Body/politic and the illumination of Human Suffering

by K.M. Fierke, University of St. Andrews

Why write a book on a topic so macabre as Political Self Sacrifice? The beginnings were simple enough. I was puzzled by the significance of two distinct words, ‘suicide’ terrorist and martyr – words with two very different meanings, yet used interchangeably to refer to human bombs. But the question of language, while interesting, is not the only one. Why put cases as different as self-immolation by fire, nonviolent martyrdom, hunger strikes and the human bomb under the same microscope, when surely these are very different phenomenon? What do, for instance, the hundreds of Tibetan monks who have set themselves on fire over the past few years, the sixty Kurdish hunger strikers in Turkey (2012) or the hundred some hunger strikers at Guantanamo, the thousands of nonviolent activists killed in the early days of the Syrian revolution or the suicide terrorist from Hamas, share, if anything, in common? Why have acts of self-destruction, whether in the form of lighting a match or putting one’s self in harm’s way, been undertaken by so many and why should we, as scholars of international relations, be interested? Continue reading

Large-scale surveillance as a transnational activity ?

By Didier Bigo

In the wake of disclosures by Edward Snowden surrounding PRISM and other US surveillance programmes (Upstream, Xkeyscore), it is important to assess large-scale surveillance practices in other parts of the world and especially those in Europe. Some EU member states have been regularly quoted : the UK, Sweden, France, Germany and the Netherlands. 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