Violence, space and the archive

I’ve been busy transforming ‘Trauma Geographies‘ from a lecture into a long-form essay, and in the process the original discussion of casualty evacuation from France and Belgium in the First World War has morphed into a separate essay on ‘Woundscapes on the Western Front’.

More on both soon, but I’ve become so immersed in the archives again (Imperial War Museum and the Wellcome) that news of this upcoming conference from the ever-enterprising NUI Galway (23-24 May 2019) arrived at just the right moment:

We invite paper submissions from across the disciplinary spectrum for a conference on ‘Violence, Space and the Archives’ to examine the challenges and possibilities presented by archival work that interrogates the imbrications of violence and space. Many research projects concerned with the spatial, contextual, and/or historical specificities of violence involve the assembling of an empirical corpus, however defined, in order to (re)construct moments of struggle and contestation. Archives are often constituted by, and reflect, the concerns of power. The archive is a site of silence as much as a site of statement. Still, archival collections often allow the voices of the dispossessed, the marginal, and those most subject to regimes of power, to speak, albeit often through a narrowed aperture. Along with the strategic concerns of officialdom, the archives may also give voice to alternative political desires and ambitions, revealed through moments of contestation and resistance. As a political technology, archives render the state’s claimed spaces visible and orderable through cataloguing, but may also underline the contingency of dominant configurations of power by revealing sites of refusal. Of course, ’the archive’ is not limited to institutional and official repositories, but also to a shared fidelity to unofficial and counter-hegemonic memories that refuse to be forgotten.

We invite 20 minute papers that explore some of the following non-exhaustive list of themes: • The silence of the archive • Political desires/spatial imaginaries • Making contested space/ rebel space/ oppositional space visible • Contentious episodes and the archive • Histories/genealogies of thought as archive • Collective memory and resistance • Humanitarian archives and histories of violence • Archiving in times of conflict • Conflict and digital archives

Send abstracts of 250-300 words, along with name and affiliation and a short bio (100 words) to violenceandspace@gmail.com by 21 January 2019.

The conference takes place in NUI Galway and is organised by the Whitaker Institute’s Research Cluster on Conflict, Humanitarianism and Security in association with the Moore Institute, the School of Political Science & Sociology and the Peace and Conflict Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association of Ireland. It builds on the success of the 2018 Conference on Violence, Space, and the Political.

Organisers: Gary Hussey and Niall Ó Dochartaigh, School of Political Science and Sociology, NUI Galway.  More here.

Martial politics, violence and the everywhere war

CFP: MARTIAL POLITICS, VIOLENCE, AND THE EVERYWHERE WAR
International Conference of Critical Geography (ICCG), Athens, 19-23 April 2019.

Session organisers
Craig Jones, Newcastle University
Rhys Machold, Glasgow University
Derek Gregory, University of British Columbia

New wars and old wars, everywhere and nowhere wars, forever and unending wars. This nomenclature can distract from the immediate and local ways in which war is fought and the intimacies of time and space upon which its prosecution relies (Kinsella, forthcoming). Recent and not-so-recent debates about war take for granted what we mean when we talk about war (and not-war), but through these very debates it has become clear that we are not always talking about the same thing(s).

In this session we re-pose and extend a question asked by Etienne Balibar a decade ago: ‘what’s in a war?’ (Balibar, 2008). Balibar’s question was motivated by a desire to understand the shape, content and changing character of the ‘war on terror’ – a war (or set of wars) that has inspired many critiques across the social sciences and beyond. But the war on terror has also inspired several ways of reconceptualising war and its relation to other forms of violence, so much so that we must extend Balibar’s question about war in ways that allow us to more fully interrogate its spatiotemporal horizons as well as it’s putative exceptionality and relationship to other forms of (re)emergent violence.

Emerging approaches to war, violence and militarization herald all sorts of possible ways forward for re-thinking the war-violence continuum. Recent feminist scholarship on military and police violence instruct us to see their connections, for instance, via ‘the right to maim’ (Puar, 2017). Alison Howell has recently implored us to dispense with the concept of militarization altogether in favour of what she calls “martial politics”, signalling both a ‘need to be attentive to war-like relations or technologies and knowledges that are “of war”, and aiding in our understanding of ‘the indivisibility of war and peace, military and civilian, and national and social security’ (Howell, 2018: 118). Extending interrogations of the intersections between war and police power (Neocleous 2014) Micol Seigel’s notion ‘violence work’ develops a slightly different critique of ‘militarization’ calling out the idea of separated military/civilian spheres a liberal “fiction” yet emphasizing that the “Twin vehicles of state violence, police and military rub up against each other in productive friction” (Seigel 2008: 6). Ann Laura Stoler defines her notion of “duress” as “a relationship of actualized and anticipated violence” (2016: 8), arguing that duress is “increasingly found to be ricocheting back and forth across the imperial world” (64). In different ways, these interventions encourage us to move beyond a critique of entrenched boundaries and binaries – war/peace, military/police, civilian/combatant, etc. – to consider the politics at work within these representations. This emerging work also suggests possible novel ways forward for reclaiming and reframing these binaries and imagining new modes of resistance to war and war-like violence.

We encourage papers that broadly address the following questions and topics, not limited to:

· What is war?
· What, if anything, is exceptional, heightened or exemplary about war and how does it relate to other forms of violence and coercion?
· ‘Paradigmatic’ wars, warfare ‘laboratories’, war ‘hot-spots’
· Targeting bodies and populations
· Killing, injuring, maiming, and disability
· War power/police power
· Gendered violence and intimate war
· Infrastructural warfare
· Urban warfare/ war in/on cities
· War, medicine and health care under fire
· Intersections of war and law
· Sensate regimes and corpographies of war
· War and occupation
· Locating the everywhere war
· Algorithmic, electronic, robotic and cyber war
· More-than-human/other-than-human war
· War, ruins and historical memory

Please submit abstracts of around 200 words to craig.jones@ncl.ac.uk by 29 September 2018. Please send expressions of interest ASAP given the very short time-frame – our apologies for this.

Other Wars Imagined

In early October I’m giving a keynote at a conference in Leipzig on Imaginations and Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition.  There’s an interesting interview with the organiser Steffi Marung here, and you can find the full programme (in English) and more details here.

I’ve been trying to work out what I might do, and this is what I’ve come up with; it’s still a draft, and the presentation is very much in development, so I’d welcome any comments or suggestions.  I see this as part of a comprehensive re-working of my essay on “The everywhere war” – which desperately needs it (it was written to order and in very short order).

Other Wars Imagined: visuality, spatiality and corpography

When Samuel Hynes wrote his classic account of A War Imagined he identified two ways in which the First World War transformed English (and by implication European) culture. First the emergence of a new visual field disclosed military violence in selective but none the less shocking ways: the half-tone block allowed photographs to be printed in newspapers, and cinema provided an even more vivid rendering of industrialised violence. Second the new dislocation of time and space was epitomised in what Hynes called ‘the death of landscape’ – the ‘annihilation of Nature’ and the monstrous appearance of ‘anti-landscape’ – and the substitution of abstract, ‘de-rationalized and de-familiarized’ spaces of pulverized geometries. This presentation explores the implications of Hynes’s views for the imaginative geographies of later modern war. Less concerned with representation – with images as mirrors of military violence – I focus on performative effects and, in the company of Judith Butler, consider the ways in which imaginative geographies enter into the very conduct of war. The visual technologies are different, so I pay close attention to the digital production of targets and to counter-geographies that fill these spaces with ordinary men, women and children. The formation of this counter-public sphere is contested – propaganda has never been more aggressive in its deformations – and so I also examine the implications of a ‘post-truth regime’ for critical thought and action. But the spaces of military and paramilitary violence are different too – no longer abstract and linear – and I suggest some of the ways in which an embodied corpography can subvert the cartographic imaginaries of previous modern wars. This critical manoeuvre also has vital implications for international humanitarian law and the constitution of war zones as what, not following Giorgio Agamben, I treat as spaces of exception. Throughout I draw on examples from my research on Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq and Syria.

If you don’t know Hynes’ book, first published in 1990 – it helped me think through some of the ideas I sketched in “The natures of war” – here is a review by P.N. Furbank from the LRB.

In Permanent Crisis?

News of the next International Conference of Critical Geography: In Permanent Crisis?  Uneven development, everywhere war and radical praxis:

The 8th ICCG will be hosted from the 19th to the 23d of April 2019, in Athens, Greece, one of many loci of the ongoing and multiplying crises of the neoliberal 21st century, including the “debt crisis,” the “neo-fascist crisis”, the “refugee crisis,” and a place that could be regarded as a kind of “laboratory” for observing how uneven development and everywhere war articulate different actors, scales and operations.

The 8th ICCG in Athens seeks to elaborate on the structural relations, materialities and cultures of uneven development and everywhere war, which bring about the condition of permanent crisis we find ourselves in the world over. Building on the previous ICCG 2015 conference, we regard “permanent crisis” as a regime that needs to be radically challenged in both political and theoretical terms, in our everyday lives as well as in the host of global, national and local institutions that reproduce it. We therefore want to invoke again the notion of praxis as the realisation of collective thinking and acting that is required in order to remake, to change the world.

Conference sub-themes:

1. Austerity Urbanism and Social Reproduction

2. War, Security, Humanitarianism

3. Urban Conflicts

4. Migration and global mobility

5. Rise of neo-fascism, nationalism and authoritarianism

6. New geographies of colonialism

7. Socioenvironmental conflicts

8. Geographies of gender and sexuality

Several of these intersect with the themes I cover here, but this is the expanded version of (2) – the most immediately relevant – and you can find details of the others here.

Cities turned into battlefields, massive slaughter of civilians, military technologies in the service of architecture and spatial planning, army forces performing police operations and police forces in military raids, militarization of and killings at the borders, ‘fourth-generation’ wars and war games, war technologies and war infrastructure turned into consumer goods: the infiltration of ‘ordinary’ social life by war seems today to be more prominent than ever. The sad convergence between war and peace becomes all the more evident, for example in the systematization of the humanitarian treatment of war victims, and in the continuing securitization of issues as diverse as migration, environmental risks and radical politics. From this perspective, it is important to theorize not only the social and geographic implications of this or that war but also everywhere war (a term borrowed from Derek Gregory) as a destructive and at the same time constitutive force for people, places and cities. On the other hand, since ‘everywhere is always somewhere’, specific warscapes as well as grey zones of war uncertainty, their violence, their terror and their normalization need to be closely examined. We welcome contributions that would investigate the spatiality of contemporary warfare and the uneven geographic implications of contemporary war(s) at various scales from the global to the local.

Key dates:

  • 30 September 2018: Abstracts submission Deadline
  • 30 November 2018: Notification of acceptance Deadline
  • 01 December 2018: Registration opens
  • 31 January 2019: Registration deadline

(I’ve taken the image that heads this post from Ai Weiwei‘s Law of the Journey, conceived while he was undertaking research on refugee camps in Lesbos: see here).

From trauma to resilience

In the middle of preparing my Antipode lecture on Trauma Geographies for later this month, I received news of this upcoming conference and call for papers via Critical Military Studies:

Militaries and militarisation: the turn to resilience, 13-14 December 2018

Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, Denmark

Co-organizers: Robin May Schott (DIIS) and Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck)

The concept of resilience has become a buzzword of our times. What happens when this concept becomes militarized? Cynthia Enloe defines militarization as “the step-by-step process by which something becomes controlled by, dependent on, or derives its value from the military as an institution or militaristic criteria” (Maneuvers, 291). Militarization takes place both at the level of the physical world, from Campbell’s Star Wars soups to popular clothing, and at the conceptual level, as in understandings of violence, values and subjectivity.

Currently there is a shift taking place in the U.S. Army and other militaries in the understanding of personal responses to violence. Instead of understanding the impact of violence primarily in terms of trauma, there is a new interest in resilience or robustness.
The implications of this military turn to resilience are potentially immense: this conference will bring together scholars from different disciplines to address this new phenomenon.
We will explore the implications of the turn to resilience both for military institutions and in terms of broader social issues.

These developments affect how we understand, for
instance:
• Victims of violence in war and peace
• The mobilization of values, such as sacrifice and loyalty
• The role of emotions in violence, including shame
• The governance of intimate life
• Masculinities and femininities
• Social institutions, such as health care
• Privacy rights and big data
• Conceptualizations of war and security (including challenges to the dichotomy
between international and domestic/social security)
• Technological enhancements and human enhancements

We hope to bring together researchers from a broad range of backgrounds in the humanities and social sciences, including those with military backgrounds, who work with these issues. The conference will contribute to dialogue across disciplines, as these
issues cannot be siloed within individual disciplines.

Keynote speakers

Joanna Bourke (on militaries and militiarization)
Paul Higate (gendered culture of militiarized masculinities)
Alison Howell (resilience, war, and social security)
Peter Leese (war, trauma studies, cultural history)
Ruth Leys (trauma, war, intellectual history)

Please submit abstracts (250 words) for 20-minute presentations by 3 September to Rebecca Solovej at anrs@diis.dk

A few small travel scholarships for Ph.D students will be available: please include a travel budget and brief statement of the relevance of this conference for your work.

Participation is free of charge and DIIS will provide lunch both days. The organizers invite all presenters to join the opening dinner at the first night of the conference. Information
on local hotels will be provided when participation is confirmed. Notification will be provided by 1 October.

The Airspace Tribunal

News of a project dear to my research (and my heart):

Towards a new human right to protect the freedom to exist without a physical or psychological threat from above

by The Wapping Project

Doughty Street Chambers, 54 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LS

21st September 2018, 10.00 AM – 4.30 PM

Over the last century, humans have radically transformed airspace: chemically, territorially, militarily and psychologically. Technological developments mean that this transformation is accelerating and growing in complexity. There is widening disparity in the global landscape of power, with civilians increasingly subject to expanding commercial and military exploitation of technology in airspace and outer space and to the consequences of environmental change. The associated threats are not adequately addressed by the contemporary legal framework. There is an urgent need for new thinking.[1]

The Airspace Tribunal invites representations from experts across a broad range of disciplines and lived experience, such as human rights, contemporary warfare, new media ecologies, environmental change, neuropsychology, conflict and forced migration, to discuss the challenges and consider the case for and against the recognition of a new human right to protect the freedom to exist without physical or psychological threat from above.

Speakers include:

  • Nick Grief –  member of the legal team that represented the Marshall Islands and took the UK, India and Pakistan to the International Court of Justice for violating their nuclear disarmament obligations;
  • Conor Gearty – professor of human rights law who has published extensively on terrorism, civil liberties and human rights;
  • Andrew Hoskins – media sociologist known for his work on media, memory and conflict;
  • Martin A. Conway – cognitive neuropsychologist and expert on human memory and the law;
  • Shona Illingworth –  artist whose video and sound installations investigate memory, cultural erasure and structures of power in situations of social tension and conflict;
  • Maya Mamish – psychologist researching integration and well-being of Syrian youth affected by armed conflict and displacement;
  • Melanie Klinkner – transitional justice scholar majoring in international criminal justice with a background in philosophy, anthropology and biology;
  • William Merrin, a specialist in digital media and author of ‘Digital War’.

Conceived and developed by Nick Grief and Shona Illingworth, the Airspace Tribunal’s judges will include members of the public, challenging the traditional state-centric view of how international law is created. The hearings will be recorded and transcribed to document the drafting history of this proposed new human right.

The Airspace Tribunal is part of Topologies of Air, a major new artwork by Shona Illingworth, extract above, commissioned by The Wapping Project, that will be exhibited at The Power Plant, Toronto, in 2020 (more here: scroll down).

The London hearing of the Airspace Tribunal is supported by the University of Kent, The Wapping Project and Doughty Street Chambers.

[1] See Nick Grief, Shona Illingworth, Andrew Hoskins and Martin A. Conway, Opinion, ‘The Airspace Tribunal: Towards a New Human Right to Protect the Freedom to Exist Without Physical or Psychological Threat from Above’, European Human Rights Law Review, Issue 3 (2018) , pp 201.  You can download the brief via the War & Media Network (to whom I owe all this info) here.

Space is limited and booking is essential here.

Drone imaginaries and Society

The programme for the conference on Drone Imaginaries and Society at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense has just been released:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

9:30 Welcome and introduction: Drone Imaginaries and Society – Kathrin Maurer, Daniela Agostinho

10:00 – 12:15 Session 1: Drone Art

Thomas Stubblefield, Signature Strikes: Drone Art and World-Making
Jan Mieszkowski, Drones and the Big Data Sublime

13:00 – 15:15 Session 2: Seeing with Drones

Svea Braeunert, Forms of the Unseen: Hito Steyerl’s Documents of Drone Warfare

Rasmus Degnbol, Photographing Europe’s Border Change from Above

15:45 – 17:45 Session 3: Drones and Social Communities

Jutta Weber, Social Radar: On Drones and Data Science
Dan Gettinger and Arthur Holland, Drone Art: What it Means, Why it Matters, and Where it’s Going

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

9:15 – 11:30 Session 4: Drone Art and Surveillance 

Tomas van Houtryve, Blue Sky Days
Sarah Tuck, Drone Vision: Warfare, Surveillance and Protest

12:15 – 14:30 Session 5: Drones and Gender Politics 

Lauren Wilcox, Queering War: The Gender Politics of the Drone
Claudette Lauzon, The Objects of Drone Warfare: A Feminist Art History

14.45 – 16:00 KEYNOTE 

Derek Gregory, Sweet Target…Sweet Child: Aerial Violence and the Imaginaries of Remote Warfare

The conference is free of charge, but you need to register for it here; more information here.