Writing the Self, Writing as Care

by Lucy Thomas

Like many others, I am sitting at a table that, a few months ago, was our kitchen table, but that I now understand as my desk. Clearing away others’ books, cups of water, bike locks and assorted personal effects, I settle into the chronically uncomfortable white plastic Ikea chair, trying to concentrate while housemates enjoy a long Bank Holiday weekend. I write from lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis, a time that has warped and exploded our understandings of ethics, community, solidarity, and care.

In the face of so much death, struggle, and grief, there are many things to write on. Writing about writing might not be the first thing that comes to mind; nor might the connection between writing and care. But I want to use this space to think through how writing differently and writing otherwise can be an act of care within wider contexts of violence.

Much academic writing is eerily impersonal: individuality is exorcised in pursuit of the fiction of objectivity. Scholarship in the academy is so often divorced from the researchers’ personal circumstances; presented as a smoothed-out, clean academic production with a highly sanitised sense of the ways in which one’s thinking, knowing and being develops over years of intensive study. Stripping academic scholarship of a sense of self can be seen as an act of purification, mimicking the natural sciences’ predilection for a controlled and decontaminated workplace, unpolluted by external disorder.

We can understand this impulse for purification in academic writing as deeply implicated in coloniality. By coloniality, I refer to a matrix of power, one intimately connected to the political realities of formal and direct systems of colonialism, but exceeding them. Coloniality operates as a cosmology; a dynamic that structures our understandings of the what, the why, and the how of the universe. It is an analytic of power that exists in the present—we do not talk of a ‘legacy’ of coloniality, but rather, of coloniality of power in the present. Coloniality has many expressions: a field of knowledge, economic expansion and exploitation, cultural subjugation and elimination, the imposition of raciality, and so on.

One such expression of coloniality is a commitment to scientific ways of knowing. The European Renaissance, blossoming in fourteenth-century Italy within a context of crisis for the Roman Catholic Church, saw intelligentsia and philosophers of the day emphasise reason and humanism. The so-called Age of Reason, a time of ‘Enlightenment’ and unshackling from the supposedly old, pre-modern, barbaric, and backward ways, and of triumph for science, empiricism, and rationalism, characterised Europe from the seventeenth century onward. At the same time, Western European conquistadores set sail for the ostensible ‘New World,’ conquering, colonising, terrorising, and murdering swathes of Indigenous and Native peoples. Anthropology was established as the tool for extracting and making articulable knowledges and lands of these ‘new’ people for reporting back to the metropole. Between ten and twelve million African people were brutally captured, bought, sold, and disposed of as commodities in the Transatlantic slave trade.

The intellectual transformation in Europe and its colonialism of Africa, America, and Asia, are fused together. Far from simply occurring at the same time, one configured the other. The belief that one can ostensibly stand outside of politics, dispassionately and unethically observing, measuring, studying, is predicated upon acts of epistemological, physical, and ecological extractivism. In other words, scientific ways of knowing flow from European coloniser, self-defined as the standard-bearer of humanity, as they encounter the Other; a knowable object, existing independently of the knowing subject. This knowable object—be it people or land—can be mined for knowledge, labour, and resources, then disposed of: an encounter based on what can be extracted. This expression of coloniality continues, fairly undisturbed, for over five hundred years, into today’s established standards of academic writing. We are compelled to write as if we can step outside of our own skins, and into the subjectivity of a ‘researcher,’ encountering and extracting data from the world around us objectively and impersonally.

What if we began by acknowledging the falsity of our encounter with the Other and the world? By recovering ourselves in the act and the process of writing? By experimenting with academic writing as acutely personal? As an act of resistance, of liberation, of solidarity, of care?

Narrative works are presentations of the imbrication between the writer and how they move through the world: collisions between and blends of intellectual challenges and experiences of selfhood. They emphasise the unstructured, imaginative and fantastical ways that we encounter and experience the world; inviting us to know ourselves and the universe in a distinctly anti-scientific and a distinctly authentic way. Embracing these ways of being, knowing, and writing the world can teach us so much more about the human—and political—experience than sterilised scientificity. These alternative ways of knowing and writing acknowledge the simple fact that we exist in symbiosis with the political, colonial, modern, violent world: one in which we cannot stand outside of and observe dispassionately, unethically or neutrally.

Ways of writing that move away from the scientific, then, are anti-colonial. They resist the colonial violence of objectivity and extractivism; instead foregrounding our embeddedness in the world around us. In recovering the self, one who cannot escape coloniality, through writing respects and acknowledges the deeply relational nature of reality: we exist in, and in relation to, this world, not outside of it. It privileges the authentic, unsanitised experience of being subjects of and in colonialism, modernity, politics, and violence.

Many Black, Black feminist/female, and Indigenous scholars and scholars of colour have written on the ways in which this colonial world privileges whiteness, and, in doing so, destroys Blackness. As Ruha Benjamin puts it, “Vampirically, white vitality feeds on black demise … [for example] the extraction of (re)productive slave labor to build the nation’s wealth […] in these ways and many more, white life and black death are inextricable.” For those peoples dehumanised and placed in constant proximity to death in the context of this colonial world, recovering the self is an act of care.

Writing in Feminist Review, Azeezat Johnson begins her response to the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2017, upon learning that her cancer had returned. Fear of illness, cancer and COVID-19, meant “finding a way to love my body and life whilst still fearing (and in some ways, mourning) a death that always feels right around the next corner.” Johnson writes that “our bodies are objectified by the state as a problem worth a quantifiable amount of care.” Such care privileges whiteness: one need only think of enslaved Africans “thrown, jumped, dumped overboard in Middle Passage,” condemned to the depths of the Atlantic (Sharpe 2016, 19), or that per capita COVID-19 deaths among Black Caribbean Britons are three times that of white people, to grasp what is at stake when we speak of an ethics and a politics of care.

In entreating us to craft “an ethics of care that centres those who are continuously forgotten once disaster strikes,” Johnson reflects on the process of personal writing as care. “Staying silent, staying immobile” on her struggle means “erasing the experiences of those that are further marginalised [which] does nothing but divide us from one another.” The crucial connection is the one between the personal and the planetary: caring for/writing the self in the context of fighting for justice and for liberation for oppressed peoples. Audre Lorde, the Black feminist poet, wrote that “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” In our colonial world, where the marginalised “were never meant to survive,” caring for oneself and one another where the state refuses to, or where state care is violent, is an act of resistance.

Writing otherwise, then, is liberatory; it stands in resistance and in solidarity; it cares. Christina Sharpe, in her stunning opening chapter of In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, introduces her project with a gut-wrenching account of some of her family members’ deaths. Reflecting on the deaths at the hands of police, at the hands of another young man, at the hands of cancer, Sharpe “includes the personal here ‘to tell a story capable of engaging and countering the violence of abstraction.’” In confronting the deeply personal nature of colonial violence and slavery, and its afterlives, Sharpe calls on us to think of care “as a problem for thinking of and for Black non/being in the world,” and in doing so, think of care “laterally … in a different relation than that of the violence of the state.”

In recovering the self through writing, Sharpe and Johnson perform an act of care; they “tend to the living and the dying.” For those forced on the edge of being in this colonial world, writing for and of oneself and writing for and of one another’s lives, struggles, and deaths, is a form of liberation and resistance; an “act of political warfare.”

 

Lucy Thomas is a PhD candidate in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London as part of the ESRC-funded LISS Doctoral Training Partnership. She holds an MA in International Conflict Studies from King’s College London, and an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics, both with Distinction. She is currently a Research Associate with the Policy Institute at King’s.

This blog post excerpts ideas and phrases from an unpublished doctoral thesis; please do not reproduce or cite without the author’s permission.

 

Bibliography

Ahmed, Sara (2014) ‘Selfcare as Warfare,’ Feminist Killjoys blog. Accessed: https://feministkilljoys.com/2014/08/25/selfcare-as-warfare/

Benjamin, R. (2018) ‘Black AfterLives Matter: Cultivating Kinfulness as Reproductive Justice,’ Boston Review blog. Accessed: https://bostonreview.net/race/ruha-benjamin-black-afterlives-matter

Kušić, K. & Záhora, J. eds. (2020) Fieldwork as Failure: Living and Knowing in the Field of International Relations, E-IR Publishing. Accessed: https://www.e-ir.info/publication/fieldwork-as-failure-living-and-knowing-in-the-field-of-international-relations/

Johnson, A. (2020) ‘Covid-19 and Cancer: Following Audre Lorde,’ Feminist Review blog. Accessed: https://femrev.wordpress.com/2020/03/31/covid-19-and-cancer-following-audre-lorde/

Platt, L. & Warwick, R. (2020) ‘Are some ethnic groups more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others?,’ briefing note, Institute for Fiscal Studies. Accessed: https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14827

Rutazibwa, O. (2020) ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: Coloniality, Capitalism and Race/ism as Far as the Eye Can See,’ Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 48(2), pp. 221-24

Sharpe, C. (2016) In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Duke University Press)

Smith, L.T. (2012) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, 2nd ed (Zed Books)

Tilley, L. (2017) ‘Resisting Piratic Method by Doing Research Otherwise,’ Sociology, 51(1), pp. 27-42

Walsh, C. E. & Mignolo, W. (2018) On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis (Duke University Press)

 

Bringing the Personal (Back) In

By Hannah Goozee

This reflexive blog post considers what happens if we, as researchers, listen to our emotions. Drawing on six months of research in South Africa, I reflect on two emotional moments I experienced and consider what they reveal about my role and responsibility as a researcher.

“And so it begins. I land in Johannesburg in twenty minutes time, and I am terrified. I have no idea what I’m doing, except stepping into an abyss. Underqualified and underprepared. What right do I have to be here; to do this research?” (Personal journal, 1st February 2019)

The very first entry in my journal is both surprising and unsurprising. It is surprising given that I had spent the previous 16 months reading and fine-tuning my methodology, undergoing a rigorous ethics process and internal exam. Arriving in South Africa, on paper I had a clear and well-defined research methodology, developed from studying various methodological texts. This included scholarship on ethics, reflexivity and ethnography, and sensitive research in conflict-affected settings (e.g. Wood 2006; Vrasti 2008; Iphofen 2009; Rancatore 2010; Fujii 2012). I planned to undertake qualitative research with an interpretivist lens, forming relationships with local gatekeepers in order to carry out semi-structured interviews and focus groups with local residents. Supplemented by archival and institutional research, this would provide me with sufficient data to answer my research question.  I had a plan. But my first journal entry is also, as any researcher knows all too well, very unsurprising. At first, I thought that my ability to undertake research in South Africa relied on preparation and skill. Quickly, however, it became clear that such a methodology relied far more on me as a feeling individual than the literature had prepared me for. It not only took time for me to feel comfortable in my surroundings, it took endless courage to make cold-call after cold-call, reaching out to potential gatekeepers and organising interviews. Often, I did not have that courage. It was in this early contradiction between my careful methodological plan and felt experience that I became aware of the central role that emotions play in research.

Whilst there is now a variety of literature on emotion in International Relations (IR) – from anthropological-inspired accounts (e.g. Brigg and Bleiker 2010; Dauphinee 2010; Löwenheim 2010; Inayatullah 2011; Hamati-Ataya 2013; Beattie 2019) to theoretical readings of emotion and international politics (e.g. Crawford 2000; Ross 2006; Fierke 2013; Bleiker and Hutchison 2014; Mercer 2014; Hutchison 2017; Pin-Fat 2019) – I was not sure what to do with mine. In her feminist analysis, Megan MacKenzie reflects that whilst the growing research on emotion in IR considers the appropriate methods with which to study emotion, “the question avoided by this concern relates to the epistemological bias within IR, which values rational, objective research and assumes that ‘distance’ between the researcher and the research subject is essential” (Sylvester et al. 2011, 681). With the benefit of hindsight, I believe that in South Africa, my emotions were an insight into this distance.  Anxiety, fear, and discomfort demonstrated that despite my intellectual and personal commitments, this epistemological bias remains an insidious force within the academy and within me.

“Today feels like a turning point, and it terrifies me. All I want to do is lay in the dark. A strange silence has settled, in the house or in me. I’m not sure which.” (Personal journal, 21stFebruary 2019)

Thinking back to my time in South Africa, I still experience a surge of anxiety; a tide turns in my stomach. My journals, four in total, confirm that much of my time there was marked by anxiety. The first month I spent in Johannesburg consisted largely of futile attempts to track down archival materials and make contact with gatekeeper organisations. Finally, after repeated calls and emails, on 21st February 2019, I made contact, and a meeting was set. I record in my journal: “And then she calls, we will meet next week and a weight has been lifted. But I am pacing, I’m nearly crying – after setting one meeting. Maybe I’m not made for this” (Personal journal, 21st February 2019). Fear and anxiety scream out from the lined page. What is telling from this extract is that I automatically interpreted the emotions I felt as a personal fault. Whilst recent scholarship has documented the central role that fear and anxiety play in fieldwork (Davies and Spencer 2010; Kušić and Záhora 2020), at the time I believed that my emotional response to a seemingly simple task meant that I was fundamentally incompatible with research. I had internalised the division between emotion and reason that feminist researchers have long identified; a strategy keeping women and the feminine out of political spheres (Tronto 1993; Åhäll 2018).  In doing so, I overlooked what my anxiety was saying – precisely what MacKenzie identified – the epistemological bias and expectation within IR to produce of rational, detached, and masculinized research. Intellectually I was committed to reflexive, embodied research, but in practice how I responded to my emotions in South Africa exposed the insidious nature of this epistemology.

So, what did I do with this fear and anxiety? In short, I ignored it. When it came to undertaking interviews, I disconnected from my emotions, seeking to carry out my tasks guided by the professional ethics and rigour that I had internalised – carefully referring to my information sheet and consent form. The epistemological framework had succeeded in dividing my personal, my body, and the political which I was studying (Åhäll 2018). Reflecting now, it appears that I was also committed to my research plan at the expense of my emotions because I knew that this data was my original contribution; that gathering this personal information from gatekeepers and local citizens would give me the advantage when it came to publication, to experience, and ultimately to my career. As Kušić and Záhora note, “the imperative to turn our fieldwork into ‘successful’ publications again points to systemic issues of the academic industrial complex” (2020, 10). Even in my sensitive, ethical, and reflexive research agenda, the masculine neoliberal academy prevailed. Ignoring my emotions meant that I did not see this, and that I missed the warning signs. The pressure and economy of the neoliberal academy meant that I pursued a research agenda despite knowing, had I stopped to listen to my emotions, that I risked carrying out research that would lead to abandonment, betrayal and exploitation (Stacey 1988). Indeed, that I would perpetuate the colonial extraction of knowledge – and once back in the UK, be unable to fully engage with the people that I had benefitted from. My emotions were signposts of what I was overlooking in order to meet the expectations of a neoliberal academy – questions of ethics, community, and care. With hindsight, fear and discomfort revealed to me that

“no matter how welcome, even enjoyable the fieldworker’s presence may appear to ‘natives’, fieldwork represents an intrusion and intervention into a system of relationships, a system of relationships that the researcher is far freer than the researched to leave. The inequality and potential treacherousness of this relationship seems inescapable” (Stacey 1988, 23)

My experience in South Africa revealed the hugely emotional task of fostering an ethical and responsible research relationship, beyond intrusion and exploitation. Ignoring my fear and discomfort, seeking to evade and restrict them, I failed to do so.

This was a failure; but not a failure to run from. Rather, as Laura Sjoberg has taught us, it is an opportunity to re-evaluate systems and values (2019). Why I failed to engage with my emotions raises important questions regarding the normative expectations, boundaries, and limitations of our discipline; questions that we all must continue to explore.

Hannah Goozee is an ESRC-funded PhD candidate in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Her doctoral research explores the politics of trauma in post-conflict environments, with a specific focus on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission

 

Bibliography

Åhäll, Linda. 2018. “Affect as Methodology: Feminism and the Politics of Emotion 1.” International Political Sociology 12 (1): 36–52. https://doi.org/10.1093/ips/olx024.

Beattie, Amanda Russell. 2019. “The Reflexive Potential of Silence: Emotions, the ‘Everyday’ and Ethical International Relations.” Journal of International Political Theory 15 (2): 229–245. https://doi.org/10.1177/1755088219830119.

Bleiker, Roland, and Emma Hutchison. 2014. “Introduction: Emotions and World Politics” 6 (3): 490–491. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1752971914000220.

Brigg, Morgan, and Roland Bleiker. 2010. “Autoethnographic International Relations: Exploring the Self as a Source of Knowledge.” Review of International Studies 36 (3): 779–798. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0260210510000689.

Crawford, Neta C. 2000. “The Passion of World Politics: Propositions on Emotion and Emotional Relationships.” International Security 24 (4): 116–156. https://doi.org/10.1162/016228800560327.

Dauphinee, Elizabeth. 2010. “The Ethics of Autoethnography.” Review of International Studies 36 (3): 799–818. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0260210510000690.

Davies, James, and Dimitrina Spencer. 2010. Emotions in the Field: The Psychology and Anthropology of Fieldwork Experience. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

Fierke, K. M. 2013. Political Self-Sacrifice: Agency, Body and Emotion in International Relations. Cambridge Studies in International Relations 125. Cambridge: University Press.

Fujii, Lee. 2012. “Research Ethics 101: Dilemmas and Responsibilities.” PS, Political Science & Politics45 (4): 717–723. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1049096512000819.

Hamati-Ataya, Inanna. 2013. “Reflectivity, Reflexivity, Reflexivism: IR’s ‘Reflexive Turn’ — and Beyond.” European Journal of International Relations 19 (4): 669–694. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354066112437770.

Hutchison, Emma. 2017. Affective Communities in World Politics: Collective Emotions after Trauma. First paperback edition. Cambridge Studies in International Relations 140. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Inayatullah, Naeem. 2011. Autobiographical International Relations: I, IR. Interventions. London: Routledge.

Iphofen, Ron. 2009. Ethical Decision Making in Social Research a Practical Guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. http://kcl.eblib.com/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=515020.

Kušić, Katerina, and Jakub Záhora. 2020. Fieldwork as Failure: Living and Knowing in the Field of International Relations. E-International Relations. https://www.e-ir.info/publication/fieldwork-as-failure-living-and-knowing-in-the-field-of-international-relations/.

Löwenheim, Oded. 2010. “The ‘I’ in IR: An Autoethnographic Account.” Review of International Studies 36 (4): 1023–1045. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0260210510000562.

Mercer, Jonathan. 2014. “Feeling like a State: Social Emotion and Identity” 6 (3): 515–535. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1752971914000244.

Pin-Fat, Véronique. 2019. “‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?’ Ethics, Emotions, and Encounter in International Relations.” Review of International Studies 45 (2): 181–200. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0260210518000426.

Rancatore, Jason P. 2010. “It Is Strange: A Reply to Vrasti.” Millennium – Journal of International Studies 39 (1): 65–77. https://doi.org/10.1177/0305829810370938.

Ross, Andrew A. G. 2006. “Coming in from the Cold: Constructivism and Emotions.” European Journal of International Relations 12 (2): 197–222. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354066106064507.

Sjoberg, Laura. 2019. “Failure and Critique in Critical Security Studies.” Security Dialogue 50 (1): 77–94. https://doi.org/10.1177/0967010618783393.

Stacey, Judith. 1988. “Can There Be a Feminist Ethnography?” Women’s Studies International Forum11 (1): 21–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/0277-5395(88)90004-0.

Sylvester, Christine, Sandra Marshall, Megan H. Mackenzie, Shirin Saeidi, Heather M. Turcotte, Swati Parashar, and Laura Sjoberg. 2011. “Emotion and the Feminist IR Researcher.” International Studies Review 13 (4): 687–708.

Tronto, Joan C. 1993. Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. New York ; London: Routledge.

Vrasti, Wanda. 2008. “The Strange Case of Ethnography and International Relations.” Millennium – Journal of International Studies 37 (2): 279–301. https://doi.org/10.1177/0305829808097641.

Wood, Elisabeth. 2006. “The Ethical Challenges of Field Research in Conflict Zones.” Qualitative Sociology 29 (3): 373–386. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-006-9027-8.

 

Call for Papers: WAR FOR PRESENCE: ART, CONFLICT AND IDENTITY AT THE ART-IR NEXUS

 

A one-day interdisciplinary workshop exploring the crossover between IR and Art History, common concerns, and interdisciplinary advances with a view to establish a productive conceptual, methodological and analytical agenda for IR and Art Historical research. With the support of the BISA Poststructural Politics Working Group.

 

30th June 2018; Department of War Studies, King’s College London, UK

Event rationale:

The nexus between the study of International Relations (IR) and Art History is ripe with conceptual, analytical, and empirical opportunities for critical understanding. Art History has long counted on and developed methods and concepts for the study of specific aesthetic functions, including conflict and identity. Likewise, areas of IR scholarship have addressed in various forms the relevance, function and power of the aesthetic, and has long sought to account for the role of such expression in politics. The ‘Aesthetic Turn’ literature has sought to make this crossover productive. However, scholarship between these fields suffers from a lack of aggregation, particularly examination of clear conceptual links and reflection on analytical objectives shared and contested by both disciplines, and the tensions therein. Though valuable contributions have been made, its analytical promise needs to be revisited. How do IR and Art Historical analyses differ and what are the conceptual and methodological reasons for this? Where can they meet? What might such an interdisciplinary crossover look like in the specifics of each discipline and concrete research and analytical goals?

This one-day workshop seeks to open an interdisciplinary space for new dialogue between IR scholars and Art Historians working on issues of art and conflict. The core objective is to understand and map what constitutes the shared space between art and IR, its tensions, and the concepts and methods necessary for its interdisciplinary engagement and analytical research productivity. The event will bring together key scholars that have experience of this interdisciplinary space and a range of IR and art practitioners.  We are grateful to the BISA Postructuralist Politics Working Group for the grant that made this event possible.

 

Submissions will be sought that relate to

  • Theory, methods, and analytical strategies in both IR and Art History
  • aesthetics and ethics
  • knowledge, power, categorisations and aesthetics
  • images and the dilemma of ‘high art’
  • sites of art and conflict
  • conflict over visibility/invisibility
  • nexus of transnational art world, institutions and its localities
  • aesthetic analysis and its development
  • gendered aesthetics
  • hierarchy and power in aesthetic analysis
  • locating the politics of art as theory and methodology
  • examining aesthetic language
  • postcoloniality in aesthetics and decolonising aesthetics
  • making art international
  • practices and institutional as well as individual power
  • agency between art and IR
  • the body and art in IR and/or conflict

Output

Selected papers presented at the workshop to be developed and submitted as a special issue to Review of International Studies. This special issue is to be edited by Vivienne Jabri (KCL), Laurie Benson (SOAS) and Pablo de Orellana (KCL).

 

Event format:

Convenors: Dr Pablo de Orellana, King’s College London, pablo.de.orellana@kcl.ac.uk, Co-Chair of the KCL Research Centre in International Relations; Dr Laurie Benson, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, lb60@soas.ac.uk; Prof Vivienne Jabri, King’s College London

Funding: There is some limited funding available to contribute towards travel expenses, priority will be given to postgraduate students and early career scholars. Please note that BISA will only reimburse the travel expenses of BISA members. Please detail your funding needs in your submission.

Submissions: All submissions to attend the workshop either presenting a paper or for attendance to be emailed to warforpresence2018@gmail.com by 1st March 2018. Abstracts for papers (200 words max) due 1st March 2018 (midnight) — Applications for attendance due 1st March 2018 (midnight) — Papers due 10th June 2018 (midnight)

POSTPONE Inaugural Workshop 21st of March, King’s College London

On 21st of March the Research Centre in International Relations hosted the inaugural workshop for the newly created cross-national PhD research network POSTPONE (Postgraduate Poststructural Research Network)at King’s College London’s Strand campus. Continue reading

Mass Electronic Surveillance, Security and Rights in Liberal Democracies panel discussion at RCIR

Snapshot of Boundless Informant global heat map of data collection. The color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance). Note the '2007' date in the image relates to the document from which the interactive map derives its top secret classification, not to the map itself.

Snapshot of Boundless Informant global heat map of data collection. Color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance). The ‘2007’ date in the image relates to the document from which the interactive map derives its top secret classification, not to the map itself. Source here.

21st January 2014, 630pm, Safra Lecture Theatre, Strand Campus.Please be prompt as seats are first come, first served.

The Research Centre in International Relations in the Department of War Studies will host a panel discussion on revelations relating to mass electronic surveillance and its implications for civil liberties and rights.

Speakers include Sir David Omand (former Head of GCHQ and Visiting Professor in the Department of War Studies), Ben Emmerson QC (Mr. Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and Matrix Chambers), Professor Didier Bigo (Department of War Studies and Sciences Po, Paris), and chairing, Professor Vivienne Jabri (Department of War Studies, head of RCIR).

The event is at the Edmond J. Safra Lecture Theatre, King’s College London Strand Campus, Strand, London WC2R 2LS. Directions here. Continue reading

SAPIENT Policy Meeting and EIRSS Summer School, 2-13 September 2013

By Isabel Rocha de Siqueira and Emma Mc Cluskey

In September 2013, the Research Centre for International Relations at King’s College London (RCIR-KCL), the SAPIENT project, coordinated by Prof. Didier Bigo (KCL), and the University of Kent, in Brussels, organised two parallel events in Brussels: a Policy Meeting on Smart Borders, sponsored by the SAPIENT project; and a Summer School on Security, Borders and Mobility, held at the University of Kent. This post on the RCIR Forum provides us with the opportunity to make podcasts and information from both events publicly available.

Continue reading

Theory and Practice: The Ethics and Politics of Security

by Vivienne Jabri

I often come across the assertion that theorists, especially those working in ‘critical’ International Relations, are reluctant to engage with questions of policy. In other words, we might have a great deal to say about theory, concepts, and methods, and we might use these to critique particular policies and actions, but our language is so deep in the so-called ‘ivory tower’ that it tends to bypass the non-specialist, the policy-maker, or indeed the public sphere. The charge tends to be thrown at theorists generally, so one function we hope the Forum will serve is to show that theorists in International Relations have a great deal to say and to contribute to debates around the policy arena and wider issues that concern the public sphere.

Primarily, we would want to challenge the idea that ‘theory’ is somehow divorced from ‘practice’. I would want to argue that ‘practice’ is always imbued with a theoretical background that is often left hidden; as if the discourses and positions expressed in the area of policy are self-evident or can be taken for granted. Continue reading