Skip to main content

2019 Keynote Speaker: Dr. James Waller, "Confronting Evil: Engaging Our Responsibilities for Human Rights and Genocide Prevention"

Cohen Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College, NH.



Dr. James (Jim) Waller is the inaugural Cohen Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College (NH), the college's first endowed professorship. Keene State College is home to the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, one of the nation's oldest Holocaust resource centers, and also offers the only undergraduate major in Holocaust and Genocide Studies in the United States. Waller is a widely-recognized scholar in the field of Holocaust and genocide studies and has held visiting research professorships at the Technical University in Berlin (1990), the Catholic University in Eichstatt, Germany (1992), and in the George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Justice and Security at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland (2017). Waller has been awarded summer fellowships by, and been a teaching fellow with, the Holocaust Educational Foundation at Northwestern University (1996 and 2007-2012) and at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. (1999, 2003, and 2005). He also directs, and teaches in, the biennial Summer Institute on Genocide Studies and Prevention, first held at Keene State College in 2016.

In the policymaking arena, Waller is also regularly involved, in his role as Director of Academic Programs with the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), as the curriculum developer and lead instructor for the Raphael Lemkin Seminars for Genocide Prevention. These seminars, held on-site and in conjunction with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, introduce diplomats and government officials from around the world to issues of genocide warning and prevention. In addition, his work with AIPR also has included education and training in genocide prevention for the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Waller also has delivered invited briefings on genocide prevention and perpetrator behavior for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the CIA Directorate of Intelligence, the International Human Rights Unit of the FBI, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Waller has led teacher training in Holocaust and genocide studies for the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center (2009 and 2012), the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (2010), the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (2010-2012, 2015-2017), and the Zoryan Institute (2015 and 2016). In addition, he has consulted on exhibition development with the National Institute for Holocaust Education at the USHMM, the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda, and for the Genocide Prevention Institute at the Bremen Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta, GA. His fieldwork has included research in Germany, Israel, Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Guatemala.

In addition to four books - most recently: Confronting Evil: Engaging Our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide (Oxford University Press, 2016) - Waller has published twenty-eight articles in peer-reviewed professional journals, contributed twenty chapters in edited books, and is a senior editor of two edited volumes currently in production. Waller's book on perpetrators of genocide, Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing (Oxford University Press, 2002), was praised by Publisher's Weekly for "clearly and effectively synthesizing a wide range of studies to develop an original and persuasive model of the process by which people can become evil." In addition to being used as a textbook in college and university courses around the world, Becoming Evil also was short-listed for the biennial Raphael Lemkin Book Award from the Institute for the Study of Genocide. Concepts from Becoming Evil, released in a revised and updated second edition in 2007, have been the basis for an international best-selling novel (The Exception by Christian Jungersen) and a play workshopped in the School of Theater, Film, and Television at UCLA. His research on perpetrator behavior also is featured in Eduardo Rufeisen's award-winning documentary The Evil Within (2016). Waller's latest book, also from Oxford, is titled Confronting Evil: Engaging Our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide (2016). It has been hailed as "required reading for all those who seek to understand and avert these atrocities in the future" and as "a well-written…immensely valuable contribution to the field of genocide studies."

Waller is also widely-recognized for his work on intergroup relations and prejudice. In January 1996, while at Whitworth University, Waller developed an innovative study program titled "Prejudice Across America." The study program drew national media attention and was named by President Clinton's Initiative on Race as one of America's "Promising Practices for Racial Reconciliation." Many of the experiences from the study program are chronicled in his first two books, Face to Face: The Changing State of Racism Across America (New York, NY: Perseus Books, 1998) and Prejudice Across America (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2000). Prejudice Across America was short-listed for a 2001 Outstanding Book Award from Boston University's Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America. While at Whitworth, Waller's achievements in teaching and scholarship were reflected in his selection as the 1993 recipient of the Dean's Award for Outstanding Junior Faculty Achievement, the 1996 recipient of Whitworth's Teaching Excellence Award, and a 2008 nominee for Whitworth's Innovative Teaching Award. In addition, he was a four-time institutional nominee for the CASE U.S. Professor of the Year award. In fall 2003, Waller was Whitworth's inaugural appointee for a four-year term as the Edward B. Lindaman Chair, an endowed, rotating chair for senior faculty who are engaged in public dialogue concerning important social issues.

During 1999-2000, Waller was one of sixteen national recipients of the prestigious Pew Fellowship Award to continue his work on the psychology of human evil. In June 2007, he received the "First Voice Humanitarian Award" from the Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture in recognition of his work in connecting students with urban communities, particularly communities in need. In January 2009, he was selected for the inaugural class of Carl Wilkins Fellows by the Genocide Intervention Network. In November 2011, Waller was recognized by a California Senate Resolution for "his tireless efforts to end genocide." In 2012, he was Keene State College's institutional nominee for the Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize from Brandeis University, an award given in recognition of scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic, and/or religious relations. Waller was appointed as the Centennial Global Ethics Fellow of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs for 2013-2014. In September 2015, he was named a Peace Ambassador by the Center for Peacebuilding in Sanski Most, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Most recently, in April 2017, Waller was selected as the recipient of the inaugural International Association of Genocide Scholars' Engaged Scholarship Prize. The Prize recognizes exemplary scholarship along with engagement in genocide awareness and prevention.

Waller received his B.S. (1983) from Asbury University (KY), M.S. (1985) from the University of Colorado, and Ph.D. in Social Psychology (1988) from the University of Kentucky. He also has completed additional certification work in safety and security after violent conflict at the Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is an active member of the International Association of Genocide Scholars as well as the International Network of Genocide Scholars. He also is a member of the International Expert Team of the Institute for Research of Genocide Canada and sits on several Advisory Boards, including World Without Genocide, the Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention at Binghamton University, and the Journal of Perpetrator Research.

Dr. Waller lectures and speaks on Holocaust and genocide studies, intergroup relations, and prejudice for academic, professional, and public audiences. He has lectured at more than 50 colleges and universities, including the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Boston University, Claremont-McKenna College, Notre Dame, Yale University, Columbia University, the US Military Academy at West Point, and the American University of Paris. Recent endowed lectures Waller was invited to deliver included the 2010 Karl Schleunes Lecture at Greensboro College, the 2011 Richard J. Yashak Holocaust Lecture at Albright College, the 2015 and 2018 Ralph L. Harris Memorial Lecture at Sonoma State University, and the inaugural Walter Sommers Lecture on Holocaust History at CANDLES Holocaust Museum in 2016. He is frequently interviewed by broadcast and print media, including PBS, CNN, CBC, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Salon, National Geographic, and the New York Times.