An International Symposium on the future of war at Lancaster University
Derek Gregory (Peter Wall Distinguished Professor of Geography, University of British Columbia)
13 November 2015: three suicide bombers blew themselves up near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, Paris, killing themselves and a bystander, and triggering a series of violent actions that caused 130 casualties.
15 November 2015: the President of France, François Hollande, after defying the attacks ‘an act of war’ by the Islamic State, launched a three-month state of emergency and ‘Opération Chammal’, a huge airstrike campaign against ISIL targets in Syria.
These two violent actions design a deformed and limitless theater of war, within which all distinctions and limitations elaborated by International Law seem to disappear. It is not merely the loss of the fundamental distinction between combatants and civilians, that both suicide bombers and airstrike bombings signal. In the current situation, all the fundamental principles that gave birth to the Laws of War seem to collapse: spatial and temporal limitations of hostilities, proportionality of military actions, discrimination of targets, weapons and just methods to use them. In this way, the ‘enemy’, from a juridical concept, is transformed into an ‘ideological object’; his figure, pushed to a climax from both these ‘invisible’ and ‘mobile’ fronts, becomes absolute and de-humanized. Hollande, Cameron and Obama’s unwillingness to use ground troops against the ‘uncivilized’ (Kerry 2015) is mirrored by the ISIL call to intensify suicide missions against the ‘cowards’ (Dābiq, 12: 2015).
But what lies behind the asymmetric confrontation between airstrikes and ‘humanstrikes’, behind the blurring of the distinction between the state of war and state of peace? What notion of humanity are the physical disengagement of the Western powers (with their tele-killing via drones and airstrikes) and the physical engagement of suicide bombers (ready to turn their bodies into a weapon) trying to convey? In other words, how and to what extent is there a connection between the automatization and biopoliticization of war operated by Western powers and the sacrificial nature of the conflict adopted by those who want to fight these powers?
In this symposium, our intention is to explore these questions in order to map the crucial transformations of warfare, of its ethical principles and methods of engagement. We invite potential participants to submit abstracts drawing upon, but not limited to, such issues as:
- Theatres of War: The New Spatialities and Temporalities of Warfare
- Mirror Images? Drones vs. Suicide Bombers
- Phenomenology of Drones
- New Perspectives on Ethics, Horror & Terror
- The Ubiquity of the Enemy: Lone Wolves and Self-Representing Terror
- The Collapse of International Law: What Enemy? Which Proportionality?
- The Body as a Weapon: The Immanentization of Martyrdom
- Phenomenology of Lone Wolves
- The End of Law: Rethinking Limitation, Proportionality and Discrimination
Please send abstracts of 250 words by August 15th 2016 to firstname.lastname@example.org. If accepted, participants will be expected to submit the full paper by October 15th 2016.
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
24th-25th November, 2016
This conference is generously funded by the British Association of International Studies, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Lancaster University) and the Institute of Social Futures (Lancaster University).
Image: Adam Harvey, Anti-Drone Burqa