The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) was founded in 1994. Initially, the organization was called the Association of Genocide Scholars. The Association’s first conference was held in 1995 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Helen Fein was elected President and Roger Smith Vice- President. In recognition of the rapid growth and global interest in genocide studies, the organization was renamed the International Association of Genocide Scholars in 2001. In 2006, the IAGS launched its official journal, Genocide Studies and Prevention. Since 1995, the IAGS has hosted conferences all over the world, including its most recent conference in 2017 in Brisbane, Australia.
The origins of the IAGS go back to the 1970s and early 1980s. At this time, a small group of scholars and teachers were using a comparative framework to study genocide even as the concept of comparative analysis of genocide and other forms of violence was being attacked on a number of fronts, particularly in relationship to study of the Nazi destruction of European Jewry.
Nevertheless, a number of these early genocide scholars, a number of whom began with study of the Holocaust, developed a comparative framework. They confronted institutional pressures. For example, it was a challenge to get platforms in traditional conferences such as the American Historical Association, the International Studies Association, the American Sociological Association, etc. The first conference on Teaching about Genocide was initiated by the Institute for Study of Genocide with the support of Facing History and Ourselves in the early 1990s. What was a marginal and marginalized area of study began to find more interest and scholarship in part as a response to the genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans.
The idea for an organization of genocide scholars came out of a conversation between Israel Charny, Helen Fein, Robert Melson and Roger Smith at the Remembering for the Future Two conference, held at Humbolt University in Berlin in 1994. Of the over 500 hundred persons in attendance and numerous panels and presentations, there was only one three-hour session on comparative studies. Hence, there was discussion of the need to create a group or organization that focused on in-depth on analysis of facets of genocide.
The Association of Genocide Scholars (AGS), established in 1994, was the result of these conversations. During this initial period, the AGS shared a website and affiliation with the Institute for the Study of Genocide. The organization’s first conference was held in 1995 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA, with about 45 persons attending. Helen Fein served as the association’s first President. Subsequent conferences were held at Concordia University (Montreal) in 1997, the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1999, and the University of Minnesota in 2001.
With the rapid growth and global interest in genocide studies, a number of scholars pushed for a more international perspective and argued that conferences should held outside North America. The organization revised its by-laws in 2001 and was renamed the International Association of Genocide Scholars. Other revisions included that at least one officer be from outside North America, and that every other biennial conference be held outside North America.
3- Recent History
The conference at the University of Galway, Ireland in 2003 was the first held outside North American. There were over 200 participants and it was significant in terms of a large increase in terms of numbers and background. There was a significant increase in attendance by graduate students and European scholars as well as members of the legal community. The numbers and diversity of attendees reflected growing scholarship in comparative genocide studies. In 2005, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, hosted the conference. In 2006, the IAGS, in partnership with the Zoryan Institute of Toronto, Canada began publication of the Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal. The 2007 and 2009 conference were held in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and at George Mason University, Northern Virginia, USA, respectively. Most recently, the association held its first conference in South America. The July 2011 conference, which took place in Argentina, included over 300 participants, a significant number of whom were from Argentina and other Latin American countries. The 2017 conference in Australia and the 2019 conference in Cambodia expanded IAGS global activities further.