Joachim J Savelsberg

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1144 Soc Sci

267 19th Ave S


Born, raised and educated in Germany, I moved – after year-long fellowships at the Johns Hopkins and Harvard universities – to the United States to take a position at the University of Minnesota in 1989. Here I am a professor of sociology and, by courtesy, law as well as the Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair.

Much of my recent work addresses representations and memories of mass violence, especially through legal intervention. Simultaneously, I continue to contribute to themes that were previously at the center of my agenda. They include institutional conditions of knowledge about crime and punishment in international and temporal comparison and associated dynamics of criminal punishment; comparative imprisonment rates; the sociology of criminology; sentencing guidelines; and the criminalization of white collar offenses.

Along the way I served, with my colleague Timothy Johnson, as editor of the Law & Society Review, and as the elected chair of the Sections for the Sociology of Law and the Sociology of Human Rights of the American Sociological Association and of the Theory Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

I kept my contacts to Europe alive and expanded them into Africa, aided by fellowships or visiting professorships at the Humboldt University (Berlin), the Ludwig Maximilian University (Munich), the Karl Franzens University (Graz), the Rockefeller Foundation at Bellagio, the Käte-Hamburger Center for Advanced Study “Law as Culture" (Bonn), the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (South Africa), and the Paris Institute for Advanced Study. My publications have appeared in English, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese. Movements across continents have inspired insights into globalization and cross-national comparison.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Dr. rer. pol.: Sociology, University of Trier, Trier, Germany, 1982.
  • Diplom Volkswirt soz. wiss. R.: Sociology, political economy, and public policy, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany, 1978.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Sociology of Knowledge, Memory & Representations
  • Law, Crime & Punishment
  • Human Rights
  • Comparative
  • Theory
Courses Taught
  • Hsem 3030 - Honors Seminar: Crime and Revolution in Eastern Europe
  • Hsem 3050 - Honors Seminar: Knowledge
  • Soc 4102/4102H - Criminology
  • Soc 4104/4101H - Crime and Human Rights
  • Soc 4135 - Sociology of White-Collar Crime
  • Soc 4681 - Sociology of German Society
  • Soc 4966 - Major Project Seminar
  • Soc 4977V - Senior Honors Proseminar I
  • Soc 4978V - Senior Honors Proseminar II
  • Soc 5101 - Sociology of Law
  • Soc 5135 - Sociology of White-collar Crime
  • Soc 8701 - Sociological Theory
  • Soc 8090 - Sociology of Knowledge
  • Soc 8090 Topics: Law & Society Review Seminar
  • Soc 8190- Atrocities: Collective Representation and the Law
  • Soc 8731 - Sociology of Knowledge
  • HSEM - Honors Seminar
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Co-editor (with T.R. Johnson, Political Science): Law & Society Review , 2014 - 2016
  • Chair: Section for Human Rights, American Sociological Association , 2016 - 2017
  • Chair, Committee on Sections, American Sociological Association (2007-08), Member (2005-08):
  • Chair: Section on Sociology of Law, American Sociological Association: 2004 - 2005
  • Chair: Sutherland-Glueck International Scholar Award Committee, American Society of Criminology , 2005-06
  • Chair: Section on Crime, Law and Deviance, American Sociological Association Distinguished Book Award Committee , 2005-06
  • Chair: Social Problems Theory Division, Society for the Study of Social Problems: 2004 - 2006
  • Council: Section on Crime, Law and Deviance, American Sociological Association: 2004 - 2007
  • Chair: James F. Short Best Article Award Committee, Crime, Law, Deviance Section, American Sociological Association: setting policies and organizing committee to select best criminology article published in 2002 and 2003 , 2003 - 2004
  • Member: Law and Society Review Book Editor Search Committee, Law and Society Association: participate in selection of book review editor for prominent international journal dealing with the relationship between law and society , 2003 - 2004
  • International Editorial Advisory Board, The New Criminal Law Review:
  • Co-editor: Punishment and Society--The International Journal of Penology: setting editorial policies and making editorial decisions for journal , 2003 - - present
  • International Editorial Advisory Board, Theoretical Criminology: 2001 - present
  • Editorial Adisory Board, European Journal of Criminology: 2004 - present
  • Editorial Advisory Board, Criminology: 2012 - present
  • Consulting Editor, American Journal of Sociology: 1995 - 1997
  • Editorial Advisory Board, Law & Society Review:


  • Recent and current research links issues of human rights, law and collective representations and memory (especially of mass violence and atrocities).
  • An ongoing project, supported by the Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair and Fellowships at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (South Africa) and the Institute for Advanced Study of Paris, examines struggles over the writing of history and the formation of collective memories for the case of the Armenian genocide. A resulting book is forthcoming with the University of California Press under the title: Knowing about Genocide: Armenian Suffering and Epistemic Struggles.
  • My most recent book is entitled "Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur." Published by the University of California Press, it is available as a paperback and as an open access-online edition . The book depicts the struggle over the appropriate representation of Darfur between new global institutions of criminal law, humanitarianism and diplomacy as well as divergences across countries with their distinct policy practices, histories and cultural sensitivities. The book also analyzes the communication of competing narratives by news media. A German language version was published by Vittorio Klostermann Publ., Frankfurt. A related article, co-authored with Hollie Nyseth Brehm, appeared in 2015 in the American Journal of Sociology.
  • The latter publications grew out of a research project, entitled "Collective Representations and Memories of Atrocities after Judicial Intervention: The Case of Darfur in International Comparison" and funded by the National Science Foundation. This project produced a data set resulting from a content analysis of some 3400 media reports and opinion pieces from news media in eight countries. These data are supplemented by an analysis of press releases of foreign ministries and of selected NGOs as well as by fifty in depth interviews with Africa correspondents, Sudan experts in foreign ministries and Darfur specialists in NGOs.
  • A previous book (with Ryan King) addressed ways in which the United States makes use of law to shape collective memories of evil (American Memories: Atrocities and the Law, Russell Sage Foundation, 2011). This book expands on ideas laid out in a broader, teaching oriented book that links together scholarship on grave human rights violations, war crimes and genocide with criminological thought (Crime and Human Rights: Criminology of Genocide and Atrocities, Sage 2010).
  • These book publications are preceded by articles that explore the reciprocal relationship between collective memory and law (e.g., article with Ryan King in Annual Review of Law and Social Science 2007). The articles explore, on the one hand, consequences of collective memory for the use of law or force by collective actors, including states (example: how do national memories of hate-inspired violence affect contemporary hate crime law? [article, with Ryan King, in American Journal of Sociology 2005]). They examine, on the other hand, the shaping of collective memory of atrocities through courts of law and alternative institutions (e.g., the Nuremberg Tribunal, the My Lai trial, truth commissions) (article in Tempo Social).
  • Research and publications on human rights, law and collective memory grew out of a long-standing line of work examining the role institutions play in the production of knowledge and the making of decisions regarding crime and punishment. Institutions of the state, law, scholarship and religion take different shape across nations and thus contribute to different patterns and dynamics of punishment (e.g., articles in American Journal of Sociology 1994, 2005; Punishment and Society 1999; Social Problems 2002; Law and Social Inquiry 2004; Social Forces 2004; Criminology 2004; Sociological Forum 2011).
  • Earlier work includes research on white-collar crime legislation (e.g., Constructing White-Collar Crime, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994) and sentencing guidelines (e.g., American Journal of Sociology 1992).


  • Media Interviews: Local, national, and international news media,
  • Harry J. Kalven Jr. Prize for “empirical scholarship that has contributed most effectively to the advancement of research in law and society.” Law & Society Association., 2021
  • Residential Fellowship, Paris Institute for Advanced Studies, February 2019 - June 2019
  • Residential Fellowship, Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), South Africa, July 2018 - December 2018
  • Albert J. Reiss, Jr. Distinguished Scholar Award, Section for Crime, Law and Deviance, Amerian Sociological Association, 2017
  • William J. Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award, Division for Law and Society, Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2017
  • Best Book Award, Theory Division. Society for the Study of Social Problems, for Representing Mass Violence, 2016
  • Distinguished Book Award, Division of International Criminology, American Society of Criminology, for Representing Mass Violence, 2016
  • Named Co-Editor of Law & Society Review, 2013 - 2016
  • Graduate Student Mentoring Award, 2006, 2013
  • Distinguished Book Award, Theory Division, Society for the Study of Social Problems (with Ryan King), for American Memories: Atrocities and the Law, 2012
  • Freda Adler Distinguished Scholar Award, International Division, American Society of Crimnology, 2012
  • Collaborative residency at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center: “Collective Criminality and Human Rights: Violence, Memory, Responsibility“ (with John Hagan [Sociology and Law, Northwestern University] & Jens Meierhenrich [Political Science, Harvard University])., July 8, 2010 - August 5, 2010
  • Rockefeller Bellagio Center Residency, 2010
  • Elected Fellow, American Society of Criminology, 2008
  • Section on Culture, American Sociological Association, Best Article Award, 2007
  • Law & Society Association, Best Article Award, 2006
  • Outstanding Faculty Award (for dedication to students and exemplary teaching ability); CLA Student Board, University of Minnesota, 1999
  • Distinguished Book Award, Division on International Criminology, American Society of Criminology, 1995
  • John F. Kennedy Memorial Fellowship, Harvard University, September 1987 - June 1988
  • Research Fellowship, The Johns Hopkins University and DAAD, September 1982 - June 1983