Ecocides and Genocides:
A Planetary Perspective



Winter 2020, English Class (AMU-PIE)
Faculty of History, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan
Wednesday, 10:00-11:30  
Collegium Historicum, ul. Uniwersytetu Poznańskiego 7, room 3.69 / TEAMS  

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/ecocides and global capitalism; 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) and ecocide as international crime.  

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 (min. 4,000 words) final paper is required. Its topic will be chosen by the student himself/herself but must be related to subjects discussed in the class. I expect each participant of the course to meet me to discuss his/her project. Papers due to February 3rd, 2021. Grading - Wednesday, February 10th.


1) 21.10 - 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).
  • Jurgen Zimmerer, “Climate change, environmental violence and genocide”. The International Journal of Human Rights, vol. 18, no. 3, 2014: 265–280.
  • Gene Ray, “Writing the Ecocide-Genocide Knot: Indigenous Knowledge and Critical Theory in the Endgame,” South, a State of Mind #7 [documenta 14 #3], October 2016.

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

  • Maureen S. Hiebert, “Theorizing Destruction: Reflections on the State of Comparative Genocide Theory”. Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, vol. 3, no. 3, 2008: 309–339.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • Stuart Stein, “Geno- and other cides: A cautionary note on knowledge accumulation”. Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 4, no. 1, 2020: 39-63.

6) Nuclear Holocaust (Hiroshima)

7) Animal Holocaust

  • Charles Patterson, Eternal Treblinka. Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust. London: Lantern Books, 2002: 223-232.
  • Richard Iveson, "Animal Oppression and the Holocaust Analogy: A Summary of Controversy," March 27, 2012
    • 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.

8). Genocide as Ecocidal Project

  • Kübra Kalkandelen & Darren O’Byrne, “On ecocide: toward a conceptual framework”. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, vol. 18, no. 3, 2017: 333-349.
  • Jacek Małczyński, Ewa Domańska, Mikołaj Smykowski, Agnieszka Kłos, „The Environmental History of the Holocaust.” Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 22, no. 2, 2020: 183-196.
    • Rob Nixon, Slow Violence, Gender, and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge. Mass., London: Harvard University Press, 2011 (“Introduction”: 1-44).

9) Ecocide as International Crime

  • Polly Higgins, Eradicating Ecocide: Laws and Governance to Prevent the Destruction of Our Planet. London: Shepheard- Walwyn LTD, 2010.
  • Sailesh Mehta, Prisca Merz, “Ecocide – a new crime against peace?” Environmental Law Review, vol. 17, no. 1, 2015: 3–7.
  • Tim Lindgren, “Ecocide, genocide and the disregard of alternative life-systems”. The International Journal of Human Rights, vol. 22, no. 4, 2018: 525-549.

10) 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).

11) Genocide and Native American History/Spiritual Holocaust

12) Ecocide, Colonialism and Global Capitalism

13) The Planet as Sacrifice Zone

  • 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 and “The Planet as Sacrifice Zone” and “Ecocide and Globalization”: 70-102).

14) Conclusions: Genocides/Ecocides as Human Suicide (or self-extinction)