Elizabeth BaerFaculty

Research Professor in English

Update: January 2020

The Genocidal Gaze: From German Southwest Africa to the Third Reich (Wayne Sate UP, 2017) was published in an African edition in 2018 by the Universityof Namibia Press.  I was invited to Windhoek to give a talk at the book launch and met many descendants of Herero and Nama who were directly affected by the German genocide of these two ethnic groups.  I am grateful to the University of Namibia Press for making this book available to people in the country where the genocide occurred.  Since then The Genocidal Gaze has been made into an audio book, and I did an extended podcast interview about the book for New Book Network. My new research in this field looks at sexual violence by the Germans against the Herero and Nama and demonstrates the links with such sexual violence during the Holocaust.  An essay on the topic is forthcoming in 2020 as well as another book chapter on Hendrik Witbooi, an African revolutionary.

Perhaps it was inevitable that, living outside Washington DC, I would begin to work in the United Stated Holocaust Memorial Museum. I am a volunteer for the Senior Historian Office and work with Patricia Heberer-Rice. I vet new books on the Holocaust for historical accuracy, write articles for the online Holocaust encyclopedia, and respond to inquiries sent to the museum by scholars, novelists, journalists, and students.  I also created an annotated bibliography on the Herero and Nama genocide for the USHMM library; this bibliography can be found at the online site of the library. It is a great honor to be able to do this work at the museum whose mission seems more urgent than ever in our current climate of hate and antisemitism.

I also serve as a reviewer for manuscripts under consideration for publication, and review books for Choice magazine and academic journals.  In the past two years, I have given talks at Hood College, the Silver Spring Public Library, the Goethe Institute in DC, the American Comparative Literature Conference, and and at a conference on Gender and the Holocaust at Seton Hill College. In March, 2020, I will deliver the Lazaroff Lecture in Jewish History at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. 

While my work as a Research Scholar for Gustavus is greatly rewarding, I also take time to walk an hour each day, read about 100 books on many topics annually, and am an avid knitter. I am a member of the Solas Nua Irish Book Club which mets monthly in DC and is devoted to reading new fiction and poetry by Irish writers. My husband and I travel often; a trip to the Shetland Islands and another to Wales are on the schedule for 2020. And I love spending time with our two granddaughters.

Update, Summer, 2017:

I spent academic year 2016-2017 as the Ida E. King Visting Distinguished Scholar in Holocaust Studies at Stockton University in NJ.  There, I taught both graduate and undergrad courses in Holocaust Studies: a course on the links between imperialism and genocide, another on women and the Holocaust, and two on Post-Shoah literature. I gave frequent talks to community audiences and a keynote address on the occasion of Kristallnacht entitled "The Origins of the Holocaust in Africa?".I also invited David Treuer, an acclaimed novelist and the son of an Ojibwe mother and a Holocaust survivor father, to speak at Stockton.  In that connection, The Holocaust Resource Center at Stockton made a duplicate copy of the exhibit "Commemorating Controversy: The US-Dakota War of 1862", created by Gustavus students in a J-Term class I taught in 2012, and displayed it in the Stockton Library from March-late May.  During this time, I taught a workshop to forty local teachers on the genocide of Native Americans.

For fun, I walked the beach almost daily; my husband and I lived in a small house on a barrier island off the Jersey shore. I have amassed a large collection of whelks, beautiful shells tossed up on the beach in winter storms and high tides. We also enjoyed eating lots of fresh seafood, Jewish deli sandwiches,  and NJ pizza!

I travelled to Paris to attend the opening of an exhibit on the Golem at the Musée d'art and l'histoire du Judaïsme; I had been invited to contribute the lead article in the exhibit catalog which I drew from my book THE GOLEM REDUX: FROM PRAGUE TO POST-HOLOCUAST FICTION. While in Europe, I also visited Berlin in order to see an exhibit at the Deutsches Historisches Museum entitled "German Colonialism: Fragments Past and Present."  This exhibit is a very significant one as Germany openly acknowledges for the first time that they committed a genocide in Africa between 1904-1907.

That genocide, of the Herero and Nama people in the coutnry we now call Namibia, is the subject of my forthcoming book THE GENOCIDAL GAZE: FROM GERMAN SOUTHWEST AFRICA TO THE THIRD REICH, in which I trace the links between that African genocide and the Nazi Holocaust.  This past year I have devoted time to copyediting, seeking permission for the twenty photos in the book, correcting page-proofs, and soliciting blurbs.  The book will be out in November, 2017, from Wayne State University Press.  It has already garnered praise:

Carol Rittner wrote: "THE GENOCIDAL GAZE is a brilliant contribution to genoicde studies and post-colonial studies."

Jeremy Silvester wrote: "Important and timely."

Patrice Nganang wrote: "Elizabeth Baer has produced an essential book, a necessary reading, and a path-breaking piece of scholarship."

I presented a paper at The Space Betwen Conference in Montreal in June, 2016, and another at the African Studies Association in DC in November, 2016; both papers were sections of book chapters and the conferences enabled me to get scholarly feedback to my ideas as I did the writing. Finally, I wrote several book reviews, served as the external reader for a book manuscript, and completed an essay to be published in a book entitled THE DIARY, forthcoming from Indiana Univestiy Press.

In May, my husband and I bid adieu to our little home by the sea and moved to urban Silver Spring, Maryland. Though we have only been here a few weeks, I have started a new book project.  More about that in the next update!

Fall, 2015:

Gustavus Adolphus College has honored me by appointing me as a Research  Professor for 2015-2018. Though a largely honorific title, this appointment offers various kinds of support for my ongoing research.  I anticipate completing my current book manuscript  early in 2016; I am also working on writing several invited essays for anthologies and giving a paper at the African Studies Association conference in San Diego in November, 2015.  This past summer, I taught at the Summer Institute of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies  at the University of Minnesota; the workshop was entitled "Holocaust Education in a GLobal Context" and I lectured on gender and the Holocaust as well as the topic of  my manuscript (see below).  I will be  in my office occasionally this year and look forward to meeting with students.

Academic Year 2014-2015.  I am on leave during this academic year, working on a new book manuscript with the working title of AFRICANS LOOKING AT GERMANS, GERMANS LOOKING AT AFRICANS. Here is a brief description of this new book:

Using fiction, memoir, biography, photographs, and an art installation, the monograph examines the transnational perceptions/gaze between Africans and Germans, and traces the causal connections between imperialism and genocide.  The text includes study of South African artist William Kentridge,  German novelist Uwe Timm, Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo, and Namibian revolutionary Hendrik Witbooi.  Anticipated completion date: Summer, 2016.

In addition to steady research for and writing of the manuscript,  I am devoting time during this leave to learning Yoga, studying Italian, and reading contemporary fiction, African murder mysteries, and books outside my own field such as Elizabeth Kolbert's FIELD NOTES FROM A CATASTROPHE and Atul Gawande's BEING MORTAL. I plan to travel to Italy and also to Germany to conduct research in colonial archives. I am involved in some community education programs and gave a paper at the African Studies Association Conference in November in Indianapolis.

Fall, 2013: This summer, I devoted myself to reading African fiction and history. I focused on the work of Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian novelist who has won the MacArthur Genius Award.  Her books are: PURPLE HIBISCUS, her first novel; HALF OF A YELLOW SUN, a novel about the Biafra War; THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK, a volume of short stories; and AMERICANAH, her most recent novel, about the perceptions of immigrants on race relations in the USA.  Adichie will be visiting Gustavus in early March, and I plan to teach some of her works this year in preparation for that visit. I taught, with other scholars, a weeklong workshop on the Holocaust and memory to high school teachers in early July and completed work on a 25 page article which will be published in the journal "Intermedialités." In September, I'll be attending the conference of the American Association of State and Local Historians to receive their National Award of Merit for the "Commemorating Controversy" class (see below) and in November, I'll be giving a paper at the African Studies Association conference.

Fall, 2012.  One of the highlights of summer 2012 was a two week visit to Berlin in early June. I did some research on my next book, and made a serendipitous discovery of an installation artist, William Kentridge, whose work I will also include in the new book.(For more on this new research, see the 4th paragraph of this entry below.) I also visited favorite bookstores and restaurants, traveled to Rugen on the Baltic Sea, and enjoyed watching my six year old granddaughter, Della, learn some German.  Summer is the time I catch up on reading and, as usual, managed to read an eclectic collection of thirty books--new fiction and memoirs, history texts on German colonialism and the Dakota people of Minnesota, and a few murder mysteries for fun. And I drafted sections of two chapters in the new book.

In May, 2012, my colleagues honored me with the Gustavus Adolphus College Faculty Scholarship Achievement Award.

UPDATE April 2012:   JUST OUT: My new book, THE GOLEM REDUX: FROM PRAGUE TO POST-HOLOCAUST FICTION, has just been released by Wayne State University Press and is already garnering good reviews. To find out more, go to amazon.com or the website of Wayne State University Press at wsupress.wayne.edu/

UPDATE ON JANUARY 2012 CLASS: I have just completed teaching  an innovative IEX 2012 class entitled "Commemorating Controversy: the US-Dakota War of 1862."  This war, which broke out as a result of US abrogation of treaty promises to the Dakota, occurred at the same time that Gustavus Adolphus College opened its doors to students. I team-taught the class with Ben Leonard, Director of the Treaty Site Museum in St. Peter.  Accompanying the class was a six part lecture series open to the general public which attracted 1,000 audience members over the month of January! Both Dakota and descendants of white settlers attended the series and fruitful dialogue resulted from each talk. We are grateful to the Sesquicentennial Fund at the college  and the Minnesota Legacy Funds for generous grants to support this lecture series.

What do professors do all summer while students are working a job to pay tuition and prepare for a career? In early June, 2011, I left for two weeks in Senegal, a West African country that was colonized by France until 1960.  There I had the opportunity to hear several lectures from writers, literature scholars, hip hop artists and a documentary filmmaker. I also visited several sites, including Goree Island, from which people were shipped into slavery. A very sobering experience. This travel will inform courses I teach in Postcolonial Literature and World Literature. And it will contribute to my new book project: a study of the relationship between Germany and Africa during both the colonial and postcolonial periods.  The project encompasses fiction, film, memoir and photography.

I devoted several days during the summer of 2011 to reviewing the copy-edited manuscript of my new book: even English professors make mistakes which the copy-editor catches!  Other tasks this summer included writing two scholarly book reviews and serving as the outside reviewer for a book manuscript to help a publisher decide whether to accept the book for publication.  I also spent some relaxing time with family and a week at the ocean, one of my favorite places to be.

During summer, 2008, I spent two weeks in South Africa studying Apartheid and the post-Apartheid democracy in that country. I sought the opportunity to compare systems of oppression there with those in Nazi Germany. I learned of the many challenges South Africa faces: a 40% unemployment rate among some groups, a 25% HIV infection rate, and a current government that is sometimes corrupt.  Then, in January 2009, with three other professors, I took 32 students to study South Africa and Namibia during our IEX term. We spent a week working at a camp for kids from Cape Town townships and did a service-learning project at a school in Windhoek. We also visited museums, heard lectures, took walking tours, spent two days in a game preserve seeing elephants, springboks, giraffes, zebras, and lions.

Over the years, I have made many international trips to such places as Cuba, Guatemala, Denmark, Germany, The Czech Republic, Ireland, Mexico, Poland, Hungary, England, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, India, Japan, Austria, Israel, Russia, Holland, Scotland, and France. I enjoy traveling with students and during our January Term have taken groups of students to Germany and the Czech Republic to study the Holocaust, on a 3,400 mile bus trip through the American South to study the Civil Rights Movement, and to Northern Ireland. In January 2007, I taught a course on women's craft and knitting here on campus!

In fall 2004, I was in residence at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey as the Ida E. King Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Holocaust Studies.


    The Genocidal Gaze:From German Southwest Africa to the Third Reich (Wayne State UP, November 2017)

    The Golem Redux: From Prague to Post-Holocaust Fiction (Wayne State UP, 2012)


Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Manhattanville College, summa cum laude Masters degree in English, New York University Ph D in English, Indiana University

Courses Taught

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
FTS-100 FTS:Holocaust Images 9 2013/FA, 2012/FA, 2009/FA, 2008/FA, 2006/FA, 2005/FA, 2003/FA, 2002/FA, and 2001/FA
ENG-114 Art of Interpretation 7 2010/SP, 2009/FA, 2006/SP, 2005/FA, 2004/SP, 2003/FA, and 2003/SP
ENG-399 Senior Seminar 5 2013/SP, 2011/FA, 2008/FA, 2005/SP, and 2002/SP
ENG-281 Postcolonial Lit 4 2014/SP, 2012/FA, 2010/FA, and 2009/SP
GWS-236 Women and the Holocaust 4 2014/SP, 2013/SP, 2011/SP, and 2009/SP
ENG-201 Art of Interpretation 4 2013/FA, 2012/SP, 2011/FA, and 2010/FA
ENG-101 Read:African Lit & Film 4 2013/SP, 2003/SP, 2001/FA, and 2001/SP
ENG-126 Ethnic American Literature 2 2007/SP and 2006/SP
WOM-236 Women and the Holocaust 2 2007/SP and 2005/SP
ENG-344 Special Topic: Postcolonial Literature 2 2006/FA and 2002/SP
ENG-134 Once Upon a Time 1 2014/JN
ENG-130 Intro World Literature 1 2012/SP
NDL-158 US-Dakota War of 1862 1 2012/JN
FTS-100 First Term Seminar Lab 1 2009/FA
NDL-230 South Africa and Namibia 1 2009/JN
NDL-201 Knit One, Purl One 1 2007/JN
ENG-135 Northern Ireland Social Justice 1 2005/JN
ENG-244 Special Topic: Postcolonial Literature 1 2004/SP
CUR-250 Literary Experience 1 2002/FA
ENG-144 Special Topic: Protest Literature 1 2001/SP
NDL-234 Remembering the Holocaust 1 2000/JN
Courses prior to Spring semester 1999 are not displayed.