Reflections

 “Beautiful feelings make for bad literature.” French literary tradition has proved André Gide’s assertion wrong, of course. “Beautiful feelings” of empathy and commitment to equity infuse Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and Emile Zola’s Germinal, which have remained on the international bestseller list for over a century.

Photos of three books: (left) Rachel et les siens, (middle) Apeirogon, (right) The Holocaust and the Nakba

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Eric D. Weitz’s untimely passing on Thursday, 1 July, sent shockwaves throughout the academic community. A distinguished professor of Modern European History at City College of New York, Eric was among the foremost researchers on human rights, the Armenian Genocide, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, settler-colonial genocide in German Southwest Africa, and Weimar Germany.

Eric Weitz and Adam Blackler at the University of Wyoming

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On April 28th, 2021, a strike against a tax reform started in Colombia, and almost two months later it is still ongoing. As of June 21stofficial reports confirm that at least 72 people have been killed by the police or paramilitary groups and the number is growing every day. On June 8th, the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights visited the country to clarify the situation, and a formal statement is expected soon. 

In this context of extreme violence, it is important to analyze alternatives for resolving the current crisis. Since the first day of the strike, the presence of the Indigenous movement has been salient. The Misak and the Nasa from the Cauca region, one of the most violent provinces of Colombia, have been particularly visible because of their approach to strike using non-violent actions. This article analyses the strategies of these two Indigenous groups and why their participation in the strike is key for the short- and long-term resolution of the crisis.

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*Editors Note: This piece was originally posted by MinnPost.

During Pride Month, the University of Minnesota Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies grapples with the complicated legacy of remembering and memorializing LGBTQIA+ individuals, who for too long remained absent from collective memory of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide or mass violence. As I worked to compile resources for K-12 and university educators teaching about these topics, certain patterns became clear. It is true that homosexual men are the subjects of existing Holocaust historiography, as men engaging in homosexuality were sent to concentration camps in large numbers, and they faced incredibly brutal treatment during and after the Nazi period. However, Nazis’ strictly prescribed roles for gender and sexuality also meant that others fell victim to state violence and persecution and post-war, queerphobic, collective amnesia.

One of ACT UP’s most successful campaigns was Silence = Death / Silencio=Muerte, which utilized the pink triangle used in Nazi concentration camps to identify homosexuals.

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When Joe Biden recently redecorated the Oval Office with paintings he had a lot to choose from:  45 presidents, a collection of founding fathers and countless political figures that have accumulated during 245 years of United States history. There are, of course, some questionable characters among them due to events like the Civil War, Watergate and the last administration. But the number of individuals with clearance to stare down from White House walls is still astonishingly high.

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As the academic year draws to a close at the Center and a clear route forward out of the pandemic has come into view, two popular Spanish refrains come to mind: “No hay mal que dure cien años” and “No hay mal que por bien no venga.” These adages roughly translate to: “there is no evil that lasts a hundred years,” and “there’s nothing bad through which good doesn’t come.”  

If anything, the advent of the pandemic made us more resourceful and agile as we pushed forward with unprecedented experiments with technology that connected CHGS with students, educators, advocates, and scholars across the country and the globe.  

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This piece was originally published by Scatterplot on May 24th, 2021.

Image Credit: Ben Hovland

Tomorrow marks one year since the murder of George Floyd at 38th and Chicago in South Minneapolis, sparking a rebellion that burned a police precinct and much of a nearby commercial strip. In the days that followed, a veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council declared their intention to “dismantle” the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). This declaration seemed to place the city at the forefront of a national conversation to reimagine public safety and redress racialized police violence. And yet, although the people of Minneapolis largely agree about the need for systematic changes in policing, residents, activists, and policymakers continue to disagree about the nature and scope of those transformations. These political struggles have complicated efforts to dismantle the MPD.

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The genocide committed against Indigenous groups in America has been described as a topic of the past, however, this is a practice which has not paused since the arrival of the Europeans to this territory which we today call the American continent. 

The recent government actions against indigenous populations demonstrate this, as it occurs in countries like Brazil and Colombia. At the same time, people look to claim their rights and resist through a diverse set of strategies that range from direct protest in the streets to the defense of their culture and thought via quotidian acts, pedagogical, and performative acts on Western culture.

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In 2015, I was in a taxi in Medellin on my way to the airport. Upon hearing the news about the peace process between the Colombian government and the FARC, the taxi driver vehemently complained that the authorities were negotiating with people who perpetrated atrocities.

I jumped in and pointed out that Colombian paramilitaries also committed atrocities, yet the government negotiated their demobilization a decade earlier and rightly did it so. The taxi driver paused for a moment in silence and then replied: “You’re right. At the beginning, paramilitaries only eliminated drug addicts, prostitutes, gays, and communists. Then, they started to do drug-trafficking, and that is when they went bad.” 

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Editor’s note: April 24th marked the 106th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. That Saturday, President Biden formally recognized the event as genocide, the culmination of efforts by the Armenian community, nearly all of which are the descendants of genocide survivors. We asked Lou Ann Matossian, a local community historian, to reflect on the Armenian community’s connection to Minnesota.

By the fall of 1915, when the Ottoman Turkish extermination campaign was making headlines across Minnesota, the Armenian  Genocide had been underway for six months. Closest to the story were two groups of Minnesotans—ethnic Armenians and Protestant missionaries. 

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