From June 24 to 26, 2015, the JUDGEPOL project organized a Summer School on political violence, in collaboration with the Global Justice Academy and HCA. Dr Mathias Thaler (PIR) and Dr Niall Whelehan from History planned and convened this event. Their preparatory research was funded through two different Marie Curie grants. 18 doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty from more than 10 countries were chosen through a competitive selection process. Five of those received scholarships and fee waivers to ensure attendance.
The three days were dedicated to a multi-disciplinary and comparative debate about political violence, bringing into a conversation voices from law, history and political theory. Each of these days comprised morning sessions with staff from Edinburgh (Prof Christine Bell, Prof Donald Bloxham) and abroad (Prof Kimberly Hutchings, London; Prof Elizabeth Frazer, Oxford; Prof Manfred Nowak, Vienna; and Prof John Horne, Dublin), as well as afternoon sessions with research-based presentations from the participants.
On the first day, legal perspectives on political violence were examined. Both Prof Nowak and Prof Bell connected theoretical explorations of international law to their professional and personal experiences in post-conflict societies. The second day focused on historical perspectives and brought together reflections on the emergence of paramilitaries in the aftermath of WWI (Prof Horne) with a detailed analysis of escalating mass atrocities, from the Armenian genocide to the Holocaust (Prof Bloxham). Finally, the last day dealt with perspectives from political theory. Prof Hutchings and Prof Frazer made use of innovative methods in participatory teaching to probe ideas on what constitutes political violence and how, if at all, we may draw a line between politics and violence.
The participants’ presentations in the afternoon revealed the manifold and interesting ways in which political violence can be approached in today’s scholarly landscape. From the recruitment strategies of Kenyan terrorist organizations to a critical reading of left-wing endorsements of non-violence in the US to the practical difficulties of contemporary resistance, a broad range of topics was scrutinized during the Summer School. The faculty members offered generous and constructive feedback on the presentations and helped facilitate discussions of wider relevance.
The social programme included an evening event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, a guided historic tour of Edinburgh and a closing dinner. The feedback from the participants indicates that the Summer School initiative was very well received and will be extended in future years, perhaps again with a multi-disciplinary and comparative orientation.