This article demonstrates how an integral element of the fabric of governance on the eastern Indonesian island of Lombok, and many other parts of the Indonesian archipelago, are non-state local security arrangements, such as night watches and militias. These groups play a significant role in the local infrastructure of security and law enforcement. Consequently, this article challenges a common assumption by legal scholars, and many other observers of Indonesia, that state-based institutions such as the police are the exclusive, and only legitimate, mode of law enforcement in Indonesia. Through an ethnographic engagement with the idea of law enforcement on Lombok, I seek to broaden these assumptions about legitimate modes of statecraft. These non-state entities fill a void in the Indonesian law enforcement architecture that the state is unable or unwilling to fulfil (or potentially finds it more practical to delegate to local non-state institutions).
Militias as Law Enforcement in Eastern Indonesia?
Jeremy J. Kingsley
Shifting Constellations and Permeable Boundaries in “Private” Security Contracting
Maya Mynster Christensen
security work in Iraq was closely connected to the perception of public and official recognition. In this article, I explore the processes and practices in which Sierra Leonean ex-soldiers and ex-militias engage to make themselves employable for private
Who Controls the Israeli Policing Army?
structural change that has led to the gradual creation of two armies within the IDF. Alongside the ‘official’ army, a ‘policing’ force has emerged in the West Bank. Although it is ostensibly subordinated to formal political authority, it has become a quasi-militia
Paramilitaries of the Empire
Guatemala, Colombia, and Israel
Analysts of war and states construe paramilitary violence in terms of excessive responses to insurgencies too powerful to be quelled by means of conventional warfare (see, for example, Sluka 2000). But the case of the crumbling state of Colombia hints at a more complex relationship between the various practitioners of political violence; what used to be state-sanctioned rural militias are building their own political platform and claiming a place in the troubled negotiations between state and insurgency. This short essay grapples with the paramilitary function of state power in two Latin American countries that survived the Cold War, wounded but alive only to find their fate sealed by a new world order.
Brazilian Conflicts and the Popular Culture of Sovereignty
This article explores the aesthetic elements of sovereignty. Building on the anthropological literature on sovereignty and on contemporary work on the politics of aesthetics, the article analyzes contemporary appearances of Batman symbols and figures in Rio de Janeiro. Despite political debate and academic discussion about the Batmen appearing in mafia-like militias and popular street protests in Rio, the question of what these appearances tell us about the relations between popular imagery and political contestation has remained untouched. This article supports the work of writers who argue that superhero comics and movies present fierce figures that operate in the zone of indistinction, at the crossroads of lawful order and its exception. However, it adds to this literature an analysis that shows in what kind of sociopolitical contexts these figures operate and how that plays itself out. To understand the contemporary appearances and force of figures of the entertainment industry better, this article proposes the concept “popular culture of sovereignty.”
Fighting for oil when there is no oil yet
The Darfur-Chad border
The area around the border of Sudan and Chad, where Darfur lies, has been an unimportant and unknown backwater throughout history. Today, however, Darfur is all over the international press. Everybody knows about the grim war there. There is no oil currently in production in Darfur. However, there is oil in the south of neighboring Chad and in Southern Sudan, and there might be oil in Darfur. This article considers a case of fighting for oil when there is no oil yet. It takes into account the role of local actors doing the fighting, that is, the army, rebels, and militias; national actors such as the Sudanese and Chadian governments; and international actors, such as multinational oil companies, the United States, China, and the United Nations. It explains how oil can have disintegrative consequences even when it is still only a rumor about a future possibility.
Goebbels' Wunderwaffe as Counterfactual History
The most expensive film produced in the Third Reich, Veit Harlan's Kolberg (1945) represents a culmination of Nazi cinema's interwoven ideological and artistic ambitions, aiming simultaneously to entertain, impress, and instruct spectators. Joseph Goebbels, who served as the film's unofficial executive producer, conceived it as a psychological miracle weapon capable of preserving national unity in increasingly hopeless circumstances and turning the tide of the war. In theory this was to be achieved by drawing a parallel between the civilian militia's successful defense of Kolberg during the Napoleonic Wars and Germany's situation in early 1945. However, close study of the film's production, distribution, and reception suggests that the film largely failed to achieve its propagandistic goals for a variety of factors, especially Goebbels' obsessive meddling with the script and editing process.
"Communist" dispossession meets "reactionary" resistance
The ironies of the parliamentary Left in West Bengal
Projit Bihari Mukharji
The reflections in this article were instigated by the repeated and brutal clashes since 2007 between peasants and the state government’s militias—both official and unofficial—over the issue of industrialization. A communist government engaging peasants violently in order to acquire and transfer their lands to big business houses to set up capitalist enterprises seemed dramatically ironic. De- spite the presence of many immediate causes for the conflict, subtle long-term change to the nature of communist politics in the state was also responsible for the present situation. This article identifies two trends that, though significant, are by themselves not enough to explain what is happening in West Bengal today. First, the growth of a culture of governance where the Communist Party actively seeks to manage rather than politicize social conflicts; second, the recasting of radical political subjectivity as a matter of identity rather than an instigation for critical self-reflection and self-transformation.
In the last seventy years the nature of war has changed dramatically. Rather than involving two or more national armies fighting in uniform and obeying an orderly chain of command, most organised violence since the end of the Second World War has been asymmetrical, involving a regular army on the one hand and militia or guerrilla forces on the other.1 At the same time, the nature of battle – the intense, adrenaline-fueled close quarters confrontation that has traditionally defined the very heart of our idea of war (Keegan 1983) – is also changing as a result of dramatic advances in our ability to fight remotely. The increasing role of robotic devices and drones in recent conflicts, as well as the exponentially growing potency of cyberwarfare, are changing what it means to do combat. Now, asymmetrical war has been around forever. Defeated armies and weaker parties have often turned to guerrilla tactics against stronger foes. But, in recent decades, asymmetrical war has become the primary form of violence we encounter. Similarly, the history of military technology has always been the history of killing at a growing distance (swords allow more distance than fists, longbows than swords, rifles than longbows and so on). And yet, recent years have seen a qualitative leap in what we can do from far away.
Protection of civilians in a peacekeeping context
Challenges and dilemmas of MONUC/MONUSCO
Christian R. Manahl
“Around Kamanyola in Walungu territory, FARDC soldiers looted property and cattle and gang-raped a lady. When trying to fight off the rapists, two male members of the affected family were killed.” This is a short note from the daily situation report of MONUSCO’s South Kivu office, sent on 10 July 2010. It is one of many similar observations made by the dismayed and overwhelmed peacekeepers of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), whose first priority is the protection of civilians. On another day, or in another duty station, peacekeepers might report about a couple of children being abducted or a family burnt alive in their home by one of the militias roaming the subregion. On a few occasions – in July/August 2010 in Walikale territory in North Kivu, and in January and February 2011 in Fizi territory of South Kivu (see map 1) – the recurrent human rights violations in the DRC reached horrific proportions, with scores of people, including many children, sexually abused. In December 2008 and 2009, hundreds were massacred and several dozen abducted in Haut Uélé district (Province Orientale).