Professor wants to raise genocide awareness

Jeremy Nobile

James Tyner, expert of the Cambodian Genocide, wants to educate society about the onset of genocide. He said education can prevent such events from happening in the future.

A geography professor at Kent State and published author, he has recently returned from Cambodia with the intentions of linking other Kent State faculty with Cambodian research.

The goal of his research is to understand how and educate others why “individuals or a society justify genocide.”

“I don’t think we (society) talk enough about the reality of war and the reality of genocide,” Tyner said.

With the assistance of John West, vice president for research and dean of Graduate Studies, and Geography Chairman Jay Lee, Tyner created the Cambodian Justice Project last winter to support his research from Kent State.

One of the goals of the project is for Tyner to act as a liaison for faculty at the university interested in conducting research or establishing projects in Cambodia.

One possibility is to connect the nursing department’s medicine research to Cambodia, to improve the future of medicine there.

West is excited about the project and was eager to support Tyner in an area of research brand new to the university.

“I think it was interesting research that provided a beach-head for Kent State to . provide research and information about an important part of history and bring some unique expertise together,” West said.

Lee said the university has increased its focus on international and intercultural efforts, which is one reason he supports Tyner’s research.

Tyner has the ability to acquire information through many unique and diverse sources by using e-mail contact with officials at the United Nations. He is able to access important documents directly from the archives of the Documentation Center of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

“Projects like this are breaking new ground. We really have not done anything like this before,” Lee said, referring to the future collaboration of other faculty with Tyner for Cambodia-related projects.

The creation of the Cambodian Justice Project is a direct result of Tyner’s cumulative research on Cambodia, which includes his most recent book “The Killing of Cambodia: Geography, Genocide, and the Unmaking of Space” that was published this year. This was his first book dedicated strictly to the Cambodian Genocide.

Lee said his department supports Tyner by allowing time and providing resources necessary for him to maintain his research.

Since his 11 years at Kent State, Tyner has made four trips to Cambodia, each lasting a couple weeks at a time. His first trip was in the spring of 2001.

He has a personal interest in the role politics has played in the Cambodian Genocide.

“One thing that unites my work, is looking at how people and populations are controlled or regulated, often times for political purposes,” Tyner said.

As a geographer, Tyner’s regional expertise is in Southeast Asia. His research is about how population and politics are affected by a region’s geography.

By understanding how a society or government justifies the use of mass killing, Tyner said it becomes possible to identify where notions of genocide may manifest before they actually do.

“Often when mass violence is perpetrated . it’s justified. The people who were doing the killing in the Holocaust . Rwanda . and Cambodia, they claimed to be justified in their actions,” Tyner said.

People need to take caution when they hear of governments who claim to be on high moral ground and speak of such action, Tyner explained.

Throughout his career, Tyner has written a total of nine books regarding the geography of Southeast Asia, and he plans on writing more. One book he is working on will be about the geography of war and militarism. The Gilford Publishing Co. is also interested in having Tyner write a collegiate level textbook about the geography of Southeast Asia, which he has not yet committed to.

Contact sciences reporter Jeremy Nobile at [email protected].