty positions with a background in social sciences; with expertise on regions of the world that currently are not covered; and with strong ties to political and pedagogical applications of academic knowledge about causes, courses, and consequences of mass violence and atrocity crimes. In the fall, two new three-year appointments of non-historians will broaden disciplinary expertise within the Center, one in Genocide Studies and Genocide Prevention (with regional expertise in Africa), and one in Holocaust Pedagogy and Antisemitism Studies.
The societal relevance of genocide studies correlates with the career goals and prospects of current and prospective doctoral students; most of them pursue non-academic careers as practitioners, as leaders in government, NGOs, and at various pedagogical institutions such as museums, memorials, and teacher-training initiatives. Offering broader methodological, conceptual, and empirical training that transcends history as a discipline and goes beyond European and Armenian genocides will accommodate students pursuing these career paths and will attract a more diverse range of qualified national and international students planning for such positions. Disciplinary training promotes specific epistemological commitments and methodological choices. By contrast, students who are conversant in multiple disciplines and are able to “translate” across these differences are in high demand for this reason. The point is to equip practitioners (rather than traditional scholars) to easily apply their knowledge and skills in problem-oriented work and real-life contexts.