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HGS 566/726 - The Psychology and Sociology of Altruism and Rescue

Diplomats like Sousa Mendes and Sugihara, doctors, nurses, social workers, farmers, and others risked their lives to save Jews during the Shoah. Why did seemingly ordinary people risk their lives and often the lives of their families to help Jews who frequently were total strangers-while others stood passively by? What insight can be gained from them that will shed light on the broader questions of ethics and morality? Why is research on altruism and rescuers still relevant? This course will explore these questions through narratives of rescuers, current scholarly articles, and multimedia material. Psychological, demographic, sociological, and political factors will be examined. Stories of rescuers from more recent genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, and other conflicts will also be addressed. Understanding the behavior of rescuers and of altruistic behavior across different cultures and eras will contribute to a better understanding of world events and human behavior.

Note: Master's students should register for HGS 566. Doctoral students should register for HGS 726.