Those who have walked into Dr. John Cox’s office are familiar with the impressive amount of books mounted on the towering bookshelves and the eclectic choice of posters he’s decided to mount on his walls just inside the door. All of this is an accurate representation of his teachings and interests.
As an Associate Professor of Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Studies at UNC Charlotte, Dr. Cox is active in keeping students informed and educated on news and events that fall under those topics.
Cox became interested in these particular subjects during his undergraduate study at Appalachian State University. He took a couple of classes on the subjects and they seemed to connect with other things he was interested in at the time. This was during the time of the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, which was a significant world event.
Cox grew up in Greensboro, N.C., so he was very aware of the history of the civil rights movement in this part of the country. All these factors combined to attract his interest in question of resistance, rebellion and violence., “I teach classes and do research on these horrible things that humans have done to one another, but also on the more noble aspects of the human experience like artistic and cultural forms of survival and resilience,” Cox said.
Before attending graduate school at Brandeis University, located just outside of Boston, Mass., Cox worked as a labor organizer and at various restaurants in Washington, D.C. He went on to get his Doctorate at UNC Chapel Hill. “For my interests, it was the best place that I could go,” he said. “Regardless of the dismal Matt Doherty period of basketball.”
Circles of Resistance, the book he published in 2009, examines forms of anti-Nazi resistance inside Germany that had been looked over throughout history. Along with Circles of Resistance, Cox has had articles and essays published in various texts and newspapers and has another book to be released this year about genocide in the 20th century.
“You get valuable feedback from your colleagues and peers through conferences and other means. It can be a laborious process, but the final product is ultimately rewarding,” he said. “Writing and research should be intertwined.”
Over spring break Cox and Judy LaPietra, another professor in the Dept. of Global, International & Area Studies, took 16 students to Poland to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Kraków-Płaszów concentration camps.
“It was a very rich experience and great to see the students evolve emotionally and intellectually within a span of seven days,” Cox said.
Following this trip, students gave presentations based on their experience at the Jewish Community Center in South Charlotte on the International Day of Holocaust Remembrance. This got a great response, along with a brilliant turnout for the program, according to Cox. The success of the trip has prompted them to take another round of students during the same time next year.
Both of Cox’s parents are musicians, spurring his broad, eclectic and quite impressive taste in music. Some of his favorite artists include The Clash, John Coltrane, The Who, Fela, Radiohead and Tinariwen. He also enjoys a lot of music from the Middle East, North and West Africa.
“One of the reasons why I use bands like Tinariwen or artists like Rachid Taha [an Algerian musician based in France] is that it shows that cultural boundaries are not impermeable. That’s an important thing I try to convey in my classes. You can’t draw borders around cultures or groups of people,” he said.
Dr. Cox is also an avid FC Barcelona fan, which serves as a great detachment to the serious, dark subject matter he teaches. He also enjoys traveling, film and literature.
The three words he used to describe himself: indignant, appalled and optimistic. Three words, one could say, that are nothing short of accurate.
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all photos courtesy of MCT Campus, Flickr Creative Commons, Amazon.com and Scarlett Newman