CFP: EISA Section on Violence, Agency and Critique in a World of Complexity

9th Pan-European Conference on International Relations

23-26 September, Giardini Naxos, Sicily

Section chairs:
Delf Rothe
University of Hamburg
David Chandler
University of Westminster

The threat of ISIS fighters gaining ground in Iraq and Syria highlights a major problem for today’s decision-makers: in a world of complexity any political intervention in the international sphere can have unintended consequences which might worsen the problems at stake or produce novel, more serious ones. Complexity seems to question the long accepted axioms of international policy-making and the conceptions of violence, agency and critique within the fields of political and social theory. Scholars of IR have approached the phenomenon of complexity from different, partly opposing angles. Some have argued for the need to rethink the ontology of international politics, developing analytical models that account for surprise, non-linearity and feed-back loops and applied these to a wide range of material phenomena from climate change to conflict. Others understand complexity as a discourse or episteme which increasingly informs the ways global risks in fields including finance, civil protection, or counter-terrorism are being governed and are often critical of complexity as a governance paradigm due to its technocratic, de-politicising nature. This proposed section brings these different voices together to discuss the impact of complexity upon the international sphere in general and upon expressions of violence in this sphere in particular. We are interested in the way complexity affects agency which seemingly becomes more distributed, flatter, and unpredictable. We would also like to explore what the stakes of complexity are with regard to methods and possibilities of critique (both enabled and foreclosed) and the limits to both inductive and deductive research methodologies.

We welcome papers that relate to one of the following themes and questions:

1.    War and conflict in a world of complexity
·      How do forms of violence change in a world of complexity?
·      How does complexity discourse impact the Western way of war?
·      How do we account for post-human violence in our approaches to security and conflict?

2.    Uncertainty, anticipation and performative security
·      How do security practices deal with uncertainty and complexity?
·      How is anticipatory security performed by devices such as listings, algorithms, computer-models,

       catastrophe insurance bonds, etc?

3.    Peacebuilding, complexity and the local turn
·      How is complexity approached in recent practices of peacebuilding?
·      Is there a post-liberal paradigm of peacebuilding and if yes, how can it be described?

4.    Environmental terror: Complex climate change, disasters and resilience
·      How did resilience become the dominant approach of governing disasters and environmental risks?
·      How does non-linear climate change affect Western threat discourse and practices of

·      How is complexity being treated in popular representations of climate change and environmental risk?

5.    “Dingpolitik” and evidence-based policy making
·      What is the role of scientific evidence in governing complexity?
·      What could an approach of evidence-based policy advice look like?
·      Is there a shift from Realpolitik towards Dingpolitik, i.e. from political struggles over given objects

       towards political struggles over ontological questions and the very being of objects?

Paper proposals (max. 200 words) are to be submitted via the conference online application system:

Deadline for submissions is 15 January 2015!

If you’ve got any further questions don’t hesitate to contact us at:

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