UMD to host Wahutu Siguru for first presentation of commemoration series

Illustration by: Rebecca Kottke

Illustration by: Rebecca Kottke

The Baeumler Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration Committee will host Professor Wahutu Siguru at the UMD Library Rotunda on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. Siguru’s presentation, titled “Of course, it’s a genocide”: Covering Atrocity for an African Audience. The talk will examine the decision making process that the media goes into when labeling atrocities and conflicts and how those decisions affect how people view those events.

Professor Deborah Petersen-Perlman said that Siguru’s presentation will be the first event of this year’s commemoration series.

“Wahutu’s research is conducting sociological analysis of the role of media in presenting cases such as what happened in Darfur and what happened in Rwanda to the public, and the limitations of those organizations and the kinds of messages that they can send as well as the value that those kinds of analyses can provide audiences,” Petersen-Perlman said. “It’s a very interesting analysis of what role do media play in alerting people to events like this and helping us understand them.”

According to Petersen-Perlman, Siguru is a Harvard fellow and a Ph.D. candidate in sociology from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. He has focused his research interests primarily on media coverage in Africa of African genocides.

“I just think he’s a really engaging speaker, he poses some fascinating questions, and I think it’ll be highly worthwhile,” Petersen-Perlman said. “Anybody who studies the media and anybody who studies history would find it fascinating. Frankly, anybody who’s interested in humanity would be fascinated in this presentation.”

The Baeumler Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration Committee will continue its commemoration series this semester on Thursday, Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m. in the Solon Campus Center with a screening of “Watchers of the Sky”, a film about Raphael Lemkin’s efforts to establish the Genocide Convention. Petersen-Perlman said that the commemoration committee is also hosting a presentation on the Japanese-American internment camps in the spring.

“The fact that neo-Nazis and organizations that could be classified as fascist are gaining a foothold in the national dialogue suggests how important it is for us to talk about the consequences if these organizations are not scrutinized and held accountable for the kinds of behaviors that are committed in their name,” Petersen-Perlman said.

Siguru’s presentation will discuss whether it’s necessary for media organizations to label a conflict as genocide in order for people to take notice and what kinds of decisions go into using those labels. Petersen-Perlman said that she is committed to Holocaust education because she believes that people need to find another way to address each other’s differences.

“We’ve got to understand what’s going on there; we’ve got to understand why people would turn to that kind of organization, and why they would engage in hateful behaviors towards other human beings,” Petersen-Perlman said. “It’s fundamental to the success of the human race I think for us to get this figured out and stop it.”

NewsTyler Schendel