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Lesley Gill

Low-intensity conflicts, counter-insurgencies, and the so-called war on terror blur the boundaries between war and peace and, in doing so, collapse the distinctions between combatants and non-combatants. Scholars have used concepts such as `routinization of terror', `culture of fear', and `banalization of violence' to describe how fear regulates social life in places of extreme instability. These concepts often paint an overgeneralized portrait of violence that fails to examine the social relationships and institutional forms that give rise to terror and insecurity. This article examines the shifting qualities of war and peace in Colombia and argues that daily life in Barrancabermeja—a working-class city nominally `at peace' after a government-backed, paramilitary demobilization process—is a volatile arena of uncertainty in which some people are more vulnerable than others.

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Laurie Stoff

This article discusses the experiences of Russian nurses in World War I. An examination of Russia's sisters of mercy—as Russian nurses prior to 1918 were called—in World War I reveals the significance of women's medical service and exposes the fallacy of the notion of war as a distinctly male experience. Russian women's wartime nursing experiences share many of the features of the male war experience. Although conventional wisdom draws lines of demarcation between the active killing and dying of combat and the passive nurturance and support of nursing, in reality, Russian women's wartime medical service blurred such separations. In many ways, the narratives of female medical personnel mirror those of male combat personnel. The nurses who served in Russia during World War I indicate clearly the variety of ways that women intersected with and were affected by the war and the inadequacies of gendered notions of wartime experience.

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War, Politics and Race

Reflections on Violence in the 'War on Terror'

Saul Newman and Michael P. Levine

The authors argue that the 'war on terror' marks the ultimate convergence of war with politics, and the virtual collapse of any meaningful distinction between them. Not only does it signify the breakdown of international relations norms but also the militarization of internal life and political discourse. They explore the 'genealogy' of this situation firstly through the notion of the 'state of exception'—in which sovereign violence becomes indistinct from the law that is supposed to curtail it—and secondly through Foucault's idea that politics is essentially a form of warfare. They suggest that these two ways of approaching the question of violence can only be understood through a racist dimension, which forms the hidden underside of the 'war on terrorism'. In other words, our contemporary situation is characterized by the mobilization not only of fundamentalist and conservative ideologies, but, increasingly, racial antagonisms and prejudices directed towards the Muslim other.

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Follow the Afghan War

Methods, Interpretations, Imagination

Irene Kucera

Anthropological research in war-torn countries like Afghanistan is dangerous and therefore often impossible. There are various constraints, both general and specific, that often hinder an anthropologist from going out into the field. This is not a new problem for social anthropology, but it is increasingly preoccupying the discipline. Thus, a 'distance approach' needs to be developed for studying the ethnography of the Afghan war. This article proposes one methodological possibility for approaching the Afghan war from other perspectives. This method involves extensive reading in and analysis of various written works and the critical examination of web sites and other media, in combination with fieldwork in Europe and Central Asia. In order to demonstrate this approach, the discourse on women's rights will be discussed.

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Andreas Herberg-Rothe

In an attempt to capture the unexpected forms taken by excessive violence since the epochal years of 1989-91, Robert Kaplan has argued that these developments indicate a coming anarchy, which has to be prevented (Kaplan 1994). This statement is based on the assumption that the level at which wars are being fought has shifted from the level of the state to a 'lower' level. It is argued that in most of these conflicts, non-state actors are involved on at least one side. The motivation and goals of these non-state actors seem not to follow political or ideological imperatives but have other sources, which may be ethnic, economic, or the fact that violence has become an autonomous force. Things would look different, however, if this diffusion were no more than a transitional phase after the breakdown of the polar order of the Cold War. The paradigm of the wars to come would then be determined not by the order/anarchy antithesis, but by the conflict between different conceptions of order. Finally, I argue that there will be a re-politicization of war and violence in the long run.

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Federico Finchelstein

Violence defines the global experience of fascism as an ideology, movement, and regime, as well as its subsequent reception after 1945. This article is part of this a transnational trend in the study of fascism examining such violence, but it also proposes to expand it by way of studying its transatlantic repercussions in the postwar period, especially in terms of what I call a “transcontextual history” of trauma and especially for the case of the so-called Argentine Dirty War. I argue there is a need for understanding these transnational dimensions of fascist violence for victims and perpetrators in light of an equally significant transcontextual emphasis on the traumatic fascist genealogies of the Cold War.

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Tom Rockmore

9/11 represents less a tear in the fabric of history, or a break with the past, than an inflection in ongoing historical processes, such as the continued expansion of capitalism that at some recent time has supposedly attained a level of globalization. This paper considers the relation of war and politics with respect to three instances arising in the wake of 9/11, including the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and finally the global war on terror (GWT). I argue that these wars are superficially dissimilar, but that on a deeper level they all relate to a single ideological position that is an important motivation in current US foreign policy, and that this position is further related to capitalism.

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Shakespeare and War

Honour at the Stake

Patrick Gray

How does Shakespeare represent war? Guest editor Patrick Gray reviews scholarship to date on the question, in light of contributions to a special issue of Critical Survey, ‘Shakespeare and War’. Drawing upon St. Augustine’s City of God, the basis for later just war theory, Gray argues that progressive optimism regarding the perfectibility of what St. Augustine calls the ‘City of Man’ makes it difficult for modern commentators to discern Shakespeare’s own more tragic, Augustinian sense of warfare as a necessary evil, given the fallenness of human nature. Modern misgivings about ‘honour’ also lead to misinterpretation. As Francis Fukuyama points out, present-day liberal democracies tend to follow Hobbes and Locke in attempting to ‘banish the desire for recognition from politics’. Shakespeare in contrast, like Hegel, as well as latter-day Hegelians such as Fukuyama, Charles Taylor and Axel Honneth, sees the faculty that Plato calls thymos as an invaluable instrument of statecraft.

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War and Memory

The Israeli Communist Commemoration of the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1986

Amir Locker-Biletzki

The Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939 aroused strong responses in the Jewish Yishuv in Palestine. The support for the Spanish Republic—prevalent in the Zionist left as well as among the Communists—resulted in young Jews and Arabs volunteering to fight in Spain. These volunteers, primarily Jewish Communists, became part of a cult created around the war by the Communist Party. This article will examine the content of this cult while relating it to parallel groups in the West and in East Germany. Through this analysis, the ideological elements, heroes, modes of memory, and dissemination of the memory of the war will be explored.

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Yagil Levy

This article addresses the question of why Israel initiated the Second Lebanon War so quickly, despite the civilian agenda to which the government had been committed, other mitigating factors, and the fact that the kidnapping of two soldiers did not warrant such a massive operation. Arguably, the war reflected the syndrome of a gap of legitimacies, that is, the gap that has emerged since the 1980s between high levels of political legitimacy for using force and low levels of social legitimacy for making the attendant sacrifices. Both values led to belligerency. Strong support for the use of force pushed Israel into taking offensive action that a civilian government could not contain, while the low level of social legitimation for sacrifice led to speedy decision-making and the desire for a swift conclusion by using massive force. Such a response would obviate any restraints on military action that might result from discussions about how to avoid sacrifices.