Genocide, Mass Violence, and Crimes Against Humanity

This concentration is a vital component of re-envisioning-both theoretically and methodologically-the teaching and the studying of the nation-state as an all-powerful incubator of violence in the context of modern Europe. The concentration aims to decenter Europe, deliberately incorporating a transnational and global approach to better understand phenomena of mass violence in the modern era. It draws on faculty from different programs and centers throughout the CUNY system and the GC, including History; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Comparative Literature; English; Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies; Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center; Jewish Studies; Anthropology; Sociology; and Political Science.

By reconsidering mass violence, ethnic cleansing, and human rights through a global and multidisciplinary approach, the MALS concentration in Genocide, Mass Violence, and Crimes against Humanity will introduce students to a wide range of cutting-edge literature that builds on new methodological approaches. This literature, which helps us reassess questions of process, causation, motivation, and resistance in the study of violence, draws from different fields, including: trauma and memory studies; the history of emotions and senses; local history/ microhistory; the psychology of violence and aggression; first-person history and testimony; and environmental history, historical geography, and digital humanities. Relying on a growing body of literature on slow violence and on ecological destruction as a form of genocide, the courses offered within this concentration also aim at familiarizing students with the study of unconventional forms of violence. Finally, by encouraging students to contextualize the Holocaust within the larger history of colonialism, imperialism, racism, and genocide, and by moving away from a Eurocentric view of mass violence, we claim a place for our program on the leading edge of the field in a way that reflects and advances CUNY’s institutional values.


The American Studies concentration requires the following coursework for a total of 30 credits:

  • A required introductory course [MALS 70000: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies] (3 credits)
  • Two required core courses to introduce students to American Studies [MALS 73100 and MALS 73200] (6 credits)
  • Students choose their remaining 18 credits of electives from among courses offered across the masters, doctoral, and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and Humanities at The Graduate Center.
  • A master's thesis/capstone project [MALS 79000] (3 credits)

Core Courses

MALS 73600 Introduction to Mass Violence in the Modern Era

This course introduces students to the study of mass violence in different geopolitical contexts across the globe from the late nineteenth century through the twenty-first century. By focusing on case studies, which include German South-West Africa, the Third Reich, Ukraine, Guatemala, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, Chechnya, and other locations if appropriate, the course explores some of the most recent and cutting-edge scholarship on genocide and ethnic cleansing. The course examines the short-term and long-term causes for mass violence, assessing the extent to which, in different contexts, it resulted from political ideologies, colonialism, bureaucratic pressures, or ethnic and religious hatred. The course also focuses on the repercussions of mass violence, including acts of revenge, changes in international law and human rights, and attempts to create sites of memory in those places where atrocities were committed. Finally, this course aims at tracing how such violence against civilians was experienced by other citizens, thereby transforming and affecting their everyday lives, political choices, and social attitudes during and after the events. 

MALS 73700 Special Topics in Genocide, Mass Violence, and Crimes against Humanity

The course will offer students in depth and critical knowledge of specific topics related to the study of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity, introducing them to a wide range of cutting-edge literature that builds on new methodological and interdisciplinary approaches. Some of the topics may include the study of causation, motivation, and resistance to genocide; the Holocaust, trauma, and memory studies; environmental history, ecological destruction, and genocide; colonialism, imperialism, racism, and genocide; the history of human rights; gender and genocide.


Electives can be chosen among courses offered across most of the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and the Humanities at The Graduate Center.

For related coursework in Genocide, Mass Violence, and Crimes Against Humanity, students may look to offerings in the doctoral programs in Anthropology, HistoryPolitical Science, and Sociology, as well as the MA in International Migration.


Visit the GC Mina Rees Library's Liberal Studies Research Guide.

Associated Faculty

Other faculty whom have taught core courses or electives for this concentration include Elissa Bemporad (History), Dagmar Herzog (History), Mark Lewis (History), Steven Remy (History), and Ben Hett (History).

Genocide and Mass Violence Concentration Faculty