Interpretive Struggles over Peace Strategies of Non-State Actors

The projects in this thematic area examine the different spatial and temporal experiences in the period of transition from war to peace in relation to non-state actors. In local, national and transnational contexts, how is the struggle about what exactly this war, this violence was, what its consequences were – and what consequences should be drawn for peace?

These struggles for interpretation are shaped by different social actors. Together, the participants ask in particular about the role of non-state actors and their search for the “lessons of war”. It is assumed that the “lessons learned” are shaped by different preconditions: by political, ideological and religious influences and experiences, by transnational networks and local conflicts, and that the transitions from war to peace always remain controversial, especially in the attempt of different civil society actors to find a new (or old) position in the social structure.

From a historical-sociological perspective, the thematic field looks at different civil society forces and their transnational interconnections: local initiatives and parties, victim groups and survivors, legal experts, human rights activists, companies, and the role of the Christian churches. The different projects profile the non-state actors, who have been underestimated in peace and conflict research so far, and combine different methodological approaches from history and social science. At the same time, all projects are transnational.


Johannes Lehmann & Prof. Dr. Dietmar Süß
Chair for Modern and Recent History,
University of Augsburg

The Chair of Modern and Contemporary History is part of the new, interdisciplinary “Bavarian Center for Peace and Conflict Research – Conflicts.Meanings.Transitions”, which was established jointly between the universities of Augsburg, Bayreuth, Erlangen-Nuremberg and the Institute of Contemporary History in 2022 and is funded by the BMBF. The subproject, which is being worked on by Johannes Lehmann, focuses on the question of the role of non-state actors in the transition from war to peace. It is primarily concerned with the concept and political practice of “reconciliation” as part of the conflict resolution of the Second World War.

An important part of the research will also deal with Christian-Jewish relations and the handling of the experiences of mass violence of the concentration camps. For this purpose, the former concentration camp and the Dachau Memorial will be studied in particular – a place which is seen and used by different denominations and social actors as a place of remembrance and reconciliation.


Dr. Daniel Stahl & Prof. Dr. Simone Derix
Chair for Modern and Contemporary History,
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

In the course of the second half of the twentieth century, Nuremberg became a global cipher for a peace strategy that focused on the prosecution of violent crimes committed in the course of wars. This project focuses on references to Nuremberg from the Global South, taking Argentina as an example, and makes them the starting point for an investigation of transatlantic interactions in the course of interpretive struggles over peace strategies.

On the one hand, it asks how the reference to Nuremberg changed the interpretation of the past experience of violence and the transition to democracy in Argentina and which concrete patterns of action were proposed and implemented with reference to the European model.

On the other hand, it takes a look at the change in Germany, where the victors’ justice interpretation lost its persuasive power from the 1980s on and the Nuremberg Trials were increasingly understood as an essential contribution to the pacification of Europe. What role did Argentina’s debates play in this process of change?


Dr. Bret McEvoy, Dr. Julia Eichenberg, & Prof. Dr. Jana Hönke
Institute for Franconian Regional History &
Chair for Sociology of Africa,
University of Bayreuth

Demands that states and institutions in the Global North provide reparations and engage in processes of decolonization for their (post)colonial histories have increasingly entered into mainstream public debate. While interest has also been directed towards the roles of companies during particular episodes and eras of violence, especially those involved in Nazi crimes, much less attention has been paid to the responsibilities of corporations for (post)colonial manifestations of violence. Arms manufacturers, in particular, are often able to deflect responsibility by hiding behind government authorizations and the so-called ‘exceptionalism’ of the industry.

 This project historicizes the idea of (not) holding arms companies morally responsible and legally accountable for (post)colonial violence. Combining contemporary historical and social science methods, it traces key public debates on the private manufacture and sale of arms in Great Britain and Germany across the past century, aiming to examine the (post)colonial, racial and gendered dynamics constituting the terms for potential accountability in the industry today.