Jun 19 2016

The Body of War: Drones and Lone Wolves

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An International Symposium on the future of war at Lancaster University

Keynote speaker:

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 bisagroup.cript@gmail.com. If accepted, participants will be expected to submit the full paper by October 15th 2016.

Lancaster University

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


Jun 8 2015

Futures of the Archive: Theory, Criticism, Crisis

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A new book series from Rowman and Littlefield International in partnership with the Northern Theory School

Edited by Arthur Bradley (Lancaster University) and Simon Swift (University of Geneva)

What will be the future of critical theory’s past? This new series offers a set of radical interdisciplinary interventions which explore how the history of critical theory can contribute to an understanding of the contemporary.

By returning to classic critical debates in philosophy, politics, aesthetics, religion and more, the volumes in this series seek to provide a new insight into the crises of our present moment: capitalism, revolution, biopolitics, human rights, the animal and the anthropocene.

In this way, Futures of the Archive shows that the past – and in particular critical theory’s own past – is not a dead letter, but an archive to which we still belong and which continues to shape our present and future.

International Advisory Board: 

Robert Appelbaum (University of Uppsala)

Howard Caygill (Kingston University)

Terry Eagleton (Lancaster University)

Paul Hamilton (Queen Mary, University of London)

J. Hillis Miller (University of California at Irvine)

Yvonne Sherwood (University of Kent)

Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia)

Rei Terada (University of California at Irvine)

Samuel Weber (Northwestern University)

In order to discuss or propose a submission, please contact Arthur Bradley and Simon Swift.


Apr 16 2015

Anne-Lise Francois on Climate Change

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‘Climate Change and the Cumulus of History’

A lecture by Professor Anne-Lise Francois (University of California, Berkeley) at the University of Leeds

Anne-Lise Francois is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Her book Open Secrets: The Literature of Uncounted Experience (Stanford UP, 2007) was awarded the René Wellek prize for Comparative Literature in 2010.

Thursday, 7th May 5.15 pm.

Seminar Room 5,

School of English,

University of Leeds.

This talk is generously funded by the Leverhulme Foundation.


Apr 25 2014

Cressida Heyes on Rape

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‘Sleep, “Night”, and Bodily Anonymity: The Harms of Rape While Unconscious’

A Public Lecture at Durham University by Professor Cressida Heyes (University of Alberta)

Recent media coverage has drawn attention to cases of women sexually assaulted while unconscious. The most sensationalized involve young white women being assaulted by young men at parties while drunk. But case law and reports from advocacy groups indicate the problem of sexual assault of unconscious women is widespread and more complex–including violation of women who are medically vulnerable, pre-meditated drug-facilitated sexual assault, and opportunistic sexual violence that disproportionately affects women marginalized by poverty, under-housing, domestic abuse, and sexualized racism. This lecture draws on existential phenomenology to make sense of the distinctive bodily harms of sexual assault–especially rape–on unconscious, semi-conscious, and waking women. While rape clearly fails to recognize subjectivity understood as individuality, it also negates the possibility of anonymity, and, as it involves unconsciousness, the possibility of balancing the experience of “night” with moving out into the world.

Cressida Heyes holds the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Alberta. Her publications include Self-Transformations: Foucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies (2007), The Grammar of Politics: Wittgenstein and Political Philosophy (Ithaca 2003), and the volume Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer (2009, with Meredith Jones). She holds a BA (Hons) in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford University, an MA in Political Science, and a PhD in Philosophy, both from McGill University.

7th May 2014, 5 pm, ER140, Elvet Riverside, Durham University

This lecture is jointly hosted by the School of Modern Languages and Cultures and the Institute of Advanced Study, as part of the Languages of Light series. All welcome. For further details contact caitriona.nidhuill@durham.ac.uk.