Ecocides and Genocides:
A Planetary Perspective



Winter 2019, English Class (AMU-PIE)
Department of History, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan
Wednesday, 12:45-14:15, Collegium Historicum, ul. Umultowska 89d, room 2.21

Ewa Domanska / contact

Course description

This course intends to explore the relationship between history, environment and various eco- and geno-cides. It will discuss comparative approaches to genocide studies and the problem of the universalization of the notion of holocaust, its usage to integrate Native American history and nuclear holocaust into genocide studies, and the the ethical dilemmas posed by the idea of  "animal holocaust." While the focus of the course is theoretical and methodological, the case of different forms of mass-killings will be examined in order to discuss a problem of survival value of knowledge.

Topics of the seminar will include: genocide and ecocide studies in the framework of Antropocene Humanities; genocides as human suicide/self-extinction; strategies of dehumanization (humans and insects); paradigms of genocides; comparisons between (human and animal) holocausts and slavery (human and animal); ecocide as environmental ”holocaust”; Native Americans’ spiritual holocaust or/and environmental genocide; nuclear holocaust (Hiroshima); post-catastrophic spaces as ecological Eden (Chernobyl) - nature without humans.

This is an advanced-level course which is a research seminar designed to help students work on papers for classes, theses and individual projects. It introduces texts that have inspired theoretically oriented scholars, and seeks to show students how their own research can incorporate techniques and categories from various disciplines. The course suggests that theory is fundamental to humanistic studies. It will focus on cross-disciplinary themes and explore them through seminars. It encourages an understanding of theory, promotes interdisciplinary approaches to research, teaches critical thinking, introduces various strategies of interpretation, and devotes special attention to the development of students' original approaches.

Course requirements

Attendance is mandatory. Students who miss more than three meetings (except for illness or others serious matters) will not be graded. Students are expected to read assigned readings carefully and participate in discussions. A 10 pages final paper is required. Its topic will be chosen by the student himself/herself but must be related to chosen subjects discussed in in the class. I expect each participant of the course to meet me to discuss his/her project. Papers due to January 22nd, 2020. Grading - Wednesday, January 29th.


1) 9.10 - Introduction: Genocide and Ecocide Studies in the Framework of Anthropocene Humanities

2) Genocides and Modernity

  • Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide, Alexander Laban Hinton. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002 (chapter 1: “Dark Side of Modernity”: 1-40).

3) Dehumanization

4) Humans and Insects

  • Edmund Russell, "Anihilation (1943-1945)," in his, War and Nature. Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2001: 119-144.
  • Hugh Raffles, "Jews," in his, Insectopedia. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010: 141-161.
  • When Art Meets Army: The Dangerous Propaganda of World War II.

5) Genocides - comparative perspective

  • James P. Sterba, “Understanding Evil: American Slavery, the Holocaust, and the Conquest of the American Indians”. Ethics, vol. 106, no. 2, January 1996: 424-448.
  • Robert Melson, "Paradigms of Genocide: The Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and Contemporary Mass Destructions.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 548, November 1996: 156-168.

6) Nuclear Holocaust (Hiroshima)

7) Genocide and Native American History/Spiritual Holocaust

8) Animal Holocaust

  • Charles Patterson, Eternal Treblinka. Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust. London: Lantern Books, 2002: 223-232.
  • David Sztybel, "Can the Treatment of Animals be Compared to the Holocaust." Ethics and Environment , vol. 11, no. 1, 2006: 97-132.
    • Nathan Snaza, "(Im)possible Witness: Viewing PETA'a 'Holocaust on Your Plate." Animal Liberation Philosophy and Policy Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, 2004: 1-20.

9) Ecocide as Environmental ”Holocaust”

  • Nathalie de Pompignan, Ecocide. Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, 2007.
  • David Zierler, Invention of Ecocide. Agent Orange, Vietnam, and the Scientists Who Changed the Way We Think About the Environment. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011 (“Introduction” and chapter 2 “An Etymology of Ecocide”: 1-32).

10) Ecocide, Colonialism and Global Capitalism

  • Franz J. Broswimmer, Ecocide. A Short History of the Mass Extinction of Species. London: Pluto Press, 2002 (“Introduction” and “The Modern Assault of Nature: The Making of Ecocide”: 1-9; 54-69).
  • Damien Short, "The Genocide-Ecocide Nexus", in his, Redefining Genocide. Setller Colonialism, Social Death and Ecocide. London: ZED Books, 2016: 38-67.
  • "I fight because I am alive": An interview with Davi Kopenhawa Yanomami (1991)

11) Genocides and Ecocides as Human Suicide (or self-extinction)

  • Franz J. Broswimmer, Ecocide. A Short History of the Mass Extinction of Species. London: Pluto Press, 2002 (“The Planet as Sacrifice Zone” and “Ecocide and Globalization”: 70-102).
  • Tarik Kochi & Noam Ordan, “An Argument for the Global Suicide of Humanity.” Borderlands, vol. 7, no. 3, 2008.

12. Ecocide as a Genocidal Project

13) How Historians Can Help Save the Planet?

Richard C. Foltz, "Does Nature Have Historical Agency? World History, Environmental History, and How Historians Can Help Save the Planet"?" The History Teacher, vol. 37, no. 1, November 2003: 9-28.

14) Conclusions