CFP: Rethinking Just War in the 21st Century: A Graduate Student Conference

Submission deadline: March 1, 2023

Conference date(s):
June 5, 2023

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

Princeton University
Princeton, United States

Topic areas


Every generation of scholars, policymakers, and citizens must answer anew the questions raised by just war theory for their time and place. Developments in the 21st century have brought renewed urgency to the moral, ethical, and political issues surrounding war. This conference invites fresh contributions on the ethics and politics of war from graduate students across the disciplines, with the aim of generating new cross disciplinary connections and thinking about war in the 21st century. While our call for papers is broad and wide-ranging, three areas of focus stand out.

First, Vladimir Putin’s unjustified invasion of neighboring Ukraine has brought about renewed public attention to philosophical disputes about just war. Whether debates between “traditionalists” and “revisionists,” or around noncombatant immunity’s blurred lines in guerilla combat, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine offers a real time case study for philosophical reflection about the bounds, limitations, and problems of just war theorizing. Should the Russian invasion of Ukraine challenge, reaffirm, or alter current normative debates in just war theory? What does just war have to say about the duty to resist unjust wars, or the blameworthiness of the participants in unjust wars? What is the relationship between unjust wars and political authority? For bystanders, how does just war relate to ongoing debates about our obligations to refugees, to allies, to building institutions of global governance? And how should philosophers, political theorists, or ethicists think about the limitations of “theory” and its relation to the messy realities of just and unjust wars? 

Second, high profile cases such as Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was acquitted for war crimes by a military jury in San Diego or the shootings at Fort Bragg, have brought about renewed debates about military psychology, the ethical norms governing military combat, and the role of civilian and military structures in promoting accountability. How might recent empirical research about moral injury or philosophical insights about virtue and vices bear upon our thinking about the psychological difficulties facing military personnel before, during, and after war? What are the ethical norms that govern the social dynamics of combatants—the role of glory, fear, discipline, and respect? How should just war theorists conceive of the relationship between the civilian public and the military in light of aspirations of democratic accountability?

Finally, “the” tradition of just war is in fact constituted by diverse traditions; its theory has emerged in the contingencies of circumstance, place, and time. Recent work in history, religion, and political science has given close historical attention to the particularities of various forms of just war thinking, whether in religious traditions like Christianity or Islam or in the particularities of historical circumstance. What do we learn by re-contextualizing often abstract just war theorizing within particular traditions of thought? What insights have just war theorists missed that history, particular thinkers, or alternative traditions have to offer? And what might recent philosophical discussions of just war have to offer for the interpretations of these various traditions? 

In short, this interdisciplinary graduate conference invites new research and thinking about just war for our contemporary moment. We welcome graduate students from a variety of disciplines, including political science, political theory, social and moral philosophy, public policy, theology, religious studies, history, sociology, and others. One of the goals of this conference is to foster an interdisciplinary community of scholars interested in using research from diverse fields to advance our understanding of the pressing issues surrounding war in the 21st century.

Areas of interest include:

  • Arguments about re-theorizing just war criteria in light of recent historical 

events, empirical research, or case studies

  • Philosophical interventions into the debate between traditionalists and revisionist theorists with respect to any dimension of just war thinking

  • Research about the relationship between just war and resistance theories, such as civil disobedience and draft resistance

  • Applications of just war criteria with respect to nuclear weapons, drone strikes, espionage, or other forms of irregular warfare

  • Research about military psychology, virtues, and the social norms of participants in, during, and after war

  • The relationship between the public and the military in light of practices of democratic accountability (e.g. war crimes)

  • Historical or comparative research about past wars relevant for current debates (e.g. placing the just war tradition in theological or historical context, or reviewing the debates surrounding a past war)

  • Other topics related to just war theory

Clear writing and interdisciplinary legibility are a must. Case studies, historical examples, contemporary relevance are encouraged. Participants are welcome to draw on their current research.

We are also pleased to announce that our conference will include professors from Princeton and nearby institutions as respondents to graduate student papers. Our keynote will be a short talk and conversation with Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus from the Institute for Advanced Study. Presenters will be asked to submit questions beforehand. 

Please submit proposals at the following: Proposals will be accepted until March 1, 2023. The conference will be held on June 5, 2023, in person at Princeton University. Limited bursary for presenters may be available. 

Rethinking Just War in the 21st Century Organizing Committee: Tiffany Barron (Politics), Bradley Snyder (SPIA), Darren Yau (Religion), Elaine Yim (Politics). If you have any questions, please contact Darren Yau [email protected]. This event is co-sponsored by Princeton University’s University Center for Human Values and Department of Politics.

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