James Thomas Ford, Ph.D.
Ph.D., History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2000
M.A., History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1992
B.A., History, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1990
“That is another of your odd notions,” said the Prefect, who had a fashion of calling every thing 'odd' that was beyond his comprehension, and thus lived amid an absolute legion of ‘oddities.’ Edgar Allan Poe, “The Purloined Letter”
Born and bred in Los Angeles with a yearning to traverse strange lands, meet diverse peoples, and, evidently, explore the darker side of humanity, I began my academic career studying early modern Europe in graduate school and beyond. Throughout years of teaching, reading, and traveling, however, I increasingly turned toward the subject of genocide—an interest reinforced by military experience in Afghanistan and Kuwait. Nietzsche once wrote: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” Hopefully I haven’t gazed into the abyss too long. Evil fascinates me, but the resiliency of victims and victimized communities likewise intrigues me. What started out as an exploration of genocide in Germany, Turkey and elsewhere ultimately fed an abiding appreciation for the culture, history, and topography of these places beyond the one dark chapter of a nation’s past that initially drew me.
These days I distinguish three overlapping aspects of my teaching career: global learning, short-term study abroad, and community engagement. My ultimate goal as an instructor in the humanities is to help students think, read and write critically about the complexities of the human experience. I provide them the tools with which they can establish a frame of reference, formulate their own questions, and seek answers to those questions. My intention is that they come out of the course mindful that history is essentially about interpretation. The course curriculum, ever the product of experimentation, equips students to draw meaningful connections between the past and present.
I am currently researching the use of historical memoirs as an effective teaching tool in a comparative genocide course.