BA in Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies

The major in Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies offers students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the causes and consequences of past acts of genocide and human rights violations and to consider human rights law as a means of violence prevention. Students will learn to probe and evaluate moral, spiritual, and ethical issues that are central to learning about, and from, genocides and human rights violations.

The study of government-sponsored crimes against humanity, the perpetrator state, the impact of extreme nationalism and the use of the media in spreading racism and prejudice, requires a multidisciplinary approach. The major accordingly draws on faculty trained in different disciplines and fields of expertise, including the history of the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide, African history, law, literature and film of the Holocaust and other genocides, political science, and religion.

The major also introduces students to the various institutional means available for the prevention of genocide and other crimes against humanity; for the cultivation of good relations among ethnic, racial, national, and religious groups and the effective management of tensions among them; and for the promotion and protection of human rights.

Completion of the major in Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies helps students to prepare for graduate studies in history, political science, law, literature, and religion, in addition to careers in social and governmental service.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will acquire the intellectual tools to analyze the multifaceted social, economic, cultural, civil, and political components of society under genocidal regimes, under repressive governments with poor human rights records, and the closely interconnected domestic and international environments in which such regimes operate. They will develop proficiency in analyzing government-citizen relations, including the extent to which individuals, societies, and domestic and international NGOs can intervene to promote and protect human rights and prevent genocide.
  • Students will learn to probe and evaluate moral, spiritual, and ethical issues that are central to learning about, and from, genocides and human rights violations. These include questions about the prevalence of dehumanization and its relationship to prejudice; the complicity of “ordinary people” regarding mass violence and genocide; and the role of other nations in condemning or ignoring genocide.
  • Students will closely and critically examine the Holocaust and other genocides in the context of modern history and culture, with a strong focus on racism, antisemitism, the development of nationalist ideologies, and other root causes of genocide.
  • Students will learn to analyze the development and meaning of human rights and their relationship to genocide.
  • Through engaging and analyzing histories, other written texts, film and media, monuments, and other cultural and artistic phenomena created during and after genocides, students will grapple with and seek to understand the wide-ranging and even strongly divergent ways in which people experienced and drew meaning from these events and their aftermath, including an understanding of the role of collective and cultural memory.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historical Interpretation; Scientific and Social Inquiry; Diversity, Civic Engagement and Global Citizenship; Communication; and in the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

The major requirement is ten 4-credit courses: nine courses from the Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies curriculum and a one-semester senior thesis, directed by a faculty member of the Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies steering committee. A grade not lower than C is required in all courses toward the major.

All students must complete the following.

Three Core courses:

  1. CAS HI 346/CAS IR 348 Histories of Human Rights
    CAS PO 378/CAS IR 352 International Human Rights
  2. CAS HI 384 History of Genocide
  3. CAS RN 384/JS 260 The Holocaust

One elective from Holocaust Studies:

  • CAS HI 270 Twentieth-Century Germany
  • CAS HI 271 The Nazis
  • CAS HI 539 Nazis on Film
  • CAS JS 261/CI 269/XL 281/RN 685 Representations of the Holocaust in Literature and Film
  • CAS JS 266/CI/LI 386 Fascism and the Holocaust in Italy
  • CAS JS 367/CI 387/XL 387 The Holocaust Through Film
  • CAS RN/XL/LI 459 Primo Levi and Holocaust Studies
  • CAS RN 460/TX 805 Holocaust Seminar

One elective from Genocide Studies:

  • CAS HI 380/GRS HI 780 The Armenian Genocide
  • CAS HI 489/AA 489 The African Diaspora in the Americas
  • CAS LF 481/CI 490 Genocide in Literature and Film
  • CAS PO 334 Political Violence
  • CAS PO 572 Southern African Politics
  • CAS PO 5XX Rwanda: Genocide and Its Aftermath

One elective from Human Rights Studies:

  • CAS HI 310 Civil Rights History
  • CAS HI 346/IR 348/GRS HI 746 Histories of Human Rights
  • CAS IR 375 International Law and Organizations
  • CAS IR 453 Forced Migration and Human Trafficking in Europe
  • CAS PO 303 Civil Liberties in America
  • CAS PO 333 Democratic Erosion
  • CAS PO 346/WS 324 Gender, Armed Conflict, and Political Violence
  • CAS PO 3XX Comparative Queer Politics
  • CAS PO 508 The Judiciary and Civil Liberties
  • CAS PO 519 Inequality and American Politics
  • CAS RN 249 Islamophobia and Antisemitism
  • CAS SO 230 Crime and Justice

Three more electives, from any of the courses listed above.

A one-semester senior thesis, or with the approval of the major advisor, a 4-credit internship.