The journal International Political Sociology regularly reshuffles its articles into special virtual issues. After a first collection of articles dedicated to the interstices between the social and politics (2011) and a second on Territorialities, Spaces, Geographies (2013), the journal put online its third collection dedicated to War Today. This special virtual issue presents a selection of articles published in the journal and that engage contemporary politics of war within two main themes. The first focuses on political issues at stake in visualising war and the bodies of soldiers and what representational methods tell us about the relation between war and politics today. The second issue concerns the idea of new wars. Between them the selected articles explore the nature of contemporary wars, if there is anything new about them, and what a critical and international political sociological war studies can be today.
Bodies in war and the politics of visibility
Encountering Violence: Terrorism and Horrorism in War and Citizenship (2014) by Cynthia Weber – IPS Volume 8, Issue 3, pages 237–255, September 2014
This article introduces Adriana Cavarero’s concept of “horrorism” into International Relations discussions of the relationship between war and citizenship. Horrorism refers to a violent violation of vulnerable humans who are defined by their simultaneous openness to the other’s care and harm. With its motif of physical and ontological denigration, horrorism offends the human condition by making its victims gaze upon and/or experience repugnant violence and bodily disfiguration precisely when the vulnerable are most in need of care. The article argues that horrorism complicates disciplinary understandings of contemporary violence which tend to see terrorism, but not horrorism, in war and which generally neglect to theorize how violence—and particularly horrorism—is embedded in, and exchanged, through state/citizen relationships.
The Politics of Drawing: Children, Evidence, and the Darfur Conflict (2013) by Claudia Aradau and Andrew Hill – IPS, Volume 7, Issue 4, pages 368–387, December 2013
Drawing has been largely neglected in discussions of visuality, conflict, and violence. In 2007, the International Criminal Court accepted 500 children’s drawings depicting the conflict in Darfur as contextual evidence for war crime trials against Sudanese officials. Starting from this event, and the attention that the Darfuri children’s drawings have garnered internationally, this article explores the role that drawings, and children’s drawings in particular, play in the visualization of conflict and violence. Rather than focusing primarily on the relation between image and text, the article argues that visuality needs to be understood as both an aesthetic and social object, whose production, circulation, and reception transform its political effects. It then shows how children’s drawings are both differentially produced, and productive of difference and ambivalence, in the “truthfulness” of conflict.
The Private Militarized and Security Contractor as Geocorporeal Actor (2012) by Paul Higate – IPS Volume 6, Issue 4, pages 355–372, December 2012
As a consequence of the ontological and epistemological traditions dominating the private military and security company literature to date, the embodied dimensions of the industry have been overlooked. The current article addresses this lacuna through a phenomenological focus on the links between military corporeal conditioning, possibilities for the industry’s emergence, and the impact of contractors on security. Paul Higate develops the concept of geocorporeality to make explicit the geopolitical relevance of security contractors’ military trained bodies. The article concludes by drawing out the implications of this embodied line of enquiry for questions of contractor accountability and agent intentionality.
War and the Allegory of Medical Intervention: Why Metaphors Matter (2012) by Colleen Bell – IPS, Volume 6, Issue 3, pages 325–328, September 2012
Metaphors help people make sense of their environment. In the field of medicine, infectious and malignant diseases are a “threat” that people hope to “evade.” If the body is infected or overrun by the disease, medical experts wage a counter attack. If the patient survives, they are said to have “won the battle”. More recently, metaphors of illness, patient, and physician—constituting a strategic allegory of medical intervention—have appeared as characters in the narrative of modern counterinsurgency. The allegory draws on the authority and perceived objectivity of medicine to produce a charitable understanding of the purpose and function of counterinsurgency warfare. An analysis of medical allegory shows how military doctrine is not simply a guide to operations, but is a self-serving, political campaign to improve the morale of weary soldiers and soothe anxious publics in the midst of a long war.
After reviewing conceptual contributions that address the blurred boundary between the war and home fronts and the complexities of contemporary political topologies in general, I turn to a reading of three artistic texts—the photomontages of Martha Rosler, Paul Haggis’s filmIn the Valley of Elah, and Annie Proulx’s story, “Tits-Up in a Ditch”—to analyze the war front–home front relationship. I end with some reflections on the analytic contributions of montage techniques in terms of the way they establish equivalences that revalue our perspectives on the locations and actualities (presences) of war.
This paper critiques the hegemonic constructions of child soldiers to be found in civil society and Anglophone media accounts. Close examination of these texts reveals that the discourse mirrors Anglophone imaginaries and preoccupations over childhood rather than the distinctive concerns of child soldiers themselves. It claims that the discourse accomplishes considerable political work in buttressing the international order between the global North and South. Furthermore, it asserts that the discourse operates as a site where wider Anglophone fears over the functioning of its personal, “private” sphere can be rehearsed and disciplined.
“Post-Heroic Warfare” and Ghosts—The Social Control of Dead American Soldiers in Iraq (2008) by Christophe Wasinski – IPS, Volume 2, Issue 2, pages 113–127, June 2008
According to some researchers, the public acceptance of military intervention is conditional upon the minimization of military mortality. Once a threshold of military death is crossed, political leaders are obliged to limit their ambitions. This research proposes to consider the idea of threshold as mythical. Instead, it suggests focusing at the presence of the ghosts the dead American soldiers in the public sphere and the way they are “ventriloquated” in order to support or contest the intervention.
Interrogating the novelty of war
This paper approaches the ontology of war by asking why, despite its constitutive function for politics and society, has war never been made the object of an academic discipline? Through an analysis of the relationship between war and knowledge about war, we argue that the ontology of war is such that it disrupts foundational claims of the kind necessary for conventional forms of academic disciplinarity. At the center of the ontology of war is fighting, an idea we recover from Clausewitz. A moment of radical contingency, fighting both compromises knowledge about war and forces the unmaking and remaking of social and political orders. These generative powers of war operate through the production of systems of knowledge and their institutionalization in the academy, the state and wider society. Although of existential significance for political authority, these knowledges are vulnerable to the very contingency of war that produces them. This complex of relations between war, knowledge, and power we term War/Truth. As such, an analytical framework adequate to war requires a reflexive relation to truth claims. We clear the ground for such a “critical war studies.”
The Police of Civilization: The War on Terror as Civilizing Offensive (2011) by Mark Neocleous – IPS, Volume 5, Issue 2, pages 144–159, June 2011
This article deals with two contemporary issues: the return of “civilization” as a category of international power and the common refrain that war is now looking more and more like a police action. The article shows that these two issues are deeply connected. They have their roots in the historical connection between “civilization” and “police.” Through an exercise the history of ideas as an essay in international political sociology, the article unravels the connection between these issues. In so doing, it suggests that a greater sensitivity to the broader police concept in the original police science might help us understand the war on terror as a civilizing offensive: as the violent conjunction of war and police.
Military doctrine is a system of knowledge disseminated and communicated through field manuals. This article analyzes the form and content of United States (US) military doctrine through the study of three manuals: the joint US Army and Marine Corps’Counterinsurgency (COIN)Field Manual (FM 3-24) (2007), the US Army’s Stability Operations Field Manual (FM 3-07) (2008), and the US Marine Corps’Small Wars Manual (SWM) (1940). It explores and demonstrates the discursive and cognitive restraints of such military handbooks through imitating their form. In regard to content, it argues that the contemporary “spirit of war” is characterized by the organizing concepts of “culture” and “network”—seeing like a military in the twenty-first century is seeing a world of networks.
The Sociology of New Wars? Assessing the Causes and Objectives of Contemporary Violent Conflicts (2008) by Siniša Malešević – IPS, Volume 2, Issue 2, pages 97–112, June 2008
The recent accounts of the new war paradigm have been thoroughly scrutinized in a variety of disciplines from security studies and international relations to political economy. The general trend is to focus on the scope, methods, tactics, strategies, forms of war, and/or the level of atrocity. However, there has been little sustained attempt to assess structural causes and the arguments about the changing aims of contemporary warfare. This paper provides a critical analysis of the macro sociological accounts of the new war paradigm with a spotlight on the purpose and causes of the recent wars. The author argues that despite the development of elaborate models, the sociology of contemporary warfare rests on shaky foundations and hence fails to convince. Rather than witnessing a dramatic shift in the causes and objectives of contemporary violent conflict, one encounters a significant transformation in the social and historical context in which these wars are waged.
Michel Foucault’s Analytics of War: The Social, the International, and the Racial (2007) by Vivienne Jabri – IPS, Volume 1, Issue 1, pages 67–81, March 2007
The absence of the international as a distinct socio-political sphere in Michel Foucault’s work forms a major part of the postcolonial critique of his writings. The absence of the international has a number of consequences for any critical engagement with Foucault in the context of global politics. The significance of these consequences becomes apparent when we consider Foucault’s analytics of war and power, situate these in relation to the particularity of the international, consider the very pertinent critiques of Foucault emanating from postcolonial writings, and finally re-locate Foucault in the international not, as is the predominant approach in International Relations, through the application of Foucaultian concepts, but through Foucault’s own political writings on the non-western arena, specifically his engagement with the Iranian Revolution. While limited in their scope, an evaluation of these writings appears to vindicate postcolonial critiques of Foucault, though with some revealing qualifications.