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.

Drone Imaginaries and Society

News from Kathrin Maurer of a conference on Drone Imaginaries and Society, 5-6 June 2018, at the University of Southern Denmark (Odense).  I’ll be giving a keynote, and look forward to the whole event very much (and not only because, while I’ve visited Denmark lots of times and loved every one of them, I’ve never made it to Odense):

Drones are in the air. The production of civilian drones for rescue, transport, and leisure activity is booming. The Danish government, for example, proclaimed civilian drones a national strategy in 2016. Accordingly, many research institutions as well as the industry focus on the development, usage, and promotion of drone technology. These efforts often prioritize commercialization and engineering as well as setting-up UAV (Unmanned Arial Vehicle) test centers. As a result, urgent questions regarding how drone technology impacts our identity as humans as well as their effects on how we envision the human society are frequently underexposed in these initiatives.

Our conference aims to change this perspective. By investigating cultural representations of civilian and military drones in visual arts, film, and literature, we intend to shed light on drone technology from a humanities’ point of view. This aesthetic “drone imaginary” forms not only the empirical material of our discussions but also a prism of knowledge which provides new insights into the meaning of drone technology for society today.

Several artists, authors, film makers, and thinkers have already engaged in this drone imaginary. While some of these inquiries provide critical reflection on contemporary and future drone technologies – for instance issues such as privacy, surveillance, automation, and security – others allow for alternative ways of seeing and communicating as well as creative re-imagination of new ways of organizing human communities. The goal of the conference is to bring together these different aesthetic imaginaries to better understand the role of drone technologies in contemporary and future societies.

 The focus points of the conference are:

–     Aesthetic drone imaginaries: Which images, metaphors, ethics, emotions and affects are associated to drones through their representation in art, fiction and popular culture?

–     Drone technology and its implications for society: How do drones change our daily routines and push the balance between publicity and privacy?

–     Historical perspective on drones: In what way do drone imaginaries allow for a counter-memory that can challenge, for instance, the military implementation of drones?

–     Drones as vulnerability: Do drones make societies more resilient or more fragile, and are societies getting overly dependent on advanced technologies?

     Utopian or dystopian drone imaginaries: What dream or nightmare scenarios are provided by drone fiction and how do they allow for a (re)imagining of future societies?

–     Drones and remote sensing: In what way do drones mark a radical new way of seeing and sensing by their remotely vertical gaze and operative images?

     Drone warfare: Do drones mark a continuation or rupture of the way we understand war and conflict, and how do they change the military imaginary?

The conference is sponsored by the Drone Network (Danish Research Council) and Institute for the Study of Culture at the University of Southern Denmark.

 You can contact Kathrin at  kamau@sdu.dk

The conference website is here.

Pictures of war

An interesting CFP for a conference next spring on Pictures of war: the still image in conflict since 1945:

Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester UK
24th & 25th May 2018
(Deadline for CFP: January 12, 2018)

A conference on the intersections of conflict and pictures from the end of WWII until today.

Since the end of World War II, the nature and depiction of geopolitical conflicts have changed in technology, scale and character. The Cold War political landscape saw many struggles for liberation and national identity becoming proxy battlegrounds for the major powers. In the aftermath of anti-colonial conflicts, refugees and migrants who had relocated to the former metropolises joined those already fighting for civil equality in these countries. Wars continue to be waged in the name of democracy and terror, and in the interests of linguistic, theological and racial worldviews. Migration and displacement as a result of conflict are again at the top of the agenda.

As the technologies of war have shifted, so have the technologies of making pictures. This conference seeks to engage with these phenomena through critically engaged approaches to the processes of visualisation, their methodologies and epistemologies that will contribute to our understanding of the ways conflicts are pictured. The intention is to expand the field of enquiry beyond localised, thematic or media-specific approaches and to encourage new perspectives on the material and visual cultures of pictures.

We invite scholars, artists and activists interested in the study of images and pictures in their own right, with their own and admittedly interdependent discourses and visual and material capacities for producing knowledge and meaning (Mitchell, 2005). We are interested in presentations that consider the temporal and physical mobility of pictures and their visual, material, affective, political and economic value from multi and interdisciplinary positions.

Full details of themes, abstracts etc here and here.