Skip to Main Content

Kupferberg Holocaust Center-NEH: Gender, Mass Violence, and Genocide: Introduction

Colloquia series consisting of eight events tightly linked to a newly established field of research in genocide: gender-sensitive scholarship on mass violence and genocide

Gender, Mass Violence and Genocide

Gender, Mass Violence, and Genocide is the 2015-16 Kupferberg Holocaust Center (KHC) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) colloquium that consisted of eight events tightly linked to a newly established field of research in genocide studies: gender-sensitive scholarship on mass violence and genocide. According to von Joeden-Forgey, a gendered analysis of “genocide as a process: its roots, its immediate causes, its shape, its aftermath, and ultimately, its definition” will lead to both “a better understand(ing) of the crime” and the improvement of “protocols for preventing and responding to it.”[1]

These events had two foci, the first showing how gender structures and mediates experiences of mass violence and genocide, including the nature of pre-genocidal propaganda, the agency and victimization of men and women, and the use and effects of certain genocidal tools (e.g., sexual violence, selective mass killing, and slavery). The second was how attention to gender can help to predict, prevent, and reconcile mass violence and genocide. For example, the events collectively speak to gendered precursors to (and early warning signs of) genocide, gendered memories of trauma, and gendered efforts to rebuild and restore justice after genocide.

To best address these two foci, the events engaged comparative perspectives and in-depth reflections on specific historical events. Consistent with Fein, they address elements of gender-specific and gender-neutral genocides, and they examine both women and men as agents (or perpetrators) and victims of mass violence and genocide.[2] The eight events also offer deliberately diverse disciplinary perspectives on the topics; bringing together fifteen scholars from a range of humanities and humanities-oriented disciplines, including History, Psychology, Philosophy, Women’s and Gender Studies, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Comparative Genocide Studies, Linguistics, Political Science, Sociology, English and Comparative Literature, and Jurisprudence.

[1] Elisa von Joeden-Forgery, “Gender and the Future of Genocide Studies and Prevention,” Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 7, 1 (2012); 89-107; pp. 90-91.

[2] Helen Fein, “Genocide and Gender: The Uses of Women and Group Destiny,” (Journal of Genocide Research 1, 1 (1989); 43-64.


The 2015-16 Harriet & Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center (KHC) & National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) colloquium, Gender, Mass Violence and Genocide, was organized by Dr. Amy E. Traver, Professor of Sociology at Queensborough Community College, CUNY. Initiated in the 2012-13 academic year, this colloquia series was made possible thanks to support from a five year NEH Challenge Grant. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this web resource do not necessarily represent those of the NEH.

List of Programs

Event 1: Gender and the Future of Genocide Studies
Held on September 30, 2015

In the first event of the series, Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, former Assistant Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Stockton University, offered an introduction to gender research in the field of genocide studies.

Event 2: Human Rights and Genocidal Rape
Held on October 28, 2015

Professor Cynthia Soohoo, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic at the CUNY School of Law, and Dr. Natalie Nenadic, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky, discussed how mass rape came to be established as a war crime, crime against humanity, and crime of genocide.

Event 3: Multiple Girlhoods: Growing Up in Bosnia Before and During the Civil War
Held on November 18, 2015

Ms. Jasmina Dervisevic-Cesic and Dr. Amy Traver, Professor of Sociology at Queensborough Community College, CUNY, discussed how war can produce multiple girlhoods in a single life.

Event 4: Gendered Experiences in and Memories of the Nazi Holocaust
Held on December 2, 2015

Drs. Azadeh Aalai, Rochelle Saidel, and Marianne Hirsch discussed victims’ gendered experiences in and memories of the Nazi Holocaust. 

Event 5: Gendercide: Inclusivity in the Study of Gender, Mass Violence and Genocide
Held on February 17, 2016

Dr. Adam Jones introduced the concept of gendercide, which refers to gender-selective mass killings. Using a historical case-study method, he shows how gendercide has historically targeted non-combatant men.

Event 6: Spanish Women and Fascism under the Francoist Dictatorship
Held on March 23, 2016

Professor Soledad Luque Delgado and Drs. Aránzazu Borrachero and Aurora G. Morcillo presented their research on women’s experiences during the thirty-six year Francoist dictatorship in Spain.

Event 7: Forgotten Witnesses: Gender-Based Violence in Asia During World War II
Held on April 13, 2016

Dr. Jimin Kim and Artist Chang-Jin Lee introduce the topic of sexual enslavement during World War II. Focusing on the experiences of “comfort women,” they attend to the more than 200,000 Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Indonesian, Dutch, and Filipino women who were kidnapped or deceived and forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army.

Event 8: Gender, Genocide and Justice in Rwanda
Held on May 4, 2016

Drs. Roxanne Krystalli, Sara E. Brown, and Samantha Lakin conclude the series by applying a gendered lens to the events of the Rwandan genocide and issues of reparations and political representation in post-genocide Rwanda.