Following the observation of Western states not addressing mass atrocities around the world, silence in foreign policy consitutes the central focus of this research project. Researchers at the professorship deal with ontological, epistemological and methodological questions around the topic of silence in foreign policy, aiming towards developing a theory. To this end, the behavior and discourse of Western states with regards to current and historical mass atrocities is examined. Empirical case studies range from recent mass atrocities committed in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar to colonial-era mass crimes.
Ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, war crimes in Yemen, crimes against humanity in South Sudan, genocide in China - crimes under international law continue to unfold around the world. Notably after the horros of the Second World War, the international community pledged to condemn mass atrocity crimes. Nonetheless, mass crimes continue to prevail and are insufficiently addressed both in terms of their occurrence and aftermath rehabilitations, as well as in the insurrection of preventative measures. Adequate political actions would require debates in politics and media, but these often fail to emerge. Germany thereby serves as a prime example: Despite the historically constituted 'German responsibility' and the unprecedented coming to terms with the crimes of the Holocaust, a cloak of silence covers German foreign policy vis-à-vis current mass crimes. However, this silence in foreign policy is not only observable in Germany, but also leads to numerous other theoretical, conceptual and methodological research desiderata beyond the German case.
Since 2018, and more intensively within the scope of a research pool that was established in 2019, researchers of the professorship are concerned with the theme of silence in foreign policy. As of now, researchers developed a systematic literature database listing various works on silence and approaches to it from the fields of social sciences and humanities (philosophy, theology, psychology, history, memory studies, sociology, communication studies, cultural anthropology, intercultural communication, political science).
Within foreign policy research, the topic of silence has been marginalised so far. Therefore, the project focuses on the intersection of mass crimes, silence and foreign policy. It aims to grasp and understand national foreign policies in their entirety, i.e. also with regard to silence and silencing. In particular, the following questions serve as guidance for the project:
- What is silence in foreign policy?
- How can silence in foreign policy be grasped methodically?
- When are foreign policy events (mass crimes) silenced?
- Why are foreign policy events (mass crimes) silenced?
Have we aroused your interest in the research project "Silencing of Mass Crimes"?
If you would like to find out more, or are thinking about a potential cooperation, please get in touch with Prof. Stahl (Bernhard.Stahl@uni-passau.de). For further information, any public events or workshops are published on the website.
Students are encouraged to attend courses on the topic; you can find current seminars and lectures under Courses. Prof. Stahl is also interested in supervising final theses on the topic of silence, mass crimes and foreign policy. For further information, please consult Examination and Theses.
Publications and working papers
- Hering, Robin/Stahl, Bernhard (2022). When mass atrocities are silenced: Germany and the cases of Yemen, South Sudan, and Myanmar. Journal of International Relations and Development. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41268-022-00254-2
- Augsten, Pauline/Glassner, Sebastian/Rall, Jenni (2022): The Myth of Responsibility. Colonial Cruelties and Silence in German Political Discourse. In: Global Studies Quaterly 2(2), 1-12. doi.org/10.1093/isagsq/ksab040
- Stahl, B. (2020, Dezember 10). Lautes Schweigen. IPG-Journal. https://www.ipg-journal.de/rubriken/aussen-und-sicherheitspolitik/artikel/lautes-schweigen-4860/
- Hering, R. & Stahl B.: From Kosovo Rush to Mass Atrocities' Hush. German Debates in Historical Perspective (t.b.p.)
Subprojects and focus areas
- Silence on colonial atrocities (case study: Maji Maji Rebellion)
- Silence in British foreign policy (case study: Yemen, South Sudan, Myanmar)
- Silence in German foreign policy (case study: China, Yemen, South Sudan)
- Theory on silence in foreign policy
- Methods for researching foreign policy silence
Currently, the research focus is on empirical case studies on the silencing of mass crimes by German, French and British foreign policy. In addition, work is being done on a theoretical conceptualization of silence in international politics and on the creation of a "method pool" to make silence tangible, especially in the context of mass crimes. In exchange with other researchers, networking with related disciplines as well as with experts from the field is advanced through events, workshops and meetings.
In the following you will find reports on current events as well as on the progress of the project:
The professorship hosted a workshop on the topic of silence and mass atrocities titled "When the West Falls Silent" on 3rd and 4th of June 2021. The 2-day workshop aimed to bring together researchers on the topic of silence and mass atrocities and to collect and discuss theoretical and empirical approaches. The invited speakers included Dr. Sophia Dingli (University of Glasgow), Prof. Dr. Erica Resende (Brazilian War College), Dr. Elisabeth Schweiger (University of York) and Dr. Melani Schröter (University of Reading) as well as Member of the German Bundestag, Margarete Bause from the Greens. The first day was dedicated to theoretical approaches and conceptualisations of silence. On the second day, the professorships' own research was presented and, through the participation of Ms. Bause, we were able to gain an insight into the political practice of silencing issues (in particular, the crimes against the Uyghurs in China). Valuable input for the research project and its further direction reached us on both days through the participation of the speakers and other interested participants. Subsequently, the direction of the research project could be finalized and the further procedure put into perspective. We would like to thank all participants and hope for a continuation in the near future.
The detailed program of the workshop is available here.