From Wednesday, March 1 to Friday, March 3, the first annual conference of the regional research center “Transformations of Political Violence” (TraCe) took place in Frankfurt. Under the title “Language(s) of Violence”, about 80 scholars addressed the complex relationship between language and violence.
The scientific conference was opened by Stathis Kalyvas (University of Oxford) and member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Research Center. With his keynote address "Political Violence: Grand Patterns and Basic Concepts" and the subsequent discussion, he opened the conference in the Normative Orders Building at Goethe University's Westend Campus.
On the second day of the conference, the conference participants addressed the complex relationship between language and violence in three substantive panels.
The first panel, entitled "The Scientific Language of Violence," focused on the semantic complexity of the scientific concept of political violence. In their respective contributions, the scholars, moderated by Prof. Dr Christopher Daase, aimed to identify the changes in political, normative, and analytical meaning. Prof. Dr Hanna Pfeifer and Dr Regine Schwab spoke on "Challenging the state-non-state binary in the study of civil war". While Prof. Dr Susanne Buckley-Zistel presented results of her research on the production of knowledge on sexual violence in truth commissions, Prof. Dr phil. Markus Lederer clodes the panel with a contribution on "Radical climate movements in Germany - is the hype around a potential 'Green Army Faction' a useful analogy, a helpful warning or simplistic propaganda?".
After lunch, conference participants gathered for the second panel, moderated by Prof. Dr phil. Markus Lederer. The panel, entitled "The Public Semantics of Violence," focused on the relations between political violence and public speech acts, and the contributions focused on different dimensions of framing. While the first contribution by Georg Krajewsky (TU Darmstadt) dealt with the (re)framing of colonial violence, Dr Kaya de Wolff focused on Brazil and presented first results of her field research in the context of the presidential elections in October 2022 and the use of social networks. Prof. Dr Jonas Wolff closed the panel with a contribution on "Political, criminal, or private? The politics of framing targeted killing of civil society activists".
The last panel, titled "Language as Violence," focused on the ways in which language itself can act as political violence. Under the moderation of Dr Raphaël Cahen, the researchers focused on different areas in their contributions. Prof. Dr Monika Wingender discussed in the first contribution of the panel "Russkiy Mir" and "Cancel Russian Culture" - language(s) and war" and Polina Zavershinskaia (University of Leipzig) continued with her contribution "Narrating the Russian war against Ukraine: Kremlin's recontextualization of the Great Patriotic War Narrative". Prof. Dr Horst Carl added a historical perspective in his contribution, discussing the radicalization of language around 1800, and Prof. Dr Felix Anderl closed the panel with his and Ida Forbriger's contribution on "Land grabbing? Impeded access to land? Attempts of 'naming' rural violence and is potential for emancipatory politics in rural Eastern Germany".
Finally, the members of the scientific advisory board came together in a concluding discussion round, which was moderated by Prof. Dr Jonas Wolff. After a digital greeting by Prof. Anoma Pieris from Melbourne, Prof. Dr. Svenja Goltermann (University of Zurich), Prof. Bear Braumoeller (The Ohio State University) and Stathis Kalyvas (Oxford University) reflected on the conference and the presented research against the background of the content-related orientation of the research center. The academic part of the conference ended with a joint dinner, where the participants could end the day with an informal exchange of ideas.
The conference was brought to a special conclusion by the German-language dialogue panel, which specifically addressed the interested public beyond the academic sphere. The panel titled "Language and Violence - Perspectives from Theory and Practice" took place in cooperation with the cluster initiative "ConTrust" and the Frankfurt Public Library (Stadtbücherei Frankfurt). Moderated by Prof. Dr Christopher Daase and Rebecca Schmidt (ConTrust), Prof. Dr. Meron Mendel, Dr. Natasha A. Kelly and Dr. Nicole Rieber discussed the interface of language and violence from a practical perspective. On the one hand, the focus was on the structural violence of racist language, the handling of violence and incitement on the net, as well as potentials for action and the transformation of struggles against anti-Semitism and racism.
Prof. Dr. Meron Mendel (professor of social work and director of the Bildungsstätte Anne Frank) works on topics such as anti-Semitism, racism, and identity politics in migration societies. Dr. Natasha A. Kelly (communication scientist, author, curator) works on structural racism and feminism. Dr. Nicole Rieber (Berghof Foundation) focuses on hate and violence on the internet.
The panel brings practice and science into dialogue and combines different approaches to language and violence from practical contexts. On the one hand, the panel focused on the structural violence of racist language, on how to deal with violence and incitement on the internet. On the other hand, practitioners talked about the potential for action and the transformation of struggles against anti-Semitism and racism.