23 January 2013

Interview with Alex Hinton President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars

Today I am sharing the interview with Alex Hinton, that I met during the Aspen Forum 2012. When I was studying about Leadership at the university I actually had to write a report about how Polpot was able to enforce such atrocities to his own people, so when I met Alex, I was surprised to found out that he had actually written about about the subject.

  1. Tell us a bit about your background.

I grew up in California and went to college on the East Coast. I have lived in the New York area since then, though I lived in Cambodia for a year doing doctoral research on the Cambodian genocide. After a post-doc at the University of Chicago, I got my first teaching position at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where I have taught ever since and where I founded the Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights (CGHR; http://www.ncas.rutgers.edu/cghr). I am also currently the President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars and a Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where I am completing a book on meaning of justice in Cambodia, where an international court is trying the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge. This group is responsible for the deaths of almost a quarter of the Cambodian population from April 1975 to January 1979.

   2. Tell us what pushed you to pursue your current career.

My interest in studying genocide and human rights grew out of my research in Cambodia. When I went there as a graduate student, I was struck by the stories people told me about life under the Khmer Rouge regime, which would often end with a question such as “Why did this happen?” “Why did Cambodians kill other Cambodians.” This question became my questions, leading to the publication of my book, Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide, and my subsequent career as a scholar working on issues related to genocide and human rights and, ultimately, my founding of the Rutgers Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights (CGHR). So my career has come to focus on grappling with genocide, human rights, and other global challenges related to peace and conflict, which are at the heart of what the CGHR is all about.

   3. What do you enjoy the most about your current activities?

There are so many things. I have been fortunate to meet many interesting people, ranging from students who come from countries where conflicts have taken place to practitioners and policy-makers to are working to address these critical issues. I’m lucky to have an occupation that allows me to grapple with these issues in a variety of ways – educating students, engaging with communities of survivors, conducting research, and generally spreading knowledge about genocide and human rights. I also have a great team of students and staff at the Center who are wonderful people and passionate about these issues.

   4. What are the current challenges that you are facing and how could the
   people reading this interview help you?

Our Center includes a great group of people who are committed to addressing genocide and human rights issues, even with very little support. Due to state budget cuts to higher education, we operate on minimal resources. We already do a lot, but the Center could do so much more with additional support. So resource support is the key things we are lacking to take things to the next level.

   5. How familiar are you with the concept of gamification?

I’m don’t know much about it though I’m planning to learn more!

   6. If you are, do you think it could useful to your organization?

From the little I do know, I believe that gamification has promise as a means of increasing awareness and helping generate support for the activities of institutions like CGHR.

   7. Are you familiar with Corporate Social Responsibility?

I am. It is such a critical idea. One of the things we focus on at the Center is global citizenship, which is closely related to corporate social responsibility. Global Citizenship and Corporate Social Responsibility both acknowledge that people have rights and obligations as members of the global community. This includes grappling with issues like genocide prevention and human rights abuses.

   8. What would be your advice to companies, who struggle to engage their
   employees to their CSR activities? (Volunteering, donation to NGOs, etc..)

I suspect many of their employees already think of themselves as global citizens. So the key thing to do is to show them the important work being done by institutions that are directly grappling with global challenges like genocide and human rights. It also always useful to provide concrete stories to demonstrate how even helping a little can go a long ways if a large number of people are pitching in.

   9. How do you feel about companies using CSR activities for their

If a company is committed to CSR, why not let others know? Hopefully they will inspire others to do the same.

   10. Are you using any social networks and why do you think it could be
   beneficial for corporations to start using them?

Our Center is using media like Facebook and Twitter. We are fortunate to have committed students and young professionals who help us use these interfaces and we hope to continue to build a presence in the social networking world.

   11. What do you think about ikifu.org?

i-kifu is based on a great idea -- linking non-profit institutions working on global challenges to companies and their employees who are likewise committed to corporate social responsibility. This is a great way to help address global challenges.

   12. If you could use crowdfunding for one of your dream, what would it
   be for?

To support our newly established UNESCO Chair on Genocide Prevention. We will enhance education, raise awareness, provide student opportunities, and engage in cutting-edge research and scholarship on this major 21st century challenge, one we read about in headlines concerning places like Darfur, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We need support to help us in our efforts to understand and find ways to prevent such mass murder. 

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