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Call for papers
ACTS OF JUSTICE, PUBLIC EVENTS: WORLD WAR II CRIMINALS ON TRIAL
Prague, 12–14 October 2017
The tensions between the legal and historical nature of such trials shall not only be studied
through the intents and practices of the political and legal authorities, but also through the part
played by the other co-makers of the event. Special emphasis will be put for instance on the search
for perpetrators by former victims who called on investigative bodies to bring them to justice, on
the involvement of commemorative associations in organizing the trials, on the reactions of the
public, on the media coverage of the trials. Sometimes, the readers of the newspapers which
published such promotional materials, demanded heavier sentences and a large coverage of the
prosecutions of war criminals. Was such public participation only organized from the top?
Moreover, legal and media actors, witnesses and memory communities took part in the shaping of
WWII narratives promoted in the public space in part by legal action.
If we consider these trials as social facts, another challenge must be met that concerns more
specifically the trials taking place in the East of Europe, in the states undergoing Soviet
satellization. An analytical method seeks to understand how public space was thought up in socialist
regimes. Benefiting from the outcomes of the research led on the forms of autonomy of social
actors under socialism, we strive to intertwine this perspective with a comparative approach as we
investigate the trials taking place in Eastern and Western Europe. Such approach will enable to deal
both with the political dimension of public trials and with the forms of mobilization of professional
and social actors in the context of the Cold War.
The political time frame pertaining to each country will be taken into consideration. For
instance, the legacy of the Soviet trials of the 1930s shall not be overlooked, although the
transformations introduced in the after-war should not be underestimated. How were such trials of
crimes against humanity employed in order to consolidate the internal legitimacy of the various
regimes, to unfold political pedagogy and stir popular participation within the societal project aimed
at? Did individual requests or popular unrest influence the choice to make these trials public or not?
The proposed method should enable to position them in connection with the national narratives on
WWII cast after the war and to give a sense of the responses according to the various types of
The conference will be built around three research topics. Which professional, institutional and
individual actors got involved as these trials unfolded within the different historical and national
contexts, and what was the extent of their autonomy? To what political and social aims did the
publicization practices of these trials answer to? How did the arts and the press media shape the
reception of these trials?
I. The first research topic of this conference shall be devoted to identifying of the involved actors,
and to understanding the forms and extent of their involvement, and the mutual interactions of such
actors with uneven political and symbolic assets. It shall follow the steps of the publicization of the
trials: the mobilization of actors (broadly speaking, e.g. including close and distant audiences of the
trials); the making of media (films, photography exhibitions, etc.); the reception.
Papers dealing with the following topics will be especially welcome: what relationships did political
makers engage with the population? What could prompt new actors (institutional, associative…) to
get involved as the trials were set up? What interactions can be observed during the reception of
these trials? In socialist regimes, could the political pedagogy conducted by political authorities
during the trials stir social initiatives? According to which criteria, the degrees of the autonomy of
the bottom up legal elaboration can be determined for different national contexts?
II. The second research topic shall investigate the aims granted by the State to such public trials and
their political consequences. The reinterpretation of WWII during the trials stands out within the
range of legitimacy strategies followed by the State. Was the public nature of these trials connected
with commemorative endeavours, even with small-scaled investigations? More broadly, how were
such decisions to make these trials public received? In this wake, what practices were unfolded by
legal and professional actors or by witnesses? What spaces of autonomy were at stake as knowledge
and expertises met? What pedagogy of power can be disclosed as the work of the legal system
received such emphasis?
III. Special focus shall be put in a third topic area on the communication tools used to cover the
trials and on their content. Connecting studies on cinema, the written press, the radio, leaflets, and
the arts, can help understanding the specificity and temporality of the usages of each medium.
Media professionals, who put into words and images the portraits of the victims, the perpetrators
and the witnesses, shall be put under scrutiny, along with the processes they resorted to. How did
they interact with the know-how and the documentation that were provided by other professional
actors implied in setting up the legal procedures? In which social, political and professional
contexts did the visual and textual representations get shaped? How did the media impact the trial
dramaturgy, the attorneys, judges, defendants and witnesses?2 What portraits of the public did they
sketch? Observing the possible correlations, or even confrontations, between the ‘legal dramaturgy’
elaborated by legal actors and the police, on the one hand, by the media on the other, shall be at the
core of this topic.
Papers can consist in case studies of trials or approach transversal dynamics can focus on types of
involved actors, forms of public engagement and of mediatization of the trials. The analysis of
international dimensions of such trials is particularly welcome, both in terms of aims sought by a
large-scale media coverage and in terms of international exchange of information, legal know-how,
The language of the conference and its proceedings will be English.
Please send by the 30 of March 2017 a 300 word proposal in English including a title, along with a
selective bibliography and a short resume to:
Submission of proposals: 30 March 2017
Notification of acceptance/refusal: 1 June 2017
Dates of the colloquium: 12–14 October 2017
Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the organizers in priority for researchers
Deadline for applications: 30 March 2017
Notification: 1 June 2017
Time and Venue: 12–14 October 2017, Prague
This conference originates from the encounter of three projects: a Russian-French project on trials
in the USSR (FMSH/RGNF), the micro-project of the Labex Création, Arts, Patrimoines ‘Images de
la justice”, and the WW2CRIMESONTRIAL1943-1991 project supported by the French National
Research Agency, whose first step it is.
Partners: Centre Marc Bloch, CERCEC, CEFR, CERHEC, GDR Europe médiane, and CEFRES.
Scientific Committee: D. Astashkin, A. Blum, A. Kichelewski, S. Lindeperg, F. Mayer, G.
Mouralis, M. Steinle, I. Tcherneva
Audrey Kichelewski : email@example.com
Irina Tcherneva: firstname.lastname@example.org