Mellon Award to Fund Comparative Genocide Studies at Yale

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $100,000 to Yale University in support of a Sawyer Seminar on Genocide Studies, according to a recent announcement by Gustav Ranis, director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies – YCIAS.

The Sawyer Seminar, named in honor of John E. Sawyer, the Mellon Foundation’s second president, provides opportunities within university settings for serious inquiry into the historical and cultural origins of contemporary developments.

Ben Kiernan, associate professor of Southeast Asian history and director of the Cambodian Genocide Program based at YCIAS, will organize and direct the seminar at Yale, with the help of a faculty steering committee. The seminar will meet weekly during 1998 and will be open to graduate students and faculty members. The Mellon funding will support a post-doctoral fellow and two graduate students, as well as enable young visiting scholars from abroad to participate in selected sessions.

The Genocide Studies Seminar will apply a comparative and multi-disciplinary approach to theoretical issues and case studies of genocide, exploring methods of description and analysis, documentation, recovery, and prevention. Topics will include war crimes, race and ideology, concepts of utopia, forensics, archives, truth commissions, domestic and international tribunals, trauma, literature of the afflicted, humanitarian intervention, and the impact of international politics.

“There has been too little formal effort to survey, in a comprehensive, rigorous, and comparative fashion, the multi-disciplinary research that has been carried out on the various instances of genocide,” notes Mr. Kiernan.

For some years, Yale has been a leader in research and activities involving genocide and human rights, serving as the home to the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights, and the Cambodian Genocide Program.

The Cambodian Genocide Program – CGP – at Yale, directed by Professor Kiernan, was launched in 1994 after the U.S. Congress adopted the Cambodian Genocide Justice Act, which resulted in a grant competition for State Department funds. The proposal submitted by Professor Kiernan and YCIAS won the competition.

The CGP seeks to document the mass killings in Cambodia during the Democratic Kampuchea regime headed by Pol Pot between 1975 and 1979. Professor Kiernan is singularly qualified to direct the program and the Sawyer Seminar, having published several works on the subject of genocide, most notably his recent book, “The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979”, Yale University Press, 1996 , notes Professor Ranis. Mr. Kiernan’s next book deals more generally with human rights violations in the 20th century.

The CGP is housed in the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, the University’s principal agency for coordinating teaching and research on international affairs and on foreign societies and cultures.

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