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Joachim J Savelsberg

Sociology 1144 Soc Sci 267 19th Ave S

Department Affiliations


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 online-open access 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 is forthcoming with Vittorio Klostermann Publ., Frankfurt.

The latter book grew out of a just completed 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 stand in the context of a line of work that explores the reciprocal relationship between collective memory and law in previous article length publications (e.g., article with Ryan King in Annual Review of Law and Social Science 2007). On the one hand I am concerned with 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]). On the other hand I seek to explore 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).

Previous 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).


  • Knowledge, Memory & Representations
  • Law, Crime & Punishment
  • Human Rights
  • Comparative
  • Theory

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.


Research Activities

  • Dynamics between denial and the fight for acknowledgment of victimization, specifically genocide: Legal and legislative battles in the Armenian case (supported by the Archam and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair).

Professional Activities

  • Co-editor (with T.R. Johnson, Political Science): Law & Society Review , 2014 - 2016
  • 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

Outreach Activities

  • Media Interviews: Local, national, and international news media


  • Named Co-Editor of Law & Society Review, 2013 - 2016
  • Graduate Student Mentoring Award, 2006, 2013
  • Outstanding Book Award, 2012
  • 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

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
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