Joachim J Savelsberg
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.
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, 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, and the Käte-Hamburger Center for Advanced Study “Law as Culture" (Bonn). My publications have appeared in (or been translated into) English, German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese. Movements across continents have inspired insights into globalization and cross-national comparison.
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, examines struggles over the writing of history and the formation of collective memories through legislative and legal proceedings for the case of the Armenian genocide.
A just published 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).