Call for Papers: Africa and the Cold War III

I’m co-organizing a conference to be held in Erfurt in September 2020 on Africa and the Cold War. It is the third conference in a series organized by Uni Erfurt and the University of Mekelle and this time we are joined by the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University and the University of Western Bohemia in Pilsen.

In general “we will examine a series of themes centring on geopolitics, the creation and contestation of borders, the establishment of international norms, environmental questions, and the transnational flow of people, ideas, and illicit goods. We aim to discuss the overlapping alignments and realignments on the global, regional, and local level, taking into account the superpowers, other external states, and African governments, but also non-state actors including international organisations such as the UN and Organisation of African Unity (OAU), international NGOs, opposition groups, and members of the civil society.”

You can read more about the event here: Africa and the Cold War III

New Article: Revisiting State Socialist Approaches to International Criminal and Humanitarian Law: An Introduction

A sneak preview of the introduction to a collection on state socialism and international law that I wrote with Raluca Grosescu is now available online from the Journal of the History of International Law. The complete collection should be available in a few weeks [Is now online!]


This introductory essay provides an overview of the scholarship on state socialist engagements with international criminal and humanitarian law, arguing for a closer scrutiny of the socialist world’s role in shaping these fields of law. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the historiography on post-1945 international law-making has been generally dominated by a post-1989 sense of Western triumphalism over socialism, where the Soviet Union and its allies have been presented as obstructionists of liberal progress. A wave of neo-Marxist scholarship has more recently sought to recover socialist legal contributions to international law, without however fully addressing them in the context of Cold War political conflict and of gross human rights violations committed within the Socialist Bloc. In contrast, this collection provides a balanced understanding of the socialist engagements with international criminal and humanitarian law, looking at the realpolitik agendas of state socialist countries while acknowledging their progressive contributions to the post-war international legal order.

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Course Syllabus in Progress: 20th Century Global History: International Crime and International Law

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a new Masters-level course on the history of international crime and international law that I will be teaching next semester. Comments or feedback are welcome!

The course description is:

“This course will examine the parallel rise of global international criminal networks and international legal systems to combat transnational illicit activity in the 20th century. Themes would include human trafficking, forced labour, narcotics, and money laundering alongside the international reform activism and diplomatic initiatives to create global legal responses to these issues. The course would encompass global and transnational historical methodology and develop students historiographical understanding of the interplay between black markets, social movements, and international relations.”

Session 1: International Law and International Crime as History

Session 2: How International is International Law?

  • Martti Koskenniemi, “Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism,” Rechtsgeschichte (2011).

Session 3: Globalization and Illicit Markets

  • Gilman et. al., Deviant Globalization: Black Market Economy in the 21st Century (2011).

Session 4: Global Systems (1) – Prohibition Regimes

  • Ethan A. Nadelmann, “Global Prohibition Regimes: The Evolution of Norms in International Society,” International Organization 44, no. 4 (1990).

Session 5: Global Systems (2) – Neo-Medievalism

  • Jörg Friedrichs, “The Neomedieval Renaissance: Global Governance and International Law in the New Middle Ages,” in Governance and International Legal Theory, eds. Dekker and Werner.

Session 6: Organized Crime as History

  • Cyrille Fijnaut, “Searching for Organized Crime in History,” in The Oxford Handbook of Organized Crime, ed. Letizia Paoli.
  • Edward Kleemans, “Criminal Organization and Transnational Crime,” in Histories of International Crime, ed. Gerben Bruinsma (2015).

Session 7: Migration (1) – White Slavery

  • Julia Laite, “Traffickers and Pimps in the Era of White Slavery,” Past and Present (2017)

 Session 8: Migration (2) – Human Trafficking

  • Marlou Schrover, “History of Slavery, Human Smuggling and Trafficking 1860–2010,” in Histories of International Crime, ed. Gerben Bruinsma (2015).

Session 9: Narcotics Trafficking (1) – Interwar Europe

  • Alan A. Block, “European Drug Traffic and Traffickers between the Wars: The Policy of Suppression and Its Consequences,” Journal of Social History 23, no. 2 (1989).

Session 10: Narcotics Trafficking (2) – Global South

  • Giovanni Molano Cruz, “A View from the South: The Global Creation of the War on Drugs,” Contexto Internacional 39, no. 3 (2017).

Session 10: Narcotics Trafficking (3) – Global Trade

  • Chantal Thomas, “Disciplining globalization: international law, illegal trade, and the case of narcotics,” Michigan Journal of International Law (2002).

Session 11: International Finance (1) – Counterfeiting

  • David Petrucelli, “Banknotes from the Underground: Counterfeiting and the International Order in Interwar Europe,” Journal of Contemporary History (2015).

Session 12: International Finance (2) – Offshore Money

  • Vanessa Ogle, “Archipelago Capitalism: Tax Havens, Offshore Money, and the State, 1950s–1970s,” The American Historical Review 122, no. 5 (2017).

Session 13: International Terrorism (1) – Assassinations

  • Ben Saul, “The Legal Response of the League of Nations to Terrorism,” Journal of International Criminal Justice 4, no. 1 (2006).

Session 14: International Terrorism (2) – Hijacking

  • Joseph Slaughter, “Hijacking Human Rights: Neoliberalism, the New Historiography, and the End of the Third World,” Human Rights Quarterly 40 (2018).

Global History of Human Rights since 1750 – An Annotated Syllabus

Since it’s human rights day, I thought I would share my syllabus for an undergrad seminar that I’m currently teaching at the University of Erfurt on the history of human rights. I’ve added some shot explanations of the logic behind the readings chosen for each week. Feel free to comment, critique or borrow liberally!

Session 1: Human Rights and History

General overview of the course matter (it’s the first day so it’s all pretty broad)

Session 2: Genealogies of Human Rights

  • Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, “Genealogies of Human Rights,” in Human Rights in the Twentieth Century, ed. SL Hoffmann Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, 1–28.

This is a dense first reading, but it provides a good sense of the scope of the field and lets students see the variety of themes we will be dealing with over the length of the course. In Germany, where seminars put an emphasis on historiography, it’s a great primer.

Session 3: 18th Century Revolutions

  • Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights, London: Norton, 2008. Chapter 3 pp. 113-145.

Hunt’s book provides an example of a teleological progress narrative of human rights beginning with the 18th century and the Enlightenment, and it introduces students to the history of emotions as a methodology.

Session 4: Unequal Revolutions (1)

  • Joan Wallach Scott. “French Feminists and the Rights of ‘Man’: Olympe de Gouges’s Declarations.” History Workshop 28 (Autumn, 1989), pp. 1-21.

I’ve got two lessons that are set up as a counter-point to progress narratives of the 18th century in order to center contemporary critics and to understand different forms of exclusion. Scott’s work delves into the exclusion of women from full citizenship and universalism and it also provides an introduction to gender theory. Continue reading

The Memorial Needles of Erfurt: It’s Hard to Please Everyone

Denknadel Plaque

In Germany and around the world, the last residence of persecuted Jews and other victims of Nazi terror are marked by small brass bricks called Stolpersteine – Stumbling Stones. There are more than 70,000 of these 10 by 10 cm stones installed in cobblestoned and paved sidewalks all made by hand by the artist Gunter Demnig who began the project back in 1992. It has now become common for many in Germany to mark the 9th of November – the anniversary of Kristallnacht – and the 27th of January – Holocaust Remembrance Day on the anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of Auschwitz – by polishing local Stolpersteine.

stolperstein ketchup

Stolpersteine are easy to clean using only expired ketchup and a toothbrush

While the Stolpersteine are ubiquitous across Germany, there are a few exceptions. The city of Munich banned the installation of new Stolpersteine in 2015 after claims that they were disrespectful of the dead, whose names were walked on by the living. In Erfurt, where I now work, the Stolpersteine are not banned, but instead the last known residence of Nazi victims is marked by a DenkNadel – a memorial needle. The civic group Erfurter GeDenken called for proposals in 2007 to create a uniquely Erfurt commemoration for the victims of Nazi terror and local artist Sophie Hollmann won the competition with her design: a silver cone topped by an orange ball as if it was a giant pushpin pressed into the street to mark the spot. The first set of DenkNadel were installed on November 9, 2009 with five more installed in the following years across the city.

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