Call for Papers: Conference “Contested Visions of Justice: Allied War Crimes Trials in a Global Context, 1943-1958”, Dublin, September 25-27, 2015

Venue: Boston College in Ireland, Dublin, 25-27 September 2015

Convenors: Kerstin von Lingen, Heidelberg University; Wolfgang Form, Marburg University; Franziska Seraphim, Boston College; Barak Kushner, Cambridge University

Co-sponsored by Boston College, Heidelberg University and the German Historical Institute, Washington DC

Call for Papers, deadline: February 07, 2015

Despite important differences in the war aims and conduct of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, war crimes trial policies emerged as globally connected domains of meting out justice that cut across the borders of nations, cultures, and continents. The aim of this conference, which is open to historians, political scientists and legal scholars alike, is to analyze and compare the transnational interconnections among the political, administrative, legal and social mechanisms of Allied transitional justice in the reshaping of the post-World War II world, with the prospect of an edited publication.

Far from a unidirectional imposition of “Western norms” on global conceptions of justice, experiences in Asia turn out to also have shaped legal perceptions in Europe, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The emerging geopolitics of the Cold War met with those of civil wars and decolonization in Asia, with huge implications not only for former colonies but for the European metropoles as well, including the former Axis powers themselves.

We plan to identify geographically ‘mapable’ patterns of meaningful intersection (and divergence) across the globe in (1) the political will to pool legal expertise in order to conduct trials of Axis war criminals, (2) the hierarchies of the program’s administration by military authorities in different theaters, (3) comparable categories of crimes adjudicated on the basis of local jurisdiction, (4) crucial political contexts observable in both Asia and Europe, and (5) post-trial efforts to bring the program to an end in the 1950s by former Allies and Axis alike.

This conference is jointly organized by: Dr. Kerstin von Lingen, a historian leading the research group “Transcultural Justice: Legal Flows and the Emergence of International Justice in East Asian War Crimes Trials, 1946-53” at the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in Global Context” at Heidelberg University, Germany; Dr. Wolfgang Form, political scientist and coordinator of the International Center for the Research and Documentation of War Crimes Trials at Philipps University in Marburg, Germany, which holds the largest single repository of European and Asian trial records; Assoc. Prof. Franziska Seraphim, Boston College, a Japanese historian currently working on the spatial architecture of the Allied war crimes program comparatively; and Assoc. Prof. Barak Kushner, Cambridge University, a Japanese historian and senior lecturer, leading an ERC funded research project on “War Crimes and Empire. The Dissolution of the Japanese Empire and the Struggle for Legitimacy in Postwar East-Asia”.

We thus invite paper proposals to the following topics, which we plan to group in four panels. Ideally, the conference pairs scholars of the European and the Pacific War theatres and of different disciplines around specific themes:

Panel I: International Collaboration & Competition in Administering War Crimes Trials

Papers in this section could address, but are not limited to, the administration to the War Crimes Trials program in Europe and Asia, the military administration of war crimes trials, the Soviet Union’s role in administering war crimes trials, etc.         

Panel II: Competing Notions of Criminality in comparative view

Papers in this section could address, but are not limited to, the legal foundations of national war crimes trials jurisdiction, legal concepts, theories of collective liability and crimes of military occupation, etc. 

Panel III: Cold War and Civil Wars as Contexts for Defining “Justice”

Papers in this section could address, but are not limited to, competitions in adjudicating war crimes trials, the role of super-powers and smaller powers in the war crimes trials policies, etc.

Panel IV: Post-trial Negotiations for Clemency and Release

Papers in this section could address, but are not limited to, Review Boards, Clemency, and Parole, Reparations, Rearmament, Prisons etc.

Paper proposals, including the title, the panel you wish to apply for, and a short CV, s should be sent to

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