“Vietnam/War/Memory/Justice: A Conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen,” Feb. 14 at Georgia Law

nguyenGeorgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center, for which I serve as director, will host a roundtable on the legacies of the U.S.-Vietnam War as part of next week’s visit here by Viet Thanh Nguyen, a University of Southern California professor whose first novel, The Sympathizer, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

nothingEntitled “Vietnam/War/Memory/Justice: A Conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen,” our roundtable will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. this Tuesday, February 14, in the Larry Walker Room on the 4th floor of the law school’s Dean Rusk Hall.

The topic of the roundtable is drawn from Nguyen’s 2016 work, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, which itself was nominated for the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction. (Nguyen’s newest book, a short-story collection titled The Refugees, was published yesterday.) In Nothing Ever Dies, Nguyen writes:

“Memory, like war, is often asymmetrical.”

The same may be said of justice; in particular, of efforts to right the wrongs done during armed conflict and similar extreme violence. These issues of transitional justice, memory, and war will be explored in the roundtable, at which Nguyen will be joined by:

tiana-mTiana S. Mykkeltvedt, Georgia Law alumna, member of the Dean Rusk International Law Center Council, and partner at the Atlanta law firm Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, who was flown out of Vietnam as an orphan in April 1975 in what came to be known as Operation Babylift; and

amann► Yours truly, Diane Marie Amann, Associate Dean for International Programs & Strategic Initiatives and Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law at Georgia Law, who also serves as the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict.

Roundtable space is limited, and registration, available here, is recommended. For more information, contact ruskintlaw@uga.edu.

Our Center is especially pleased to sponsor this event, given that our namesake, the late Dean Rusk, a Georgia Law professor, and served as U.S. Secretary of State during the first years of the Vietnam War. The Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Vietnamese American Bar Association of Georgia, and Georgia Law’s Asian Law Students Association are cosponsoring the roundtable. It will be the last in a series of Global Georgia events hosted by other university units, most notably the Department of Comparative Literature and the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts:

► 4 p.m. Monday, February 13, in the university Chapel, Nguyen will deliver the 3d Annual Betty Jean Craige Lecture of the Department of Comparative Literature, entitled “Nothing Ever Dies: Ethical Memory and Radical Writing in The Sympathizer.” For information, contact Professor Peter D. O’Neill at pon@uga.edu.

► 6-7 p.m. Sunday, February 12, at Avid Bookshop, 493 Prince Avenue in downtown Athens, a book-signing of The Refugees.

(Cross-posted from Exchange of Notes)

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Write On! Call for Papers: U.S. Naval War College

U.S. Naval War College (NWC) is issuing a ‘call for papers’ in preparation of its fifth annual Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Conference to be held, August 2017, at the college.

In an effort to gather theoretical and practical ideas from a wider audience not normally represented in a limited conference format, the conference series chair is soliciting papers from academics, researchers, military personnel, non-governmental organizations and individuals who have an interest or experience in issues pertaining to WPS.

“Conferences have limited room for participants,” said Mary Raum, NWC professor and chair of the WPS Conference series. “To have available, online and in the networked world, some quality thoughts on components of WPS from thinkers and practitioners who have a direct tie to the subjects being discussed is an invaluable resource.

“This call for papers will allow for a broader reach in exchanging ideas and enable us to network on a global scale – a first step for formalizing the sharing of ideas allied with conference precepts.”

Since the inception of the U.S. National Action Plan on WPS in 2011, NWC has been at the forefront of exploration into national and international issues involving WPS, working toward the goal of empowering women in conflict prevention and peace.

According to Raum, the conference continues to grow in perspective and scope to ensure the participation and inclusion of ideas from sister services and international partners across the globe.

“Any person tasked with protecting the national interest must be aware of the linkages between the security of women and the security of states,” said Raum. “They should also be aware of the broad-level interconnections of the role of WPS with military, economic and social freedoms around the globe.”

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Telling Places with Georgian IDPs

Photograph of Georgian IDP camp, copyright Hannah Mintek, 2010.

Telling Places with Georgian IDPs

Although it created new opportunities for many Soviet peoples, the end of Soviet rule also left many wounds unhealed, while creating new traumas. In the Caucasus, the post-Soviet decades were marked by frequent bloody conflict, from Chechnya to Nagorno-Karabakh to Abkhazia. Wars raged among Georgians, Russians, Ossetians, Chechens, Ingush, and Abkhazians over borders that had been contested since the advent of Soviet rule, if not earlier.

In the Republic of Georgia, one upshot of over two decades of violence is the nearly 300,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who now reside a country with a total population of 4.6 million. How can these IDPs be integrated into Georgian society, and move on with their lives, given all the damage that has been inflicted by war and the fact that many of them still lack permanent homes? How, in short, do people build new lives after catastrophe?

A new project I am organizing with geographer Elizabeth Dunn of Indiana University, “Telling Places: Forced Migration and Spatial Memory in the Caucasus,” seeks a partial resolution to the emotional upheavals of the 2008 Georgian-Russian war. In partnership with Georgian NGOs and Georgian scholars, we will use digital mapping technologies (GIS) to create a resource that will be eventually managed by IDPs. This resource will provide a transferable technology usable by IDP communities around the world seeking to reconstruct their lives.

We are calling this resource a ‘convening point’ rather than a website, given the degree of interactivity we envision. The Telling Places convening point will interactively map the villages from which IDPs were ethnically cleansed, and keep the pasts these villages represent for IDPs alive in digital form. As a spatially-organized multi-media repository, Telling Places will gather interviews, video, and writings by IDPs with the family documents and maps that IDPs have preserved during their displacement. This resource will help IDPs rebuild their attachments to their home villages and preserve their memories for future generations.

 

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Transitional Justice: What is the role of law in bringing imaginative and imaginary peace to Colombia?

This blog post is based on a reflection presented at the “Transitional Justice as Legal Field, Site and Imagination” panel at the Transnational Law Summer Institute, Kings College, London June 29, 2016. I am grateful to Prabha Kotiswaran and Peer Zumbansen for the invitation.  

What is the role of law in bringing imaginative and imaginary peace to Colombia?

June 23 2016 was described by Colombian and international media as the “last day of the war”, adopting FARC’s hashtag #ElÚltimoDíaDeLaGuerra. The signing of a bilateral ceasefire between the Colombian government and FARC formally ended hostilities in the world’s longest running war. The signing of a peace agreement is expected to take place during the summer of 2016.

To the overlapping academic fields of human rights, transitional justice and post-conflict reconstruction, the sophisticated Colombian transitional justice process is attractive and will likely be highly influential for the coming decade, both as an example of success and of failure. There is also a significant risk that scholars (outside Colombia) will embrace the Colombian experience either deterministically — as an example of systemic yet de-historicized power imbalances — or as a fantastical  and outsized legal progress narrative that can serve as an endless source of political models, constitutional processes and legal arguments suitable for embellishing the transitional justice juggernaut.

My argument in the following is based on one big supposition: I will put forward the idea that approached from a law and social change perspective, the Colombian transitional justice project is necessarily a failure foreseen.

“Everybody” knows that positive peace is not going to happen through legislation, decisions by a progressive Colombia Constitutional Court or the signing of a formal agreement. This Everybody also knows that if positive peace happens, it will not happen soon.  At the same time, it is easy to imagine that a year from now, politicians, ordinary Colombians, pundits and academics will dismiss the transitional justice legislation and the peace agreement as partial or total failures for their inability to perform the impossible expected by the Everybody; namely ending violence, providing reparations and changing the structural inequality that is the source of much of the violence.

However, I think that precisely at this juncture, as a community professionally engaged in the business of imagining peace and transitional justice, we need to reflect on what the critical takeaways from and beyond this failure foreseen could be. We may find that imagined and imaginative outcomes turn out to be imaginary. But this is not enough, it’s not even a starting point. We need to go beyond that.

Hence, after briefly describing the Colombian peace process, I will map out three sets of issues that could serve as tentative points of departure for critical reflection. This includes:

  • How we can gauge the meaning of the Colombian transitional justice process for Colombian citizenry, citizenship and the state;
  • The implications of Colombia being both outlaw and legal outlier for how we consider the role and place of the law in creating durable peace;
  • A first attempt to think through some of the general lessons Colombia can have for transitional justice practice and scholarship.

Peace and conflict as statecraft

The armed conflict between the government and FARC began in 1964. Separate negotiations have previously led to the demobilization of smaller guerillas (MAQL, M-19; EPL) and an agenda for formal negotiations has now been agreed with ELN.  However, Colombia has been at war or seen violent societal conflict for most of the time since the late 1890s. Colombian peace processes and attempts at political, legal and land reform are a fixture of Colombian statecraft. The last round of peace talks with FARC ended with fiasco in 2002. From 2003 president Uribe engaged in a much-criticized effort to demobilize the paramilitary AUC, with a basis in the 2005 Justice and Peace Law. Despite its shortcomings, it must be remembered that this framework has provided a platform for the current process.

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Go On! IBA Conference ‘Legal Challenges to Modern Warfare,’ The Hague, 30-31 Jan. 2016

The 2016 International Bar Association (IBA) annual conference on international criminal law will focus on “Legal Challenges to Modern Warfare.” The conference will be held in The Hague on 30 and 31 January 2016.

The conference is the second in as many years organized in by the IBA’s War Crimes Committee, which is chaired by UK barristers Jonathan Grimes and Steven Kay QC. Last year’s event—titled “Legal Challenges for 2015”—introduced what has become the overarching theme for this fledgling series, and featured discussions on highly topical issues affecting the global order, such as determining what constitutes aiding and abetting in the context of Islamic State’s financing activities, and the legal aspects of ongoing conflicts in the Crimea, the Middle East and Sri Lanka. The interactive format of the panels, based on the notable BBC political talk show Question Time, spurred lively debates, and drew the audience members in to a conversation they otherwise would have simply watched as observers.

The 2016 conference promises to be just as dynamic, with the organizers adopting the same format, and the choice of a fresh set of timely subject matters. The programme includes panels on targeted missile attacks, and supporting sides in the context of regime change, both directly relevant to the ongoing Syrian conflict, which has seen aerial bombings of ostensibly military or hostile targets by foreign governments, and an unending debate on the international scene over the geo-strategic (if not moral) merits of supporting one side of the conflict over the other(s).

One important panel is scheduled to discuss the contentious topic of peacekeepers’ responsibilities and liabilities, which has caused considerable ink to be spilled not only in academic publications, but in courtrooms and the press as well. Most recently, a decision by a United States District Court, now in appeal, found that the United Nations is immune in a lawsuit filed following a cholera breakout in Haiti alleged to have been caused by its peacekeeping force. This case, coupled with galvanizing leaked reports of sexual misconduct by French peacekeeping forces in Central African Republic, could generate interesting arguments on the legal value of international organization’s privileges and immunities and their duty to provide an appropriate mode of settlement for private law matters.

Other panels will look at new methods of warfare, cyber warfare being one, and the ever-evolving ways of dealing with those who engage in them. The participants at the conference will be treated in any event to a stimulating exchange of ideas and the chance to hear, meet and exchange with some of the top experts in the field.

Online registration and the preliminary conference program are available at: http://goo.gl/tDKE3Q

Write On! Call for Abstracts: Gender and Global Warfare in the Twentieth Century

Gender and History has issued a Call for Abstracts for their Special Issue (November 2016) on “Gender and Global Warfare in the Twentieth Century,” edited by Louise Edwards (UNSW Australia), Martha Hanna (University of Colorado), and Patricia M. E. Lorcin (University of Minnesota).

Gender & History calls for article abstracts for a special issue addressing ‘Gender and Global Warfare in the Twentieth Century’. Although the occasion for this special issue is the centenary of the First World War, we are interested in contributions that provide a gendered analysis of modern warfare across the globe and throughout the twentieth century, as well as articles relating to the First World War era in particular. Scholarly contributions to the literature on gender and war are usually restricted to a specific war in a specific place, but the memory and trauma of past wars shape the politics, cultures and societies in post-war periods and create the basis on which future wars are waged, experienced or perceived. We welcome papers that consider these connections by exploring the gendered implications of global warfare, and also papers that connect the First World War era with subsequent wars. We encourage potential contributors to consider larger questions of how gender analysis challenges or changes some of the categories that routinely inform war studies. We invite work that falls under one or more of the following rubrics: gendering engagement and resistance, sexuality and violence, politics and culture, memory and trauma, health practices and medicine, and ideologies of war.

The production of the special issue will follow a symposium, to be held at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in late April or early May 2015 (date to be announced), whose participants will be selected on the basis of the abstracts submitted.

Please submit 1-2 page abstracts in English (500-750 words maximum) to gendhist@umn.edu by October 1, 2014, with ‘Special Issue 28:3 abstract submission’ in the subject line (limited funds for the translation of articles written in other languages might be available). Invitations to present at the symposium will be issued in November 2014. Papers must be submitted for pre-circulation to the editors by March 30, 2015, as a condition of participation.

Interested authors are encouraged to consult the extended version of this call for abstracts on the Gender & History website at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1468-0424.

‘Yesterday I lost a country’: Kathleen Cavanaugh on Iraq

Since 2003, Iraq has experienced significant political unrest and the emergence of ethno-religious divisions, writes Kathleen Cavanaugh of the National University of Ireland, Galway, over at OUPblog:

The ‘fear of sectarianism’ has undoubtedly shaped and formed how protest movements in Iraq (and indeed regionally) are constituted. There is a rootedness in the identity politics of the region, a ready-made framework within which these divisions are articulated. …

Politically, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has used the past seven years to consolidate his power. … Yet there are cracks in al-Maliki’s power base and despite significant popular support in the polls, political challenges to his increasingly authoritarian rule and his Baghdad-centered governance (and policies) are growing. Within the legal landscape, despite notions of equality and rights embedded in the 2005 Iraqi Constitution and its accession to the UN Convention Against Torture in 2011, serious human rights violations remain, including the arrest and detention of persons “for prolonged periods without being charged and without access to legal counsel [as well as] prisoner and detainee abuse and torture.” …

[T]en years after the US invasion, what remains is not just a democratic deficit in Iraq, but a society and political system that is fractured and bruised. … Whatever leadership emerges in 2014, shedding historical hangovers and reimagining a political community that counter and undo the politics of sectarianism, in practice and discourse, will be a formidable task.

More at OUPblog.

(Image credit: Cross by Caroline Jaine)