How are Justice and Peace Understood around the World?

You are kindly invited to participate in the lecture series on “Non-Western Approaches to Justice and Peace” organized by the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders”. We are looking forward to insightful contributions by leading experts from a variety of academic disciplines on how central normative concepts are understood around the world. We are especially interested in how the interpretation of “justice” and “peace” in non-dominant and non-privileged parts of the globe affects the evolution of a global normative order.

The political discourse on the normative evolution of international society still suffers from Eurocentrism. Concepts like “the state”, “sovereignty”, and “intervention” are rooted in the unique history of European state building and are not easily transferrable to other regions of the world. Ideas and values like “freedom”, “individuality”, and “human rights” have their origin in the Enlightenment and are not accepted as universal throughout the world. This is why Western ideas about promoting international law, creating a liberal economic world order, or establishing a global “responsibility to protect” are often met with reservation and are sometimes viewed as expressions of neo-colonialism.

Non-Western approaches, on the other hand, are often disregarded, accepted only with reservations as theoretically backward, or discredited as reflections of power or ideology. Even speaking in terms of “non-Western” approaches tacitly accepts the “Western” approach as the standard against which alternative accounts should be measured. But if globalization is to be something more than a hegemonic Western project and the transformation of the normative basis of the international system is to win global acceptance, an inter-cultural discourse about normative concepts and ideas is needed. For different historical experiences, cultural developments, and socio-economic conditions have led to diverse notions of justice and peace which need to be brought into harmony with one another.

The aim of this lecture series is to initiate a trans-cultural and inter-civilizational dialogue concerning justice and peace by providing an opportunity to listen and learn about alternative perspectives. We have invited six internationally renowned scholars to address different aspects of the emerging international normative order. Professor Ramesh Thakur, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, will commence proceedings with a talk on “International Criminal Justice” and the ways in which universal jurisdiction can be embedded in a broader system of democratic policy-making in order to make it acceptable to all of the communities involved. Nikita Dhawan, Professor at Frankfurt University and Director of its Center for Postcolonial Studies, will follow with a lecture on “Gendering Justice in a Postcolonial World”. Dhawan points to the Eurocentric and androcentric bias of traditional concepts of justice arguing that the “Western” intellectual tradition is at once inadequate and indispensible.

Professor Mohamed Ayoob from the University of Michigan will broaden this perspective. In his talk he will outline a “Subaltern Vision of Order and Justice” and call for more inclusionary modes of international policy-making. Siba N’Zatioula Grovogui, Professor at Johns Hopkins University, will provide a thorough theoretical basis for this vision. Drawing on the writings of four African intellectuals and their ideas concerning a just post-colonial system, he establishes the foundation for an alternative account of a universal normative order. Emad Shahin, Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame, starts from a similar angle. By examining the ideas of major contemporary Islamic thinkers, he sheds new light on the concepts of peace, war, and, especially, Jihad in Islam. Jihad, he argues, is a seriously misunderstood concept and should also be interpreted in connection with the ethics of peace in Islam. Yasuaki Onuma, Professor of International Law at the University of Tokyo, will round off the lecture series by presenting an “Intercivilizational Approach to Justice and Peace”. Onuma argues that standards for assessing good governance and human rights often lack objectivity and are insensitive and inappropriate to non-Western realities. He therefore argues for the development of an “intercivilizational” approach to human rights and other normative principles.

A common theme of all presentations will be the similarities and differences between Western and Non-Western concepts and ideas and how divergent notions of justice and peace can be reconciled in order to enhance the well-being of all humankind.

We look forward to interesting lectures and exciting debates!

Professor Christopher Daase

 

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