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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 completed book manuscript is entitled "Representing Mass Violence: Human Rights and Struggles over Darfur in a Globalizing World." It 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. English and German language versions are under contract.

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).


  • law
  • collective memory
  • sociology of knowledge
  • criminology
  • criminal punishment
  • sociological theory
  • Max Weber
  • Germany, Europe

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.


  • (with Suzy McElrath) “Crime, Law and Regime Change.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 10:259-279, 2014.
  • (with Ryan D. King and Yu-Ju Chien) “The Narrative Potential of Criminal Trials: War Crimes before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia“ (German). Zeitschrift für Rechtssoziologie Vol. 33, No. 2, 2014.
  • (with Meghan Zacher and Hollie Nyseth Brehm) “NGOs, IOs, and the ICC: Diagnosing and Framing Darfur.” Sociological Forum, Vol. 29, No 2, pp. 29-51, 2014.
  • “Human Rights Violations in Criminal Courts.” Encyclopedia for Criminology and Criminal Justice, edited by Gerben Bruinsma and David Weisburd. Springer, pp. 2371-2382, 2014.
  • “Institutional and Historical Explanations of Criminal Punishment.” Encyclopedia for Criminology and Criminal Justice, edited by Gerben Bruinsma and David Weisburd. Springer, pp. 2542-2552, 2014.
  • "Trials, Collective Memory, and Prospects of Human Rights.” In: Tribunals, edited by Werner Gephart et al. Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, pp. 117-136, 2014.
  • Savelsberg, Joachim J (2013). “Review Essay on Aryeh Neier’s The International Human Rights Movement: A History” . Law & Social Inquiry, 38, 512-37. Link
  • Savelsberg, Joachim J (2013). "Highlights in the Sociology of Law: Globalizing Law and Penalizing Human Rights Violations". Contemporary Sociology, 42, 167-176. Link
  • Savelsberg, Joachim J, Lara L. Cleveland (2013). “Law and Society” . Oxford Bibliography Online: Sociology. Oxford University Press. Link
  • Savelsberg, Joachim J, Hollie Nyseth (2012). “Collective Representations of Atrocities and National Identity: The Case of Darfur”. Crossing Borders, Shifting Boundaries, 149-76.
  • Savelsberg, Joachim J (2012). “Crime, Law and Deviance”. Handbook of Sociology and Human Rights, Link
  • American Memories: Atrocities and the Law. Savelsberg, Joachim, Ryan D. King, Russell Sage Foundation, Author, 2011. Link Download
  • “Franz Kafka: Bureaucracy, Law and Abuses of the “˜Iron Cage’.“ : Savelsberg, Joachim, Praeger, Sociological Insights of Great Thinkers, edied by Ch. Edling and J. Rydgen, 45-53, 2011.
  • "American Criminology meets Collins: Intellectual Change in a Policy-oriented Field.": Savelsberg, Joachim, Sarah M. Flood, Sociological Forum, 26 21-44, 2011.
  • Crime and Human Rights: Criminology of Atrocities and Genocide. Savelsberg, Joachim, London: Sage, Author, 2010. Link Image
  • "Legal Systems.": Savelsberg, Joachim, Sage, Encyclopedia of Global Studies, 2010.
  • The Social Organization of Denial and Acknowledgement.“ (in French) (Review essay on S. Cohen’s States of Denial: Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering): Savelsberg, Joachim, Actes de la Recherche en Science Sociales, 173 110-118, 2008.
  • Punitiveness in Cross-national Comparison: Toward a Historically and Institutionally Founded Multi-Factorial Approach: Savelsberg, Joachim, Bochum: Brockmeyer, International Perspectives on Punitivity, 2008.
  • Law and Collective Memory: Savelsberg, Joachim, Ryan D. King, Annual Reviews, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 3 181-211, 2007.
  • Human Rights Violations, Law, and Collective Memory: Toward a Research Agenda (in Portuguese): Savelsberg, Joachim, Tempo Social: Revista de Sociologia da USP, 19 , 2007.
  • Between Worlds: Marginalities, Comparisons, Sociology: Savelsberg, Joachim, Aldershot: Ashgate, Sociologists in a Global Age: Biographical Perspectives, 2007.
  • Does Blau and Moncada’s Human Rights Law Fit World Society?“ (comment on Judith Blau/Alberto Moncada and John Hagan/Ron Levi): Savelsberg, Joachim, Sociological Forum, 22(4) , 2007.
  • Global Processes, National Institutions, Local Bricolage: Shaping Law in an Era of Globalization: Savelsberg, Joachim, with Marion Fourcade, Law and Social Inquiry, 31(3): 513-519, 2006.
  • Sociological Theory in the Study of Sentencing: Lighthouse for a Traveler between Continents: Savelsberg, Joachim, Elsevier Science, Sociological Theory and Criminological Reseach: Views from Europe and the United States, 185-204, 2006.
  • Overcoming Narrow, Distorted and Unconscious Adoption of Theory in Criminology: Savelsberg, Joachim, Special issue of Crime, Law, and Social Change, 46(1-2) , 2006.
  • Underused Potentials for Criminology: Applying the Sociology of Knowledge to Terrorism. Savelsberg, Joachim, Author, 2006.
  • Institutionalizing Collective Memories of Hate: Law and Law Enforment in Germany and the United States: Savelsberg, Joachim, Ryan D. King, American Journal of Sociology, 111(2): 579-616, 2005.
  • Religion, Historical Contingencies, and Criminal Punishment: The German Case and Beyond: Savelsberg, Joachim, Law and Social Inquiry, 29(2): 373-401, 2004.
  • Institutional Environments and Scholarly Work: American Criminology, 1951-1993: Savelsberg, Joachim, Lara Cleveland, Ryan D. King, Social Forces, 82(4): 1275-1302, 2004.
  • Criminological Knowledge: Period and Cohort Effects in Scholarship: Savelsberg, Joachim, with Flood, S., Criminology, 42(4): 1009-1041, 2004.
  • Politicized Scholarship? Science on Crime and the State: Savelsberg, Joachim, Ryan D. King, Lara Cleveland, Social Problems, 2002.
  • Dialectics of Norms in Modernization: Savelsberg, Joachim, The Sociological Quarterly, 2002.
  • Mutual Engagement? Criminology and Sociology: Savelsberg, Joachim, Robert J. Sampson, Crime, Law, and Social Change, 2002.
  • Cultures of Control in Modern Societies: Savelsberg, Joachim, Law and Social Inquiry, 2002.
  • Cultures of Punishment: USA-Germany. Savelsberg, Joachim, Die Vermessung Kultureller Unterschiede, Opladen: Westdeutscher, 2000.
  • Contradictions, Law, and State Socialism: Savelsberg, Joachim, Law and Social Inquiry, 25 1021-1048, 2000.
  • Human Nature and Social Control in Complex Society: Critiquing 'Control Balance': Savelsberg, Joachim, Theoretical Criminology, 3 331-338, 1999.
  • Knowledge, Dominaton and Criminal Punishment Revisitied, Incorporating State Socialism: Savelsberg, Joachim, Punishment and Society, 1 45-70, 1999.
  • Knowledge, Domination and Criminal Punishment: Savelsberg, Joachim, The Sociology of Punishment, Dartmouth, 239-272, 1998.

Research Activities

  • Legal and Legislative Struggles over the Memory of the Armenian Genocide: Supported by the Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair, 2014 - 2016
  • Collective Representations and Memories after Judicial Intervention: The Case of Darfur in International Comparison.: National Science Foundation, January 2010 - August 2012
  • Collective Violence, Liability and Collective Memory.: Collaborative Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Residential Fellowship (with John Hagan and Jens Meierhenrich), July 8, 2010 - August 5, 2010
  • Collective Memory and Hate Crime Law: supported by CLA, this collaborative work with (former) doctoral advisee Ryan D. King, now on the faculty of the University at Albany/SUNY, examined effects of collective memory on hate crime law in Germany and the US, 2002 - 2004
  • Gender-Specific Period, Cohort, and Institutional Effects in the Production of Criminological Knowledge: National Science Foundation funded project supported dissertation research of Sarah Flood, an advisee on gender and scholarly work, 2004 - 2005
  • Institutions, Knowledge, and Criminal Punishment: this research agenda, comprised of several specific projects, is concerned with the impact institutional arrangements have on the development of ideas and policies (case: crime and punishment), 1990s - 2000s
  • Knowledge Shifts in the Study of Crime and Criminal Justice: National Science Foundation funded project examined the effects of political funding and scholarly specialization on the criminological research agenda, 1993 - 1995
  • Crime and Criminal Justice under Conditions of Basic Societal Change: supported by the Volkswagen Foundation, this project examined changes in crime and punishment during the East European transformation, 1993 - 1994

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


  • 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
  • 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

  • Soc 4977V - Senior Honors Proseminar I
  • Soc 4978V - Senior Honors Proseminar II
  • Soc 8701 - Sociological Theory
  • Soc 8090 - Sociology of Knowledge
  • Soc 5135 - Sociology of White-collar Crime
  • Soc 5101 - Sociology of Law
  • Soc 4102 - Criminology
  • Hsem 3050 - Honors Seminar: Knowledge
  • Hsem 3030 - Honors Seminar: Crime and Revolution in Eastern Europe
Alternative Output Formats Alternative Output Formats