February 10th, 2015
Today I spoke at a Durham Geography workshop on Charlie Hebdo organised by Angharad Closs Stephens
Here’s a summary of what I said:
1. The January attacks on Paris are representative of a form of violence that is urbanised. A form of urban insurgency that is increasingly common in cities around the world – Mumbai, Madrid, London, Boston, Nairobi. It exploits urban technologies/infrastructures – cars, rails, roads – and urban morphology – enclosed spaces, crowded spaces – for maximum effect. It is not new, but it’s effective. Military doctrine has warned of the complexity of urban space for a while, but this urban insurgency demonstrates a lack of effective response – partly because, as I will discuss in a minute, the proposed responses erode the core attributes of the urban environment that we value – freedom, plurality and so on.
2. Like all insurgency this violence is both symbolic and yet rational – metaphoric and yet practical. It adopts the logic of effects based warfare – the form of nodal targeting that was deployed in the shock and awe campaign of 2003. EBO is both communicative – sending a message to wider constituencies (governments, populations, supporters) – and yet tactically instrumental – exploiting urban technology and form to achieve force multiplication. Above all EBO is an affective form of violence, seeking to achieve a sensation of sudden arrest that will shatter routinised patterns of behaviour and thought. It is supposed to have a non-conscious effect on its audience.
3. We should recognise that this is not an urbicide in the sense of a deliberate attack on the fabric of the city in order to eliminate heterogeneity. Indeed, in a perverse way, we could argue that this is a violent attempt to stake the claim for plurality, to stake a claim for an antagonistic other to puncture the concensus about tolerance of offence. That said, this violence is related – in a roundabout fashion – to the urban counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan as well as Gaza. The widespread use of high explosives in civilian space and the massive military presences required to pacify complex urban terrain have, via the global media, played their own role in nurturing grievance and sharpening insurgent practice.
4. Our reponse is not promising. Too much of the discussion has focused on the transnational nature of terror. Of course training on the Syrian battlefields matters, but Lee Rigby shows that it is not necessary. To attribute the attacks to a shadowy network is to foreclose the uncanny sense in which these attacks are of the city not from beyond it. They are attacks borne out of grievances nurtured in what Mustafa Dikec has referred to as the ‘badlands of the Republic‘. The attacks are disquieting insofar as they are uncanny in Freud’s sense of disclosing the repressed grievance at the heart of western urban environments.
5. Finally, the militarisation of the physical and virtual infrastructures of the contemporary urban environment – the hardening of urban spaces and the increasing surveillance of the communications that are the substrate for the urban public realm will not, in the end, neutralise this type of violence. Rather they are a militarisation of everyday life that diminishes the very thing that #jesuischarlie calls for – a vibrant public disensus.
May 8th, 2014
I am pleased to be able to announce details of a workshop I have organised to take place later this month – 29th May – at Newcastle University. The workshop highlights the important agenda of critical war and critical military studies. The workshop will highlight some of the excellent work being conducted in this growing field of study. Participants will discuss what it means to study to study war and the military critically and the issues and problems this entails. Email me (email@example.com) if you would like to attend.
The program for the workshop is as follows:
Continue reading Critical War/Military Studies: A Workshop»
January 30th, 2014
Lecturer in International Politics
Newcastle University -School of Geography, Politics & Sociology
Grade F: £32,590 – £36,661 per annum
Grade G: £37,756 – £45,053 per annum (with potential progression to £50,688)
Closing Date: 14 March 2014
Applications are invited for a Lectureship in International Politics, based in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology. You will join a growing Politics unit that is committed to achieving excellence in both research and teaching as demonstrated by our very strong performance in the most recent research assessment exercise and our outstanding National Student Survey scores.
Applications are welcome from candidates with an excellent record of published research or outstanding research potential in any area of International Politics. You will be expected to contribute to the teaching of our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and to participate in the supervision of research postgraduates.
Informal enquiries may be made to the Head of Politics, Dr. Nick Randall, (tel: +44 (0)191 222 6997; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further details here: http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AIB738/lecturer-in-international-politics
November 5th, 2013
has just published a Special Issue on ‘Security and the Politics of Resilience
’. The Special Issue is edited by James Brassett, Stuart Croft, and Nick Vaughan-Williams (Warwick University) and focuses on the nature and complexities of the concept of resilience. In recent years the concept of resilience has come to frame security discourses particularly – though not exclusively – in the UK context. Taken as whole, the volume focuses on the politics of resilience in diverse empirical settings and addresses questions such as: How we should understand resilience? What is stake in the rise of resilience? Who benefits from resilience and what are the political effects of its societal cultivation? The collection features an agenda for resilience research in Politics and International Relations, covering issues as diverse as cyber-security, international state-building, and the 2011 UK riots. Additionally, the Special Issue features an interview with leading resilience practitioner Helen Braithwaite OBE, head of the resilience and emergencies division of the UK government’s Department of Communities and Local Government. The volume will be free to access until February 2014 and can be accessed via this link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ponl.2013.33.issue-4/issuetoc.
Table Of Contents follows: Continue reading Special Issue: Security and the Politics of Resilience»