School of Historical Studies / School of Law
Conference, 21 23 September 2011, University of Leicester, UK
Call for Abstracts
Proposals are sought for an interdisciplinary conference entitled:
A Contextual View of Genocidal Intent
This conference seeks to investigate one of the most important aspects of the phenomenon of genocide: intent, an element which the International Law Commission recognised as the "distinguishing characteristic" of genocide. But aspects of intent its very concept, its significance for the disciplines which engage in genocide studies and the individual elements it comprises, are subject of considerable controversy.
In historical studies, the very question whether the phenomenon of genocide requires intent, has given rise to passionate debate. To many scholars who approach genocide from the social sciences, it is not acceptable that in some cases accusations of genocide should be dismissed because the intent to target a protected group as such cannot be established. The necessity of intent moves to the very centre of debate in case studies as diverse as ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian war, colonial wars against Native Americans and the African slave trade.
Genocide scholars who examine the crime from its psychological background, have for a long time considered the intent of various groups and perpetrators which are involved in shaping the context of genocidal campaigns: instigators, followers and by-standers to the events. At the core of their investigations are often questions which go beyond the restrictions of a purely legal analysis: aspects such as motives for genocide occupy a prominent space.
International criminal law proceeds on the basis of the Genocide Convention which stipulates that the perpetrator has to have the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a racial, religious, ethnic or national group as such". But questions about the precise standard of intent (a cognitive or a volitional basis?), about the interpretation of the words "in whole or in part" and about acceptable evidence for genocidal intent, continue to have considerable influence on the current debate and often enough receive contradictory treatment by the international criminal tribunals.
This conference will take an interdisciplinary approach by bringing together scholars from various disciplines to debate genocidal intent and its significance, but also to challenge the various concepts which were developed by different schools. By so doing, it will not only promote mutual understanding of one of the most significant crimes on the international scene, but will also aid in the formulation of strategies to deal with the phenomenon of genocide itself.
The conference themes are informed by the various questions which genocidal intent raises. This includes (but is not limited to) the following key points which will be subjected to discussion:
Is intent of importance to all disciplines which debate genocide?
Does intent necessarily lead to genocide in the social sense of the term?
What motives induce the formation of intent?
Is a mere knowledge standard sufficient for the assumption of intent?
Is the intent to remove a group from a territory the same as the intent to destroy it?
Is the intent of "bystanders" of importance?
What is acceptable evidence for genocidal intent?
Professor William Schabas (Director of the Irish Centre of Human Rights and author of Genocide in International Law) will be one of the keynote speakers at the conference.
Abstracts are invited from all disciplines and to all aspects of this field of research, to be submitted to Dr Olaf Jensen (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr Paul Behrens (email@example.com). Abstracts should be no longer than 1 A4 page. The organisers intend to publish all accepted conference papers as part of a book series on genocide and the Holocaust.
Closing date for abstracts: Monday, 16 May 2011
Notification: by Monday, 23 May 2011
Registration proceedings: July / August 2011
Submission of papers (first draft): 12 September 2011
Conference: 21 23 September 2011
Dr Olaf Jensen
Director Stanley Burton Centre
for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
School of Historical Studies
University of Leicester
Leicester LE1 7RH
Office Tel.: 0116-252-2809
School Office: 0116-252-2802
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