Sharing Research on Violence and Human Rights

A group of international scholars will gather at USF for a three-day conference beginning Monday.


By Elizabeth Bird, Ph.D.

Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 26, 2012) – Over 50 international scholars and activists will gather Monday at USF to share research on “Violence, Memory, and Human Rights,” focusing on the never-ending incidents of mass violence that continue to plague the world. So often, such atrocities are concealed, and witnesses silenced or ignored, often in the name of “moving on.”


Yet the impulse to tell the story seems universal, and may be essential if true reconciliation is to be achieved. Worldwide, movements have emerged to break the silence and to restore dignity to those who died.


This three-day conference , presented by the USF Humanities Institute, offers a unique, interdisciplinary forum, in which historians, anthropologists, poets, legal scholars, forensic scientists, philosophers and more will examine questions such as: What is the impact of mass violence on surviving individuals, families, and communities? How are massacres remembered – or forgotten? When and how can perpetrators be brought to justice, and victims acknowledged and compensated?


Speakers will address events in multiple nations that have experienced the trauma of mass violence, including Rwanda, Guatemala, Peru, North Korea, Thailand, Nigeria, Argentina, Spain, Nazi Germany – and many more. Panels will address themes such as “The Language of Mass Violence,“ “Art as Witness,” and “Is Recovery Possible?” Participants come from across the United States, as well as from Australia, Sweden, the U.K., Peru, Spain and elsewhere. 


In addition to the panels, invited speakers include international human rights activist and former Amnesty International Director David Hawk, who will speak on “Crimes against Humanity in the Hermit Kingdom” (North Korea), internationally-renowned historian and genocide scholar Frank Chalk (Concordia University), who will speak about “Mobilizing the Will to Intervene,” and philosopher Margaret Urban Walker (Marquette University) who will address the power of “truth-telling” in post-conflict situations. A special screening of the documentary “Prosecutor,” about the International Criminal Court, will be presented by its director, Barry Stevens, in dialog with the audience.


Humanities Institute Director Elizabeth Bird says, “This is a truly exciting program that puts USF at the forefront of the international debate on violence and transitional justice scholarship.”


The conference will also feature a special showing of the exhibit “Witnessing a genocide: the children of Darfur,” which features drawings made by Darfuri children in refugee camps in Eastern Chad, provided by the organization Waging Peace, in conjunction with the USF Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center. 


The event, in the Marshall Student Center, rooms 3708, 3709, and 3711, starts at 8:30 a.m. Monday, January 30, and continues until 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1. Full program, speaker bios, and other information about the conference are available at: It is open to all faculty and students at USF, as well as community members.


Co-sponsors include the Departments of History and Anthropology; USF World; Research One; USF Office of Research & Innovation; College of Arts and Sciences; the Applied Anthropology Graduate Organization; STAND – A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition at USF; and Amnesty International@USF.


Elizabeth Bird, Ph.D. can be reached at (813) 974-0802.