Elizabeth Oglesby and Diane Nelson
The Question of Genocide
Taylor and Frances 2016
What difference can a trial make, really? In Guatemala: The Question of Genocide (Taylor and Frances, 2016), Elizabeth Obglesby and Diane Nelson start from this question to examine much more broadly the memory and politics of genocide in Guatemala.
To do so, they invited many of the scholars familiar with the conflict in Guatemala to reflect on the role genocide has played in that country. Many authors are Guatemalan, others have worked in the country for years or decades. The result is a wide-ranging, perceptive group of essays published as a special issue of the Journal of Genocide Research. Some deal specifically with the trial itself and its significance within and outside of Guatemala. Others investigate the experience of witnesses at the trial, especially survivors of sexual assault, and ask what these witnesses hoped to achieve. Others broaden their lens to investigate the arguments over how to characterize the violence in Guatemala and the ways in which this argument has shaped responses to the conflict. All in all, it’s a remarkably interesting and insightful compilation.
I was able to speak with Liz earlier this month. We spoke about the articles in the journal issue, about her experience testifying at the trial of Rios Montt, about the responses of her students to the genocide and about how she attempts to teach about Guatemala.
This interview is the first of a short two part series on Guatemala. I recorded an interview with Roddy Brett shortly before I spoke with Liz. I hope you’ll come back to hear that interview as well.
Kelly McFall is Associate Professor of History at Newman University in Wichita Kansas, where he directs the Honors Program. He is particularly interested in the question of how to teach about the history of genocides and mass atrocities and has written a module in the Reacting to the Past series about the UN’s debate over whether to intervene in Rwanda in 1994.