Featured Scholar

Philip Spencer

Philip Spencer gave a keynote introductory address at CHGS’ International Symposium on April, 2017 entitled Comparative Genocide Studies and the Holocaust: Conflict and Convergence. Following the symposium, he and Bruno Chaouat (UMN, French and Italian) gave a book talk (recorded in full here), where Spencer introduced the book he co-authored with sociologist Robert Fine, Antisemitism and the Left. On the return of the Jewish question. After his talk, Spencer sat with Wahutu Siguru (UMN PhD Candidate, Sociology), Alexandra Tiger (UMN undergrad in Sociology), and Demetrios Vital (CHGS Outreach Coordinator), and offered thoughtful, warm, and inspiring answers to a range of questions on topics in his book and talks. What follows are three of those questions and answers.

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On April 6-8, 2017, CHGS held a symposium in celebration of its 20th anniversary, entitled, “Comparative Genocide Studies and the Holocaust: Conflict and Convergence.” Timothy Snyder, a professor of History at Yale University gave the keynote on “The Politics of Mass Killing: Past and Present.” Joe Eggers was able to sit down and talk with him.

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Dr. Timothy Snyder

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Roger Grunwald, the child of a German Holocaust survivor is a performer from San Francisco and the author of The Mitzvah Project. On February 14th, 2017 he presented his solo show at the University of Minnesota. In The Mitzvah Project Grunwald reveals the surprising history of the German men known as “mischlinge” – the derogatory term the Nazis used to characterize those descended from one or two Jewish grandparents – who served in Hitler’s army.

 

How did you get started integrating theater and community service?

In New York in the late 70s, I became a community activist and helped to build an organization called the New York City Unemployed and Welfare Council. This was at a time when New York City was in receivership. The city was broke and the major banks had taken over. The first programs to be cut were the ones in the poorest communities. One of the things that we learned from these men and women touched by the council’s work was that their kids loved culture but there was no real outlet for them to express this. A number of us who were involved in this community organizing activity came up with the idea of putting on a talent show. For the young people we produced a talent show in a church basement in the Bronx in the early 80s and that was the beginning of the All Stars Project. It is now in six cities around the United States.

Roger Grunwald in The Mitzvah Project (Photo by Jennifer Hammer)

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On the 29th of November 2016, State representative Frank Hornstein (DFL) organized a public lecture through the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College entitled The Use of Holocaust and Nazi Analogies in American Politics. The speaker for the event, Professor Gavriel Rosenfeld (Fairfield University), was interviewed for this month’s scholar spotlight.

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This year, Dr. Hollie Nyseth Brehm (Ohio State)* and Dr. Chris Uggen (UMN) received a Sociology research grant from the National Science Foundation for their project “Enhancing Public Access: Archiving Court Cases to Study Genocide and Transitional Justice.” Wahutu Siguru recently conducted an interview with Professor Nyseth Brehm.

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In March, Gender & Society published an article titled, Gender-Based Violence Against Men and Boys in Darfur: The Gender-Genocide Nexus. The paper, co-authored by Dr. Gabrielle Ferrales (Sociology, UMN), Dr. Hollie Nyseth-Brehm (Ohio State) and Suzy McElrath (Ph.D. Candidate, UMN), analyses gender-based violence against men and boys during mass atrocity. Demonstrating new theoretical connections between gender, violence, and hegemonic masculinity, this work significantly advances our understanding of how genocidal violence is gendered, but also more broadly how gender inequalities can be reproduced and maintained in diverse settings and social structures.

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Natan Sznaider, Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo

This is the second half of Natan Sznaider’s critique of Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust. You can find the first half here. 

Multiple Modernities and the Memory of the Holocaust

We do need to talk about modernity (the concept as such makes sociologically no sense), but about multiple modernities and multiple Enlightenments.  One of the clues is Arendt’s book “On Revolution” where she compares and contrasts the French and the Anglo-Saxon traditions of Enlightenment

When we look at the Scottish Enlightenment, for instance, it is grounded on the sentiments or a moral or common sense as a kind of intuitive judgment. Capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, exercising power of judgment, anchored in religion and balancing between morality and utility in the basis of a liberty seen as granted to all. Look at Adam Smith’s exploration of virtues like compassion and benevolence. Arendt was working in this tradition when she in her “On Revolution” takes side with the legacy of the American Revolution and the Scottish Enlightenment against its French contender. Thus, in the French tradition (and we are talking caricatures) there is a strong opposition between reason and religion, while the Scots tried to reconcile reason and faith. I think these distinctions are important even though they do not play much or a role in Bauman’s text.

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Natan Sznaider, Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo

Many of us were deeply impressed when Zygmunt Bauman published his “Modernity and the Holocaust” almost a quarter century ago. When I studied sociology in the 1970s there was not much sociological thinking going around about the Holocaust.

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Zygmunt Bauman

When the book came out we weren’t very aware of the consequences. The book came out when the Berlin Wall fell and one year later, Germany was reunified and I would argue that these things are connected. Bauman himself was much more aware of the context.  In his Amalfi Prize lecture Bauman was very clear about the context of his book and I quote him: “The ideas that went into the book knew of no divide; they knew only of our common European experience, of our shared history whose unity may be belied, even temporarily suppressed, but not broken. It is our joint, all European, fate that my book is addressing (p.208 of the second edition of Modernity and the Holocaust).

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In February, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies welcomed Pedro Correa Martín-Arroyo to discuss his research. Correa presented a lecture titled “The Spanish Paradox”, which examined the Spanish government’s policies towards the Jews, and how these were influenced by actors both within and outside the country.

2528819-168x168Pedro Correa Martín-Arroyo is currently the Diane and Howard Wohl fellow at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies (US Holocaust Memorial Museum); as well as PhD candidate at the London School of Economics. His doctoral research addresses the international management of the Jewish refugee crisis in the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa during World War II.

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2016-02-16_1410This is the second half of a two part interview with Dr. Adam Muller from the University of Manitoba. CHGS interviewed Dr. Muller after his November presentation on campus in which he highlighted the Embodying Empathy project, a collaborative project at the University of Manitoba that will bring Canada’s residential schools alive with an immersive digital experience.

If you’d like to get caught up, you can find the first half of the interview here.

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