This is a reflection of a course I took during my junior year. Part of this course required a presentation at the Undergraduate Research Conference.
SOCI 395 Genocide
Genocides happen and without the active effort to prevent them from happening and the knowledge to see when one may occur before it happens we need to be vigilant in constantly keeping an eye out for such atrocities. Through the course lectures, case studies, and reading assignments I have increased my knowledge base tremendously.
Prior to taking this course my knowledge base when it came to genocide was minimal at best, I knew of only a couple cases the “popular ones” if you could call genocides popular. Even still I knew little about how the intricate workings of them, I just knew what would have been included in a brief TV segment if it were on the ten o’clock news. The two genocides I knew about when entering this class were the holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda. However the term knowing generally just means I knew that a genocide took place there but could give little else in terms of knowledge.
Now as I stand upon the brink of my completion of the course I can go out into the world with a better understanding of the causes of genocides, which I personally find the causes to be the key in terms of trying to prevent them. I was surprised to learn about all the similarities between the different genocides and to see that my opinion changed from the beginning of the course. At first I thought that prevention was impossible, I just did not see how it would work. However now I believe that it could, given the prefect political climate quickly be turned around. However the political nature of our world finds this impossible.
The actual classes helped broaden my knowledge tremendously especially when it came time for videos, personally I have always been deeply moved by documentaries and having them within the course schedule really benefited my education. In addition to the documentaries I found the small group discussions to be beneficial as well because of their ability to force myself to not only have an opinion but to be able to defend it as well. The small class discussions also forced me to realize that with such broad and complex issues there are often many different ways of thinking about things.
My overall favorite aspect of the course was definitely the case study and seeing other students’ case studies. When dealing with such a broad and depressing topic it was uplifting to be able to see that despite the intricate and horrific nature of all the cases that students could become well versed with them and present on them. The cases were not as complicated as I would have expected and just knowing that in the future I have the tools to delve into a case of genocide and come up with my own opinions is very meaningful as I begin to leave the class knowing that in the future I could help prevent genocide.
In addition to the benefits expressed above about the case studies, there is one more tremendous benefit of them, being able to present at the Undergraduate Research Conference in April. Presenting forced students to be accountable on a different and higher level as we were faced with students from all different backgrounds as well as professors and college administrators who would come to our poster and expect us to be able to explain the genocide to them as it happened and the repercussions of it. Without having that experience I do not think that I would feel as confident in my ability to one day stand up to defend the victims of such atrocities.
The class readings were always extremely informative and expanded the horizon of my knowledge in numerous ways throughout the course. From the causes and definition of genocide to the acts of genocide, and eventually to the possible ways to prevent genocide so much of my knowledge stems from the readings themselves. Particularly three readings changed my views immensely in the area of genocide.
The first reading that truly impacted me was also one of our first assigned readings, The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo. The reading did not only have an impact on me as I first read it, going through the course and constantly going back to that reading made it sink in over time and again with each case of genocide that we read. The knowledge gained from that reading truly allowed me to better understand how good people turn evil and commit acts of genocide.
Throughout the course I had a personal issue with the way I perceived our country as being against helping other nations and people that are suffering from genocide. Instead we focus on nation building in countries such as Iraq. That is why I believe that one of my all time favorite readings for this course is the article on “How Americans Can Stop Genocide.” Although I would have described it as slightly idealistic I still loved it, it left me with hope that there are many other Americans out there that see this atrocity and need to stand up and do something.
Following the previous mentioned article my third article would have to be the “Advice for Barack Obama on grappling with a problem from hell.” Again this article makes me believe that there are other people who read about genocide and cannot understand why no one has done anything to stop it while maintaining a high post in our government.
Overall I feel that I am a better person with a more global education after taking this course and I am confident that going out in to the world I will not become one of the silent huddled masses that feel ignorance is an option.