Lens on Life

Geno­cide scholar Adam Jones, BA, 88, PhD’ 99, bal­ances the se­ri­ous na­ture of his re­search with pro­lific travel, and pho­tog­ra­phy that cap­tures the hu­man dig­nity present in ev­ery­day life.

Trek Magazine - - Take Note - BY CHRIS CAN­NON PHO­TOS BY ADAM JONES

Adam Jones plans his work in five-year cy­cles, re-eval­u­at­ing his strat­egy as he goes. Like most poly­maths, he en­joys warm­ing mul­ti­ple projects on the back burner while he’s still cook­ing up the main course. A self-de­scribed “happy glo­be­trot­ter,” Jones has vis­ited 103 coun­tries so far, cap­tur­ing thou­sands of lo­cal faces in his pho­tog­ra­phy, while still find­ing time to write about mu­sic, me­dia, pol­i­tics, and of course, travel. “I am never as happy as when I have a bag slung over my shoul­der,” he says, “and I’m leav­ing some shoe rub­ber some­where on the other side of the world.”

His speech pat­terns re­flect this joie de vivre; the words tum­ble out of his mouth in a wa­ter­fall of ques­tions and an­swers, and he seems en­tirely ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing on a dia­logue with him­self. Like his pho­tog­ra­phy, his con­ver­sa­tion style is up­beat, cel­e­bra­tory, and life-af­firm­ing. It would be easy to be­lieve he doesn’t have a se­ri­ous bone in his body – not some­thing you’d ex­pect from one of the most pro­lific geno­cide schol­ars in the world.

A pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at the UBC Okana­gan cam­pus since 2007, Jones teaches cour­ses on African pol­i­tics, hu­man rights, mass me­dia, gen­der and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, pol­i­tics in film, and crimes against hu­man­ity. His pho­tog­ra­phy and aca­demic pur­suits scan like two sides of the same coin, record­ing small mo­ments of hu­man dig­nity on film while study­ing its as­sault in the largest of con­texts.

“I think that [pho­tog­ra­phy] is very much con­nected with my in­ter­est in hu­man rights,” he says. “I find peo­ple fas­ci­nat­ing. I find di­verse so­ci­eties fas­ci­nat­ing; I’d like to see their liveli­hoods and in­ter­ests pro­tected rather than de­stroyed. It’s a kind of safety valve on both an in­tel­lec­tual and emo­tional level.”

Born in Sin­ga­pore to Bri­tish par­ents, Jones fol­lowed his fa­ther’s post­ings with the Royal Air Force be­fore his fam­ily even­tu­ally set­tled in Ver­non, BC, where he first took up pho­tog­ra­phy for a photo-essay as­sign­ment in a ju­nior-high jour­nal­ism course. “I still re­mem­ber the photo shoot I did – the col­lec­tion was called The Dark Side of Ver­non,” he laughs. “It was like piled-up bro­ken bot­tles in al­ley­ways, stuff that was chal­leng­ing the im­age of Ver­non as a se­date and pleas­ant place.”

Jones caught the travel bug early, con­tin­u­ing his ed­u­ca­tion in Vic­to­ria, Shang­hai and Sin­ga­pore be­fore set­tling at UBC for an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in his­tory and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions in 1986. Af­ter a stint at McGill for his mas­ter’s de­gree, he re­vis­ited UBC to com­plete his PhD in po­lit­i­cal science, study­ing po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tions and gen­der and eth­nic con­flict.

His in­ter­est in geno­cide came into fo­cus in 1999, when a racial clash in Kosovo led to the deaths of thou­sands and dis­place­ment of mil­lions, fol­lowed months later by 1400 civil­ian deaths in East Ti­mor as the na­tion sought its in­de­pen­dence from In­done­sia.

Jones watched the Kosovo con­flict un­fold on tele­vi­sion from Barcelona, where he was tak­ing a break af­ter com­plet­ing his dis­ser­ta­tion. But he couldn’t ig­nore the head­lines, notic­ing in par­tic­u­lar the se­lec­tive tar­get­ing of

un­armed adult men – a phe­nom­e­non that fem­i­nist Mary Anne War­ren had re­cently termed “gen­der­cide.” The tar­geted killing of in­no­cents ac­cord­ing to gen­der, gen­der­cide would be­come one of Jones’ many aca­demic spe­cial­ties as his ca­reer slowly took shape.

De­spite its rel­a­tive in­fancy as a schol­arly topic, the act of geno­cide goes back to the ear­li­est lit­er­a­ture: Thucy­dides wrote about the Siege of Me­los in 416, where the men were ex­ter­mi­nated and the women and chil­dren sold into slavery; Homer recorded Agamem­non’s call for the an­ni­hi­la­tion of the Tro­jans “down to the ba­bies in their moth­ers’ wombs”; and, of course, geno­ci­dal themes run through­out nearly all of the ma­jor re­li­gious works that have come down through the ages.

Al­though geno­cide is usu­ally rec­og­niz­able by the sheer num­bers of vic­tims, it is dif­fer­ent than mass mur­der in kind rather than in scale. The tar­geted ex­ter­mi­na­tion of a pop­u­la­tion based on some­thing that unites them – eth­nic­ity, na­tion­al­ity, re­li­gious be­liefs – geno­cide lit­er­ally means “killing a race.” The term was coined near the end of WWII to de­scribe the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Nazis against cer­tain Eu­ro­pean groups, deeds that had been de­scribed to that point as “mass killings” or “crimes against hu­man­ity.” The first hint that the wan­ton ex­ter­mi­na­tion of an en­tire race was an es­pe­cially evil act may have come in a 1941 ra­dio broad­cast by Win­ston Churchill, de­scrib­ing Hitler’s march across the blood-soaked Rus­sian plains:

“As his armies ad­vance, whole districts are be­ing ex­ter­mi­nated. Lit­er­ally scores of thou­sands of ex­e­cu­tions in cold blood are be­ing per­pe­trated by the Ger­man po­lice troops upon the Rus­sian pa­tri­ots who de­fend their na­tive soil. Since the Mon­gol in­va­sions of Europe in the six­teenth cen­tury, there has never been me­thod­i­cal, mer­ci­less butch­ery on such a scale... We are in the pres­ence of a crime with­out a name.”

The un­think­able act was fi­nally termed in the 1943 book Axis Rule in Oc­cu­pied Europe by Raphael Lemkin, a Pol­ish Jew who barely es­caped to Swe­den ahead of Hitler’s forces. Lemkin, who would lose 49 rel­a­tives to

The first hint that the wan­ton ex­ter­mi­na­tion of an en­tire race was an es­pe­cially evil act may have come in a 1941 ra­dio broad­cast by Win­ston Churchill, de­scrib­ing Hitler’s march across the blood‑soaked Rus­sian plains

Hitler’s camps, cam­paigned tire­lessly for geno­cide to be rec­og­nized as a par­tic­u­larly hor­ren­dous crime. In 1951, his ef­forts paid off with Gen­eral As­sem­bly Res­o­lu­tion 260, a United Na­tions con­ven­tion that es­tab­lished geno­cide in le­gal terms, seek­ing to pre­vent its oc­cur­rence and hold ac­count­able its per­pe­tra­tors.

“But you didn’t re­ally get the birth of any kind of no­table aca­demic ex­plo­ration un­til the 1980s,” says Jones. “The ex­cep­tion of course is the Holo­caust, and that was al­ready be­ing stud­ied as the Holo­caust rather than in a com­par­a­tive geno­cide con­text. It was re­ally the 1915 Ar­me­nian geno­cide that be­came the sec­ond case added, and then we got the geno­cides in former Yu­goslavia and then 1994 in Rwanda. And that, I think, re­ally cat­alyzed the field.”

With the re­cent ad­vent of the 24-hour news cy­cle, the Rwanda geno­cide – in which 70 per cent of the eth­nic Tutsi pop­u­la­tion was wiped out in 100 days by the Hutu ma­jor­ity – caught the at­ten­tion of the West with a bru­tal de­tail to which most view­ers were un­ac­cus­tomed. The mas­sacre of 800,000 un­armed civil­ians, many killed with ma­chetes, brought the con­cept of geno­cide to the liv­ing room, and soon af­ter to the class­room.

But it wasn’t just watch­ing his­tory un­fold, it was also a re-ex­am­i­na­tion of his­tory long con­sid­ered set­tled. Just two years ear­lier was the Columbus quin­cen­te­nary – the 500th an­niver­sary of his 1492 ar­rival in the Amer­i­cas. “Con­nected with that event was a small but re­ally sig­nif­i­cant flood of very po­tent writ­ings about geno­cides of in­dige­nous peo­ples,” Jones points out.

Adam Jones Photo: Al­bert Law

“Woman with Flow­ers on Street” Zadar, Croa­tia.

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