FOR RELEASE: Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Genocide Dictionary Provides Comprehensive Look

Samuel Totten

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Samuel Totten, a University of Arkansas professor and genocide scholar, began work five years ago with an Australian colleague, historian Paul Bartrop, on a dictionary of genocide. Sadly, between the many incidents of genocide throughout history and the current state of world affairs, the project turned out to be more like an encyclopedia - covering well over 600 terms in more than 500 pages.

"It's three times the length we originally planned," Totten said, "so the publisher put it into two volumes."

Dictionary of Genocide was released late last year by Greenwood Press and is the first such work of its kind. Totten and Bartrop co-wrote each entry and then honed and revised every one three more times. The majority of entries are significantly longer than you would expect in a typical dictionary.

"Context is necessary," Totten explained. "Without context, the resultant entry is bound to be simplistic. The issues behind any case of genocide are extremely complex. Take the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. We couldn't just describe the conflict between rebels and government troops that has resulted in hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced. There are at least five significant antecedents to the genocide: drought, famine, disenfranchisement, implementation of Islamic law, and physical attacks carried out by government of Sudan troops and Arab militia against black African villages.

"In addition to important dates of events, we included information about actors involved, explanation of key events, decisions (or lack thereof) that affected the situation and much, much more."

Totten began studying genocide in 1988 and started out focused on the Holocaust of World War II, in which Germans led by Adolf Hitler killed approximately 6 million Jews and some 5 million others, including the physically and mentally handicapped, Roma and Sinti peoples, Russian prisoners of war and Poles. Totten broadened his study to the larger field of genocide studies when it dawned on him that hundreds of scholars around the globe were studying the Holocaust but only a handful were studying genocide prevention and intervention.

In addition to writing numerous books and editing several publications on genocide, Totten has traveled to Rwanda to interview survivors of the 1994 genocide there and to the Chad/Sudan border to speak with refugees who are victims of the genocide that continues in Darfur. A member of the University of Arkansas faculty since 1987, Totten has designed and taught courses about Holocaust and genocide education and has given talks across the globe on various facets of genocide. He is a member of the Council of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem and the Centre for Genocide Studies in Australia.

His partner on the project, Paul R. Bartrop, is an honorary research fellow at Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and head of the department of history at Bialik College, Melbourne. Totten met Bartrop 12 years ago at a conference on the Holocaust, and they have collaborated on several other projects, including a book the two edited called Teaching About the Holocaust: Essays by College and University Teachers (Greenwood Press, 2004).

However it's described, the genocide dictionary offers a comprehensive overview of the field of genocide studies, Totten said. It is intended for use by undergraduates, graduate students and other newcomers to the field of genocide studies. Totten is hopeful instructors of the topic at secondary levels will have access to the dictionary to supplement and strengthen their curriculum.

The book includes basic information ranging from the United Nations definition of genocide to the mechanisms employed when genocide occurs. It traces the history of genocide and gives details from around the globe, from Armenian genocide in the early 20th century to the most recent genocides in Rwanda, Srebenica and Darfur.

Totten recently received a Fulbright Fellowship and is spending the spring semester in Rwanda. At the National University of Rwanda, Totten will work with faculty and graduate students from the Centre for Conflict Management, as well as faculty in history, political science and law, to develop a master's degree program in genocide studies. In addition, he will conduct three research projects that build on his previous research in Rwanda.

In 2004, Totten interviewed survivors of the genocide in Sudan as a member of the U.S. State Department Atrocities Documentation Project team. The team's work led to a report by then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that genocide was being committed in Darfur.


Samuel Totten, professor of curriculum and instruction
College of Education and Health Professions
(479) 575-6677, [email protected]

Heidi Stambuck, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
(479) 575-3138, [email protected]