The USC Shoah Foundation — The Institute for Visual History and Education and the University of Southern California have announced the launch of a center to study how and why genocide and systematic mass violence occur and what can be done to prevent them.
To be housed within the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the Center for Advanced Genocide Research will serve as the research and scholarship unit of the institute, which has collected testimonies from Holocaust and genocide survivors for twenty years. Interdisciplinary studies at the center will be organized around three themes: Resistance to Genocide and Mass Violence, which will integrate Dornsife's existing Resisting the Path to Genocide work on acts of resistance and elements of defiance that slow or stop genocidal processes; Violence, Emotion and Behavioral Change, which will focus on the nature of genocide and mass violence and their influence on emotional, social, psychological, historical, and physical behaviors; and Digital Genocide Studies, which will examine how big and large data sets — including the fifty-two thousand testimonies in the USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive — can be used to identify patterns in the study of mass violence and resistance to it.
"Each one of those testimonies represents true expertise — an expertise that should be understood by the academic world we live in," said Beth Meyerowitz, USC vice provost for faculty affairs. "If we don’t have some way of approaching this from a big data, humanities, social sciences, and sciences research perspective, we're not allowing those fifty-two thousand people to speak to us with their unique expertise that cannot be duplicated by any other medium."
To be funded jointly for the first year by the university and the foundation, which was created in 1994 by filmmaker and USC trustee Steven Spielberg, the center hopes to raise additional funds to establish a series of endowed fellowships and chairs.
"With its fellowship program, future conferences, and chairs, the new research center will create an intellectual hub for international and interdisciplinary scholarship on the topic of Holocaust and genocide studies," said Wolf Gruner, professor of history and holder of the Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies, who will direct the new center. "Los Angeles is home to the largest survivor communities of several genocides, including the Cambodian and Armenian genocides. They will act as a constant reminder of the importance of our task."