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Genocide Studies: The Causes and Prevention of Mass Atrocities




Admissions requirements

A 200-level course from the same track or permission from the instructor.


This course focuses of mass atrocities (large scale and systematic human rights violations, in particular genocide). Typically these type of violations are framed as international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture or enforced disappearance. Mass murders and genocides are not a new phenomenon. In the twentieth century and well in this century, war and terror has killed millions, mostly unarmed civilians. For example: ISIL’s terrorism, state violence in Syria, mass rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, genocide in Rwanda, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, mass murder in Guatemala, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, Stalin’s gulags, the Holocaust, death marches in Armenia and the colonial genocide in Namibia. These massive persecutions and massacres were exceptionally destructive. Millions of people were killed or otherwise victimised. It has been estimated that in the last century approximately 191 million persons lost their lives due to collective violence. Mass perpetration resulted in mass victimisation. There were hundreds of thousands of perpetrators, as well as countless bystanders. They appeared in various guises: as politicians, bureaucrats, murderers, torturers, rapists, looters, agitators, informants, or silent spectators. Mass violence concerns everyone and differs greatly from domestic criminality in its causes, morphology, and consequences.

In this course we will discuss the specific character of mass atrocity. In the first part we look at the causes and processes of genocide and other mass atrocities. We will deal with the questions of what type of violence constitutes atrocity, what causes it and how it evolves. We will look in depth at ideology, propaganda, perpetrators and specific cases. In the second part, the focus shifts towards the questions of whether mass atrocities can be prevented, and, if so, how? What role does the international community play? Do international criminal prosecutions deter perpetrators? At the end of the end of the course, we will bring everything together and look at the future of mass atrocities.

Course objectives

After completing the course students will be able to describe and explain various types of mass atrocity. They will gain understanding of its causes, its process and prevention. In the end, they will be able to critically assess real-life situations in light of the discussed theories and analyze contemporary cases of large scale human rights abuses.

By the end of the course students should achieve the following outcomes:

  • Students should be able to describe and explain various types of mass atrocity, social, historical and legal theories and evaluate their relevance to specific cases of mass violence and other gross human rights violations;

  • Students should be able to apply the theoretical frameworks to various situations and case studies involving mass atrocity and other gross human rights violations;

  • Students should be able to analyse violent conflicts and detect atrocities through a sound academic argumentation and assess what policy interventions can be used to prevent or stop further escalation.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught through seminars, presentations by students and general debates. Each session will have a short lecture on key topics and theories. Interactive class discussion, case studies, and current affairs will be central in the course and discussions. When possible, documentaries will be shown to further illustrate concepts covered in the course.


In-class participation – 15%
Analytical summary presentation of course literature (groups of 2, 15 minutes total) – 15%
Exam – 30%
Final essay (3000 words) – 40%

Each student will be expected to give a presentation once in the course analyzing that weeks required readings. For this presentation students will be grouped with another student (groups of two). Students will be each expected to speak and will be issued separate grades accordingly. Grading will consider presentation skills, comprehension of the concepts covered in the literature, critical reflection, and the overall cohesiveness of the joint presentation. Students will be expected to go beyond mere summary of the literature to critically reflect upon the underlying arguments and scholarly debates. Each presentation should conclude with three key propositions for class discussion.

Final essay
Students will be required to undertake a research paper. Students can choose their own topic and phrase their own research question. Typically, ideas for research questions stem from literature discussed in the lectures and course literature. Given the relatively small size of the paper research questions must be focused and feasible. The papers must deal with a specific aspect of mass atrocities in one or two cases. This paper must be formatted with 1.5 spacing and times new roman 12 point font. The word count of 3000 words does not include the footnotes or bibliography.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Compulsory literature:

  • Jens Meierhenrich, Genocide. A Reader (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Recommended readings:

  • Adam Jones, Genocide. A Comprehensive Introduction, Second Edition (London & New York: Routledge, 2010).

  • Samuel Totten and Paul R. Bartrop (eds), The Genocide Studies Reader, (New York: Routledge, 2009).


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Kjell Anderson (
Drs. Thijs Bouwknegt (