PPWG Panels at ISA, Part II: ‘On the Government of Peaceful and Violent Life’

We at the PPWG are delighted to announce that a PPWG panel,
‘On the Government of Peaceful and Violent Life’, has been
selected for British International Studies Association
sponsorship at ISA 2016. The PPWG hopes to convene two panels
at ISA 2016, a panel on ‘Popular Culture, Everyday Experiences
and World Politics’ and the above mentioned ‘On the Government
of Peaceful Life’. Below is the abstract for the panel ‘On the Government of Peaceful and Violent Life’. We hope to see many of you at these two panels!

BISA-Sponsored ISA 2016 Panel from the Poststructural Politics Working Group

Convenors: Tahseen Kazi and Elisa Wynne-Hughes

On the Government of Peaceful and Violent Life:
The Unsettling (of) Liberal Settlements of Peace

Chair: Elisa Wynne-Hughes (Cardiff University)

Discussant: Alexander Barder (Florida International University)

No longer credible as an ideal for the world, much less as a tragically unattainable dream, liberal peace can now be understood as governmental – as complicit in the production of our contemporary matrix of peaceful and violent life. In practice, liberal processes of peace are simultaneously failing and relentlessly resurrected in developmental and insurential techniques, and in resilient mentalities. Given such circumstances, how can we reimagine peace and create agencies to diverge out from the reproduction of liberal peace and violence? This panel has two aims: 1. We are concerned with documenting contemporary practices of ‘liberal settlements of peace’ in two senses of the phrase: as attempts to reconfigure people and things for the achievement of liberal ideals of peace in this world; and in the sense of colonial-style settler wealth production out of the dispossession and pacification of indigenous livelihoods. That is, liberal settlements inscribe life by racialization, stratification, sexualization, and production of resilient life. 2. We are equally concerned with how peace and agency are being differently imagined even amidst the settlements of peace. To this end we uncover practices of post-liberal agency and of alternative authority production that ward-off liberal settlements of peace.

Biopolitics of Reconciliation: The Discursive Production of the “Post-Conflict” and the fate of Political Violence in the Post-Dirty War(s) World.

Henrique Furtado (University of Manchester)

Reconciliation has been widely discussed as a potential framework for the creation of long-lasting peace in divided societies. Scholars of peace and conflict studies and transitional justice often understand reconciliation in transcendental, ahistorical terms. As such, reconciliation is conceptualised as a framework for solving quarrels – a process of re-connecting severed social bounds – that relies both on the instrumental nature of human reasoning and on contextual, political constrains. This paper aims to counter such transcendentalism by historicising the emergence of discourses on reconciliation. In doing so, I argue that the trope of “political reconciliation” arose in the late 1980s and mid-1990s, after the end of the Dirty War(s) in the Global South. At this particular historical moment, that demarcates the beginning of the field of transitional justice and the predominance of liberal human rights, the rise of reconciliation was accompanied by one important phenomenon: the theorisation of the liberal “post-conflict” as a peaceful, sanitised moment where political violence was rendered obsolete. I conclude, by drawing on the history of transnational responses in the Southern Cone (Argentina, Brazil and Chile) and the works of Foucault, that this particular phenomenon is the expression of a new, late 20th century form of biopolitical subjectification.

Keywords: Peace and Conflict Studies; Terrorism and Political Violence; Transitional Justice; Human Rights; Post-Conflict Reconciliation


Mapping Translations: Performative Discontinuity and the Emerging Post-liberal World.

Julian Graef

Both in theory and in practice, the once- dominant liberal peace is becoming unstable; new peacebuilding practices and different peacebuilding practitioners are contesting the liberal claim to a monopoly on the meaning of peace. This article tackles the ways in which the liberal peace reduces complex peacebuilding processes to a dichotomous and agonistic relationship between the exercise of governmental power on the one hand and resistant local agency on the other. However, Actor Network Theory’s notion of translation provides some methodological space for moving beyond this reductive power/resistance binary by engaging with the messy and uncertain practices that are continually transforming the liberal peace into a post-liberal world. Drawing on six months of participatory research in Liberia, this article traces the design and implementation of The Carter Center’s legal empowerment project through a contingent series of translation points. By mapping the emergent and therefore contingent performative discontinuities that are expressed through a series of translations, this paper aims to re-interrogate the relationship between governmental power and agency. It aims to highlight how critical methodologies such as mapping enable researchers to explore the unstable translations in which the limits of power and the meaning of emancipation continually re-appropriated and transformed.

Warding-off Governmentality: Indigenous Agency in Civil Society and Settler Peace

Tahseen Kazi (Georgia Institute of Technology)

In this paper, I show how thin films of interface are created in transactions involving indigenous groups and liberal governmental assemblages. Global indigenous civil society, I argue after Foucault, is the composite of such films. One example of such interface-film involves the Cabildo Mayor (Upper Council) of the U’wa people living in the Andean cloud forests, the National Indigenous Organization of Columbia, Amazon Watch, and shareholders of the Occidental Petroleum Corporation which seeks drilling rights in U’wa land from the Colombian government. Such interface-films facilitate the production of zones of ‘settler peace’ that are characterized by an influx of liberal production activity, situated regimes of human rights discourse and sporadic incursions of violence serving economic-security interests. Notably, the indigenous group involved sometimes separates its own authority practices from the ‘leadership’ it sends to interface in civil society. This is true of the U’wa people whose Cabildo is made up of younger, educated individuals rather than the U’wa’s own shaman leaders. Drawing from the anthropology of Pierre Clastres, Michael Taussig and Edmund Leach, I argue that while settler peace cannot adequately address universalist goals such as keeping oil in the ground, indigenous people’s self-distancing from civil society can ward-off their governmentalization.

Keywords: Peace settlements; governmentality; global civil society; indigenous agency

Post-liberal agency: indeterminacy, decolonization and the late liberal settler state

Darcy Leigh (University of Edinburgh)

Liberal logics and practices have justified and enacted settler colonization. The liberal settler state has colonized the meaning of politics, eroding Indigenous forms of government. Today, the settler state continues to violently regulate decolonization or ‘peace’ in liberal terms. Anti-colonial actors are therefore targeting the very terms of political action themselves. Those seeking to rework liberalisms’ myths and violence are faced with a series of either/or dilemmas for understanding and responding to liberalisms: as heterogeneous and/or persistent, as mythological and/or creating effects, as inescapable and/or incommensurable with existing alternatives, from within and/or against and as resistance and/or positive action. This paper locates ways of navigating these problems and of imagining post-liberal agency in particular forms of indeterminacy – including in refusals to choose between modes of politics or to resolve the ontological inconsistencies in practicing those multiple modes simultaneously. Conversely, the paper also points to the limits of indeterminacy when it manifests in ways, such as multiculturalism or pluralism, which align with liberal narratives of agency. In all these ways, the settler-colonial state is a compelling site for theorizing peace and violence in and beyond liberalisms.

Roads, Barriers and Entrepreneurs: Neoliberal Governmentality and Materiality in
Israeli Settlements in the West Bank

Jakub Záhora (Charles University)

This paper interrogates the notion of “normalization” of everyday life in Israeli nonideological settlements in the West Bank, a set of practices that seek to undo the exceptional nature of the Israeli presence in the Palestinian territories. Drawing on author’s interviews, observations in the field and Foucauldian conceptual tools, the paper demonstrates that neoliberal governmentality plays an important role in “normalizing” processes that maintain the settlement enterprise: subjectifying Israelis as productive “entrepreneurs of the self” and consumers effectively obscures the magnitude of violent practices underpinning the Israeli occupation. Nevertheless, the paper further shows that this perspective needs to be complemented by insights derived from the material turn in political science that highlights the political salience of physical objects. It argues that neoliberal governmentality could not operate in the West Bank without certain infrastructural elements (like bypass roads) and security measures (like security barriers and checkpoints). These material features create conditions that enable settlers to subscribe to “normal” (neoliberal) rationales regardless of the precarious political and security position of their communities. The paper thus enriches governmentality studies by accounting for the importance of physical and infrastructural setting that can facilitate as well as hinder effects of governmental power.
Keywords: Israel/Palestine, settlements, governmentality, neoliberalism, material turn