Mass Atrocities Research

Widespread and systematic violence against civilians–mass atrocities–is a priority for the WPF because of the devastating human, social, political and economic harm that results when entire populations are targeted. Led by WPF Research Director, Bridget Conley, the program focuses attention understudied cases and issues within mass atrocities. The program argues that the dominantly normative approach to the study of and engagement on issues related to atrocity prevention and response has skewed research questions and policy recommendations. Without minimizing the enormous human stakes involved in atrocity cases, the research projects proceeds through close examination of patterns of endings and memory politics, tracing the complications of what actually happens. 

This program includes:

In Their Presence: Exhibiting Human Remains: In collaboration with Diane O’Donoghue, Director of Public Humanities with Tufts University’s Tisch College, this program focuses the ethics and politics of displaying the remains of victims of 20th century atrocities.




Memory from the Margins: Ethiopia’s Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum: This project focuses on how examinations of mass violence might contribute to emerging democratic practices. The centerpiece is a study of the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.



How Mass Atrocities End: The project offered the first comprehensive cross-case study of patterns of mass atrocity endings. Arguing that there is much to learn about preventing and responding to new threats of atrocities through the process of examining how past instances ended, the project traced patterns through in-depth qualitative studies and a dataset of over 40 cases of atrocity endings since 1945.




Gallery of images documenting memorial museums in Ethiopia from the research project asking how does memory of mass atrocities evolve over the long duration of political transition, and how might understanding this evolution impact the future of memory projects.


Assessing the Anti-Atrocity Toolbox by Bridget Conley, Saskia Brechenmacher, and Aditya Sarkar. World Peace Foundation Occasional Paper, February 8, 2016.




Online archive documents atrocity endings in over 40 case studies, following post-1945, that demonstrate strong evidence of the killing of at least 50,000 civilians or persons rendered hors de combat.



Remembering the Ones We Lost: Support for South Sudanese efforts to document the names of people who died in conflicts since 1955. The project, Remembering the Ones We Lost is spearheaded by an independent group of South Sudanese civil society actors, and WPF issued them a grant to create a website that also serves as their informational infrastructure.


The Memory of Genocide and its Consequences in Cyangugu (Rwanda): It is estimated that more than a million people were killed between 6 April and 17 July 1994, in the genocide was committed against the Tutsi in Rwanda, including Hutu and others opposed to this mass crime. The memory of the genocide Rwanda is challenged because of its political use by both the Rwandan authorities and by political opponents, including in the diaspora. World Peace Foundation is supporting the ongoing project, The Memory of Genocide and its Consequences in Cyangugu undertaken by RwaBaho Platform, The Center for Interdisciplinary Research: Democracy, Institutions, Subjectivity (CRIDIS), at the Catholic University of Louvain Belgium, as they aims to create and implement an online archive of testimonies of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda and its consequences in Cyangugu.  There is an ongoing need to preserve memory and promote a deeper understanding of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 as part of efforts to promote a culture of peace and human rights in Rwanda and among its diaspora. Once completed, this project will contribute to knowledge and understanding with a detailed record of the atrocities in Cyangugu, and evidence of the consequences for the local community. 

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