Now in its 16th year, the Hobart and William Smith Human Rights and Genocide Symposium will offer a semester-long series of lectures and dialogues surrounding human rights issues facing the international community.
“The speakers for this semester are unified by the theme of intergenerational transmission of trauma and ways in which the search for forensic justice and witness might address those intergenerational effects,” says Associate Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter ’86, P’15. “We hope this theme also gives us pause to think about how the events of today will be felt by future generations.”
Kicking off the series on Tuesday, Sept. 8, the film “Ararat” will be screened at 7:30 p.m. at the Smith Opera House in downtown Geneva. The historical drama, directed by the award-winning filmmaker Atom Egoyan, centers on the memory of the Armenian genocide and the transmission of collective trauma across lands and generations. Moving from 1915 to the present and from Armenia to Canada, the film connects several characters whose lives are haunted by the tragedy: a survivor who remembers his childhood while painting a portrait of his mother; a Canadian man of Armenian descent who travels to Mount Ararat in search of traces; a director who shoots a fiction film about the genocide; an art historian who lectures on the Armenian-American artist Arshile Gorky. A tale of loss, exile, identity, and cultural heritage, “Ararat” ultimately reflects on the ways in which a catastrophic past continues to weigh on the present.
Following the screening, Salter and Jennifer Cazenave, a post-doctoral fellow in French and Francophone Studies, will lead a conversation with the audience about the film.
The series continues on Thursday, Sept. 10, with a talk by Peter Balakian, a poet, professor of English and director of creative writing at Colgate University. Balakian, who will speak at 7:30 p.m. in the Geneva Room in the Warren Hunting Smith Library, is the author of numerous books dealing with different aspects of the Armenian genocide, including “Black Dog of Fate,” an American coming of age story that deals with the inter-generational effects of mass trauma. His book “The Burning Tigris” charts America’s response to various crises in Armenia at the turn of the 20th century.
Father Patrick Desbois will offer the Max and Marian Farash Community Lecture in conjunction with the series on Thursday, Sept. 24, at 7:30 p.m., also in the Geneva Room. Desbois, the author of “Holocaust by Bullets” and founder of the international human rights group Yahad in Unum, has focused his work in the area of forensic justice, starting with the pre-death camp slaughter of Jews in the Ukraine and extending into forensic justice for the Roma people and following the Guatemalan genocide.
The series concludes on Tuesday, Oct. 27 with a talk by Judith Gibbons, professor emerita of psychology and women’s studies at St. Louis University. Gibbons, who will speak at 7:30 p.m. in the Geneva Room, is the author of “Intercountry Adoption: Policies, Practices, Outcomes,” which deals with the social, psychological, legal and moral dimensions of inter-country adoption. She has published dozens of peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, given more than 100 presentations, and conducted research across the globe.
The Human Rights and Genocide Symposium was initiated and has been sustained by generous grants from Dr. Edward Franks ’72. The Symposium seeks to improve understanding of all life-annihilation processes present in our world and to help participants learn more about the circumstances in which genocide is perpetrated.