Articles that have recently caught my eye through their intersections with various projects I’m working on (so forgive what may otherwise seem an idiosyncratic selection!):

Bogdan Costea and Kostas Amiridis, ‘Ernst Jünger, total mobilization and the work of war’, Organization 24 (4) (2017) 475-490 – I keep encountering Jünger’s work, first when I was writing ‘The natures of war‘ (he served on the Western Front in the First World War: see his remarkable Storm of Steel, still available as a Penguin Classic in a greatly improved translation) and much more recently while preparing a new lecture on occupied Paris in the Second World War (he was stationed there for four years and confided a series of revealing and often critical observations to his diaries).  But his reflections on the ‘destruction line’ of modern war are no less interesting.  For parallel reflections, see:

Leo McCann, ‘Killing is our business and business is good”: The evolution of war managerialism from body counts to counterinsurgency’, Organization 24 (4) (2017) 491-515 – I’ve written about what Freeman Dyson called ‘the bureaucratization of homicide‘ before, in relation to aerial violence, but this essay provides a wider angle.

Laura Pitkanen, Matt Farish, ‘Nuclear landscapes’, Progress in human geography [Online First: 31 August 2017] (‘Places such as New Mexico’s Trinity Site have become iconic, at least in the United States, and a study of nuclear landscapes must consider the cultural force of spectacular weapons tests and related origin stories. But critical scholars have also looked beyond and below the distractions of mushroom clouds, to additional and alternative landscapes that are obscured by secrecy and relative banality’).

I’m still haunted by the reading I did for ‘Little Boys and Blue Skies‘, much of it inspired by Matt’s work (see especially here on ‘Atomic soldiers and the nuclear battlefield’); this essay should be read in conjunction with:

Becky Alexis-Martin and Thom Davis, ‘Towards nuclear geography: zones, bodies and communities’, Geography Compass [Online early: 5 September 2017] (‘We explore the diverse modes of interaction that occur between bodies and nuclear technology and point towards the scope for further research on nuclear geographies. We bring together different strands of this nascent discipline and, by doing so, highlight how nuclear technology interacts across a spectrum of geographic scales, communities, and bodies. Although nuclear geographies can be sensational and exceptionalising, such as the experiences of nuclear accident survivors and the creation of “exclusion zones,” they can also be mundane, everyday and largely unrecognised, such as the production of nuclear energy and the life-giving nature of radioactive medicine.’)

Simon Philpott, ‘Performing Mass Murder: constructing the perpetrator in documentary film’, International Political Sociology 11 (3) (2017) 257–272 – an insightful critique of Joshua Oppenheimer‘s The Act of Killing (see my posts here and here).

José Ciro Martinez and Brett Eng, ‘Struggling to perform the state: the politics of bread in the Syrian civil war’, International Political Sociology 11 (20 (2017) 130-147 – a wonderfully suggestive analysis that has the liveliest of implications for my own work on attacks on hospitals and health-care workers in Syria (notably: ‘The provision of bread to regime-controlled areas has gone hand in hand with targeted efforts to deprive rebel groups of the essential foodstuff and, by extension, their ability to perform the state. Since 2012, the regime has bombed nascent opposition-administered attempts to provide vital public services and subsistence goods, thereby presenting itself as the only viable source of such necessities.’)  But it also has far wider implications for debates about ‘performing the state’ and much else.  And in a similar vein:

Jeannie Sowers, Erika Weinthal and Neda Zawahiri, ‘Targeting environmental infrastructures, international law and civilians in the new Middle Eastern wars’, Security Dialogue 2017 [Online early] (”We focus on better understanding the conflict destruction of water, sanitation, waste, and energy infrastructures, which we term environmental infrastructures, by drawing on an author-compiled database of the post-2011 wars in the Middle East and North Africa… Comparatively analyzing the conflict zones of Libya, Syria, and Yemen, we show that targeting environmental infrastructure is an increasingly prevalent form of war-making in the MENA, with long-term implications for rebuilding states, sustaining livelihoods, and resolving conflicts.’)

Will Todman, ‘Isolating Dissent, Punishing the Masses: Siege Warfare as Counter-Insurgency,’ Syria Studies 9 (1) (2017) 1-32 – Syria Studies is an open-acess journal from the Centre for Syrian Studies at St Andrews.

Sarah El-Kazaz and Kevin Mazur, ‘The unexceptional Middle Eastern City’, City & Society 29 (1) (2017) 148-161 – a really useful introduction to a themed section, much on my mind as this term I’ll be doing my best to jolt my students out of lazy caricatures of ‘the Islamic city’ (‘The study of Middle Eastern cities has been constrained in its analytical and methodological focus by a genealogy shaped by a triad of regional exceptions–Islam, oil, and authoritarianism–and … this special section move[s] beyond those constraints in important ways. Focusing on geographical places and time periods that have remained peripheral to the study of Middle Eastern cities, the three articles ethnographically historicize the planned and unplanned processes through which cities in the region transform to transcend a genealogy of exceptionalism and the constraints it has created. They highlight the global and local connections that shape these processes to offer new perspectives on the study of scale, verticality and sensoriums in the shaping of urban transformation around the globe.’)

Rasul Baksh Rais, ‘Geopolitics on the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland’, Geopolitics [online early: 11 August 2017] – a helpful historical review particularly for anyone interested in the exceptional construction of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas by both Washington and Islamabad.

Katharine Hall Kindervater, ‘Drone strikes, ephemeral sovereignty and changing conceptions of territory’, Territory, politics, governance (2017) 207-21 – Kate engages with her characteristic breadth of vision with some of the problems that preoccupied me in ‘Dirty dancing’ and urges a topological engagement with territory (DOWNLOADS tab) (‘This article examines the US legal frameworks for drone-targeting operations, and in particular the conceptions of territory they draw upon, to argue that contemporary strikes reflect less a disappearance of the importance of territory and sovereignty to justifications of the use of force than a reconfiguration of their meanings. Grounded in an understanding of territory that is more networked and dynamic, drone strikes reflect the emergence of a new landscape of mobile and ephemeral sovereignty.’)

Georgina Ramsay, ‘Incommensurable futures and displaced lives: sovereignty as control over time’, Public culture 29 (3) (2017) 515-38 (‘The recent mass displacement of refugees has been described internationally as a “crisis.” But crisis implies eventfulness: a distinct problem that can be solved. The urgency of solving this problem of displacement has seen the use of expansive techniques of sovereignty across Europe, the epicenter of the crisis. Focusing exclusively on the formation of sovereignty through the analytical locus of crisis continues, however, to reproduce the trope of the “refugee” as a category of exception. This essay considers the experiences of people who were resettled as refugees in Australia and whose displacement has ostensibly been resolved. Drawing attention to their continuing experiences of violence, it considers how the temporal framing of displacement is itself a way to conceal formations of sovereignty embedded in the very processes designed to resolve displacement. Doing so opens up new ways to think about control over time as a technique of sovereignty.’)

For an equally trenchant and invigorating critique of crisis-talk, see Joseph Masco‘s brilliant ‘The Crisis in Crisis’, Current Anthropology 58 Supplement 17 (2017) S65-S76, available on open access here. (‘In this essay I consider the current logics of crisis in American media cultures and politics. I argue that “crisis” has become a counterrevolutionary idiom in the twenty-first century, a means of stabilizing an existing condition rather than minimizing forms of violence across militarism, economy, and the environment. Assessing nuclear danger and climate danger, I critique and theorize the current standing of existential crisis as a mode of political mobilization and posit the contemporary terms for generating non-utopian but positive futurities.’)

Dima Saber and Paul Long, ‘”I will not leave, my freedom is more precious than my blood”: From affect to precarity – crowd-sourced citizen archives as memories of the Syrian war’, Archives and Records 38 (1) (2017) (‘Based on the authors’ mapping of citizen-generated footage from Daraa, the city where the Syria uprising started in March 2011, this article looks at the relation between crowd-sourced archives and processes of history making in times of war. It describes the ‘migrant journey’ of the Daraa archive, from its origins as an eyewitness documentation of the early days of the uprising, to its current status as a digital archive of the Syrian war. It also assesses the effects of digital technologies for rethinking the ways in which our societies bear witness and remember. By so doing, this article attempts to address the pitfalls attending the representation and narrativisation of an ongoing conflict, especially in the light of rising concerns on the precariousness and disappearance of the digital archives. Finally, by engaging with scholarship from archival studies, this article attempts to address the intellectual rift between humanities and archival studies scholars, and is conceived as a call for more collaboration between the two disciplines for a more constructive research on archival representations of conflict.’)


Years after completing their PhDs, my former students – now firm friends – still ask me “Have you read anything interesting recently?”  (I ask them the same).  And my closest colleagues (also firm friends, fortunately) constantly exchange tips about books, articles, and posts that we’ve read.  It’s one of the many ways in which research is necessarily social; this doesn’t emerge in co-authored texts alone, or even in the vitally necessary acknowledgements to those good souls who have endured endless drafts and provided provocative commentaries.  This sort of exchange is also one of the ways in which you can avoid tunnel vision – mixing my metaphors, by  scanning the wider horizon: hence Periscope.  From time to time, under this heading, I’ll list stuff that is catching my attention at the moment – sometimes with a brief annotation, sometimes not; sometimes hot off the press (or, appropriately enough, the Kindle), sometimes something I really should have noticed an age ago….  I doubt that there will be much rhyme or reason to these jottings, since one of the things that attracted me to geography (how I hate its capital!) is the perch it provides for magpie minds. But I hope that others will find them interesting.

Eyal Weizmann, The least of all possible evils: humanitarian violence from Arendt to Gaza (Verso, 2012) – includes his essay on forensic architecture: forensic geography, anyone?

Patricia Owens, ‘Human security and the rise of the social’, Review of International Studies 38 (2012) 547-567 – Patricia knows her Arendt too, probably better than anybody else I’ve read, and amongst other things this is a powerful critical reflection on contemporary notions of biopolitics and, as she puts it, ‘why politics-as-life is fake politics’

Stephen Biddle, Jeffrey Friedmann and Jacob Shapiro, ‘Testing the Surge: why did violence decline in Iraq in 2007’, International Security 37 (2012) 7-40 – a spatial/quantitative analysis exploring the interplay between ethno-sectarian violence, the US  troop surge and the (Anbar) Awakening; compare this with Nils Weidmann and Idean Saleyhan, ‘Violence and ethnic segregation: a computational model applied to Baghdad’ here (forthcoming in International Studies Quarterly)

Colleen Bell, ‘Hybrid warfare and its metaphors’, Humanity: an international journal of human rights, humanitarianism and development 3 (2) (2012) 225-247 – I really like Colleen’s work, and this essay intersects with some of my own essays on the cultural turn, biopolitics and war (see DOWNLOADS)

Maja Zehfuss, ‘Culturally sensitive war? The Human Terrain System and the seduction of ethics’, Security dialogue 43 (2012) 175-190 – ditto!

Janell Watson, ‘Butler’s biopolitics: precarious community’, Theory and event 15 (2) (2012) –  reflection on Judith Butler’s recent writings

David Nally, ‘The biopolitics of food provisioning’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 36 (2011) 37-53 – a provocative essay by an old friend that moves brilliantly from the colonial to the nominally post-colonial, from a moral economy of hunger to a political economy of food ‘security’: a must-read (and – er – digest)

Rob Nixon, Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor (Harvard, 2011) – includes his stand-out essay on land-mines and much more, ”Ecologies of the aftermath’: don’t miss it.

Harald Welzer, Climate wars (Polity, 2012) – I hope this is for those who were as disappointed by Christian Parenti’s Tropic of chaos: climate change and the new geography of violence as I was….

Andrew Feinstein, The shadow world: inside the global arms trade  (Hamish Hamilton, 2011) – this is, after all, one of the key enablers of Obama’s shadow wars… but oh for some maps!

Frederic Mégrét, ‘War and the vanishing battlefield’, January 2012, via SSRN [an essential open-access resource, incidentally]

Helga Tawil-Souri, ‘Digital occupation: Gaza’s high-tech enclosure’, Journal of Palestine Studies 41 (2) (2012) 27-43 – I’m lost in admiration for this: passionate, probing and full of insights

Lisa Bhungalia, ‘Im/mobilities in a “Hostile Territory”: Managing the Red Line’, Geopolitics 17 (2012) 256-275 – another brilliant analysis of Israel’s ‘disengagement’ from Gaza

David Fedman and Cary Karacas, ‘Fade to black: mapping the destruction of Japan during World War II’, Journal of historical geography 38 (2012) 306-28 – this beautifully complements (and in important respects advances beyond) my preliminary investigation of the combined bomber offensive against Germany in “Doors into nowhere” (see DOWNLOADS); it’s also an elegant reminder – should one be needed – that the Harvard reference system is inimical to good writing (which this is)…

Trevor Barnes and Claudio Minca, ‘Nazi Spatial Theory: the dark geographies of Carl Schmitt and Walter Christaller’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers (March 2012 early view: here)

Kyle Grayson, ‘Six theses on targeted killing’, Politics 32 (2012) 120-128 – if you find this interesting, check out his ‘The ambivalence of assassination: biopolitics, culture and political violence’, Security dialogue 43 (2012) 25-41

David Sanger, Confront and conceal: Obama’s secret wars and surprising use of American power (Crown/Random House, 2012) – I’m not sure what is so ‘surprising’ about it, but Sanger’s account of the US hot pursuit of cyberwarfare through “Olympic Games” – more commonly known as Stuxnet – is essential reading; I’ll be incorporating this into my revised account of ‘The everywhere war’, and you can get a taster of Sanger’s report  here.

Tom Junod, ‘The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama’, Esquire, July 2012 here.

Carolyn Gallaher, ‘Risk and private military work’, Antipode 43 (2012) 783-805 – a crucial intervention in the global political economy of ‘risk transfer’ and commodification, this also raises intriguing geo-legal questions about complicity and liability (as my UBC colleague James Stewart’s challenging work suggests: see, for example, this).

David Axe, From A toB: How logistics fuels American power and prosperity (Potomac, 2012) – military logistics is one of my current preoccupations, thanks in large measure to Deb Cowen, and this is a vivid account from a smart, young freelance war correspondent and a frequent contributor to Danger Room – but it says remarkably little about the sort of obstacles I describe for the war in Afghanistan here

OK, that’s more than enough for now… Diving….going down.