i s r f
b u l l e t i n
Mind and Violence
Edited by Dr Lars Cornelissen
i s r f
b u l l e t i n
Mind and Violence
First published June 2019 Copyright Â© 2019 Independent Social Research Foundation
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EDITORIAL 4 DR. LARS CORNELISSEN
DIRECTOR’S NOTE: TRAUMA 7 DR. LOUISE BRADDOCK
TRAUMA, HISTORY AND THE LEGACIES OF COLONIAL VIOLENCE 9 DR. DEANA HEATH
BURN/T OUT 15 DR. BRENDAN CIARÁN BROWNE & CASEY ASPROOTH-JACKSON
THE STATE ON THE COUCH 23 DR. KEIR MARTIN
WINNING IS LOSING 29 DR. CIAN O’DRISCOLL
EVERYDAY HISTORIANS? 37 PROFESSOR CHARLES STEWART
EDITORIAL Dr. Lars Cornelissen ISRF Academic Editor
ver the course of recorded history, the problem of violence has exerted an enormous pull on philosophy and science. What gives this problem its weight is undoubtedly its acute familiarity: all humans experience violence. Indeed, as Judith Butler has argued, to have a body is, by implication, to be exposed to the possibility of violence.1 To think about violence is therefore to think about one’s own embodied, vulnerable, human condition, and this can make the study of violence an unsettling experience. To be unsettled is not, of course, a bad thing: violence should unsettle us, for its pervasiveness and reach are deeply troubling. In thinking through this theme, the present issue of the ISRF Bulletin thus invites its readers to linger a while in the unsettling problem of violence. In spite of its familiarity, violence is exceptionally evasive. What, really, is violence? Although instinctively we are inclined to associate violence with physical force, its reach extends well beyond the realm of the physical, as many writers have convincingly argued. Drawing our attention to structural violence, financial violence, epistemic, sexual, linguistic, quotidian, mental, legal, or symbolic violence, they have shown that violence does not always (or exclusively) work upon the body. Often, violence goes unnoticed, having been eclipsed by other, more spectacular instances of violence or having gone unnamed and thus evading scrutiny. This is why much of the study of violence consists of naming violence. One of the upshots of the intuitive link between violence and physical force is that immaterial violences—or, conversely, violence’s immaterial features—are easily overlooked. Material violence can, after all, have a lasting immaterial afterlife: this is what Brendan Ciarán Browne and Casey Asprooth-Jackson gesture towards with their contribution’s title, ‘Burn/t Out’. Looking into the legacies of violent displacement during 1. See Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso Books, 2004), p. 26. 4
DR. LARS CORNELISSEN
the Northern Ireland conflict, they hold out that many victims of arson continue to experience the aftereffects of those traumatic moments in the present. They are not always recognised as victims of the conflict, however, as their experiences are overshadowed by more highly visible forms of violence, such as bombings, killings, or disappearances. Here, working through the conflict’s legacy requires both coming to terms with the past’s continued intrusions into the present and a struggle for wider recognition of those intrusions. Violence’s detrimental effect on the mind is also the subject matter of Deana Heath’s piece, which explores the occasional eruptions in post-conflict contexts of what she terms ‘reworlding violence’. Such violence is defined by the attempt, by a humiliated post-colonial subject, to respond to the ‘unworlding’ violence of colonial rule by equally destructive means. By meeting destruction with more destruction, the perpetrator of reworlding violence becomes the mirror image, as it were, of the coloniser. In such cases, violence and the mind have become so intimately interwoven that it becomes nigh impossible to tell the two apart. The relation between violence and mind is not unidirectional, however: rather than always eating away at reason, sometimes violence is buoyed by it. This is one of the implications of Cian O’Driscoll’s work. Studying the ‘just war’ tradition, he asks why it might be that its defenders have tended to ignore the concept of military victory and its relevance to the justness of warfare. By its very definition victory implies a loser, which in turn reveals the bare truth of warfare: that, in the final analysis, the strongest contestant prevails. This makes just war theorists uncomfortable, attached as that tradition is to the notion that war may be theorised in a disconnected, neutral, and abstract manner. By effacing victory—as well as, by implication, defeat—they effectively sanitise or rationalise the violence that is inherent to war. Here, mind moulds violence rather than the other way around. Charles Stewart takes us in a slightly different direction, exploring the various ways in which the past is experienced as history. Comparing everyday historical inquiry to its academic counterpart, he notes that, in everyday settings, the past tends to interrupt the present particularly acutely in times of crisis or upheaval. As societies face hardships, 5
people are often led to remember past crises and collective traumas, collapsing the past and the present. We might say, then, that today’s troubles have a tendency to bring yesterday’s violences to mind. As a means of lightening the otherwise somewhat solemn tone of this Bulletin, Keir Martin (accompanied by Erin Kavanagh’s brilliant drawing) provides an irreverent take on the state. Psychoanalysing the state and laying bare what we might call the déraison d’État, he concludes that the 21st-century state is best understood as a neurotic parent incapable of respecting its citizens as autonomous adults. In short, this Bulletin seeks to untangle the complex and puzzling relationships between mind and violence. In doing so, it sets the stage for the ISRF’s upcoming Annual Workshop, which is to be held between the 29th of September and the 2nd of October and which will address the question of violence. It is our hope that, by stimulating engagement with this topic, the ISRF will make a contribution—however modest—to the important work of reflecting collectively on the nature of violence.
TRAUMA Dr. Louise Braddock ISRF Director of Research
his Bulletin bridges the themes of the last and next ISRF Annual Workshops: between the mutual importance of history and social scientific thought of ‘Connecting Pasts and Presents’ in 2018, and this year’s ‘The Question of Violence’. Freud too connects past and present and violence, when he writes in Remembering, Repeating and Working Through that in analysis the patient ‘brings out of the armoury of the past the weapons with which he defends himself’. In analysis and outside of it the patient acts out, symptomatically, a scenario from the past that, self-protectively, he cannot remember. Trauma is the link concept here; it means ‘wound’, and we may understand it most generally as damage or harm to living systems. What the patient cannot remember, and thus has instead to repeat, is a mental or psychological trauma which, Freud held, is inscribed into the mind. Societies also suffer trauma, as violence inscribed into their fabric and structure. They register and record it in the repositories of culture, in social memory and practices, and in the social imaginary. Whether we understand the harm as functional disruption or ethical destruction, both exogenous shock and endogenous disruption leave their traces; the effects, on the life of a society and on human subjective life both, are real and enduring. Psychological harm is itself a placeholder for the disturbances and disruptions of mental functioning; not only of cognition but also of motivation where the disturbances of affective subjectivity that accompany threat or actual harm make a human life hard to live. Precarity is not a mere theoretical construct. Social conditions themselves create psychological suffering: the pain of loss or anxiety, the experience of fear or of hopelessness, the desperation of seeking and failing to find reward, the abjection of dependence and deprivation. These are all states of mind which anyone with any agency will do anything to avoid being in, and which the mind, functioning as a self-regulating system, is geared to transforming defensively into less unendurable forms. For this the frequently discounted defence 7
mechanism of projection is ubiquitously employed: my unthinkable state is parlayed into something ‘you’ have done to me, so that if (per impossibile) I could eliminate ‘you’, my state would once again improve. Acted out in the world, the individual with this state of mind replaces ‘weapons from the past’ with those of the present. Once the psychological dimension is identified (along with the distortions arising from projection) we see how social science can offer different and varied access routes into trauma’s subjective dimension. Charles Stewart notes how sensibility produced by historical re-enactment opens an actor to sympathetic identification with the auctioned-off slave; we may recall here Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), ‘By the imagination we place ourselves in his situation, we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments, we enter as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him, and thence form some idea of his sensations, and even feel something which, though weaker in degree, is not altogether unlike them’. Cian O’Driscoll interrogates the meaning of victory for victors and directs us to look beyond, to its meaning for the vanquished. The violence produces, and characterises, a subjugated subjectivity which in the colonial setting Deana Heath calls an ‘unworlding’. Brendan Ciarán Browne and Casey Asprooth-Jackson describe the enduring effects of internal displacement in Northern Ireland, where adapting to forcible separation from one’s home and environment absorbs energy, longitudinally, and creates another form of bare life. Keir Martin, commissioned by us to provide what is by this stage a much-needed lighter note by putting the state, if not society itself, on the couch, nevertheless ends up pointing out the cumulation of harm that comes from insidious state coercion. Writing this, I recalled Jimmy Ruffin’s popular song of the 1960’s, adopted by Alan Duff in the ’90s as the title of a book, then made into a film by Ian Mune. Song, book, and film are in the past but the title resonates. ‘What becomes of the broken-hearted?’ What, indeed?
TRAUMA, HISTORY AND THE LEGACIES OF COLONIAL VIOLENCE Dr. Deana Heath ISRF Mid-Career Fellow 2016–17
s a scholar who works on colonial violence—my ISRF project (2017–18) looked at the ways in which torture became systematised as a technology of colonial rule in India—I am troubled by the legacies of what I have termed the “unworlding violence” of colonialism. What I mean, by this term, is the ways in which colonialism undid the worlds of the colonised, whether through clearly visible forms of violence perpetrated by colonial regimes, such as conquest, war, or genocide, or the less visible or hidden forms of violence, such as structural or symbolic violence—i.e. the theft of land or natural resources, the decimation of economic, social and political systems, or the myriad ways in which colonised peoples were dehumanised and their cultures, indeed their very sense of self, devalued. I am not suggesting that resistance to such forms of unworlding violence is impossible, or that colonialism transformed all members of colonised populations into victims. But if colonialism entailed a process of unmaking or unworlding, and trauma is an experience of such a process, I would like to ask if we can talk about the legacies of colonial violence in terms of trauma, or to locate or recuperate the traumatic legacies of colonial violence? Since colonialism cannot be understood in terms of a single, violent event, like the Holocaust, and innumerable questions remain as to whether trauma studies can be decolonised—not to mention that postcolonial states continue, like their colonial predecessors, to subsume segments of their populations to what the philosopher Giorgio Agamben terms bare life, or life that can be taken with impunity—such a task may, in fact, be impossible.1 The millions of individuals reduced to bare life in postcolonial contexts are marked, in other words, not only by the 1. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford University Press, 1998). 9
trauma, history and the legacies of colonial violence
traumas experienced by their colonised forbears, but by traumas that they have directly experienced. How, then, can we trace the legacies of colonial violence in the postcolony, or read the violence in which subaltern lives are enmeshed as a product not just of contemporary traumas, but of the intermingling of those between the present and the past—of, in other words, multiple and intersecting processes of unworlding? A good place to begin, I would argue, is the domestic sphere, since it is not only the space in which such violence arguably has its most profound impact but is central to processes of reworlding. For the colonised the importance of preserving—or, rather, re-inventing or transforming—the domestic sphere has been well documented by scholars of colonialism. But the ways in which the colonised turn the anger and frustration engendered in them by colonialism against their own peoples, in what the Martiniqan psychiatrist, philosopher and revolutionary Frantz Fanon has termed a process of “collective autodestruction”, has not.2 For the colonised, violence as a response to the unmaking of the world operates, according to Fanon, as an assertion of agency that serves to restore self-respect and, with it, the sense that nothing has changed; that history, in other words, continues. It therefore functions as a valuable tool in world making or reworlding. Such processes of reworlding are, of course, by no means unique to the colonial era; they are instead a means through which people who are reduced to bare life attempt to negate such a status. To demonstrate what I mean by such “reworlding” violence and how we might interpret its significance I will analyse a series of horrific murders, acts of “collective autodestruction”, that took place in New Delhi in the early 2000s, before considering what such violence might reveal about the legacies of colonial violence. In 2006, the partial remains of a young woman and sixteen children were found in a ditch behind the house of wealthy businessman Moninder Singh Pandher in Noida, on the New Delhi border. Although migrant labourers living in Nithari, a nearby slum, had reported the disappearance of 38 children to the local police over the previous two years, no investigations had ensued—standard practice in a country 2. Frantz Fanon, Concerning Violence, trans. Constance Farrington (Penguin, 2008 ), 23. 10
DR. DEANA HEATH
in which as many as 96,000 children a year go “missing”.3 It was only with the discovery of a severed hand that the police were forced to investigate, and Pandher’s servant, Surnder Koli, was eventually convicted of murder. A rural migrant whose pregnant wife and small daughter still lived in the small town from which he came, in working for Pandher Koli had been plunged into a world of wealth, exploitation and debauchery; Pandher often, according to Koli, spent the night with two or three prostitutes in his bed. Such sights, Koli later claimed, made him not only crave sex, but to want to eat the young women that he saw.4 He admitted to not only murdering and raping his victims (including one of the prostitutes who frequently served Pandher), but to committing necrophilia with them before cutting them up and consuming some of their organs. The horrific incidents at Nithari serve, as Rana Dasgupta argues in Capital: The Eruption of Delhi, his searing and insightful study of contemporary Delhi, as an allegory both of contemporary India, in which the poor are completely dehumanised and their bodies are “consumed” by the rich, as well as of globalisation. For the broken and half-starved bodies of India’s poor, who have been forced to flee the countryside in the face of state-engineered land grabs, environmental decimation and the changing economics of agriculture have provided the desperate labour pool from which the system of global capitalism can draw. Millions of refugees have fled the decimation of the Indian countryside to Delhi since the onset of India’s economic liberalisation in 1991, providing a flood of cheap and exploitable labour to fuel the accumulation of middle-class wealth. In the face of such a glut of bodies and a state that denies them existence, let alone rights, factory owners could pay virtually nothing and demand inhuman levels of toil, while treating the bodies that laboured so relentlessly for them as disposable, and therefore without need of necessities such as habitation or protective clothing. The Nithari killings reveal the stark brutality of such structural violence. 3. Bachpan Bachao Andolan, “Missing Children of India: A Synopsis” (New Delhi, 2010), 6, available at http://www.bba.org.in/sites/default/files/ Synopsis.pdf (accessed May 8, 2018). 4. Rana Dasgupta, Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi (Canongate Books, 2014), 283. 11
trauma, history and the legacies of colonial violence
The wealth that Moninder Singh Pandher used to buy the labour of men like Koli and the bodies of poor women came, in part, from his dealerships in earth-moving equipment—equipment that, significantly, served to usurp the farmland of the poor and destroy their homes in order to make way for houses and malls for India’s elites. Pandher’s wealth also made him privy to the basic amenities of modern life that the inhabitants of Nithari, just a few metres away, were denied. It ensured, furthermore, that he served to exist in the eyes of the state, whereas the migrant population of Nithari, denied voting rights, did not. In light of the brutal disregard for the lives of the poor in India we can therefore see that Koli’s response to the violence that he both experienced and witnessed was not to abolish the privileges of the rich, but to usurp their power to, quite literally, consume the poor. The experiences of both Koli and his victims are indicative, therefore, of the traumatic, unworlding and long-term impact that structural forms of violence can have on individuals and societies. So, too, are the experiences of the parents of Koli’s victims. For when rumours began to circulate that the government was going to give five lakhs (roughly £5,500) compensation for every murdered child, the parents informed the psychologist who conducted a grief session with them that if they had known they would receive such a sum for a dead child they would have sent two children to be killed. Dasgupta quotes the psychologist who conducted the grief session reflecting that “You think . . . that no suffering can be so great as that of a parent who has lost a child. But there are things that are even worse, forms of suffering so great that they harden people even to the death of their children. And you can see them everywhere in this country”.5 But what are we actually “seeing”, and what, if anything, can such tremendous forms of suffering reveal about not just the postcolonial present, but the colonial past? If we understand violence, as the postcolonial theorist Robert Young has argued, less as an act in the present than as a phenomenon with a history that repeats itself, then we need to view the traumas of Koli’s victims, not to mention those of Koli himself, as a deferred re-experiencing of the traumatic unworlding of colonial violence. Doing so may make possible, in the trauma scholar 5. 12
Dasgupta, Capital, 285.
DR. DEANA HEATH
Cathy Caruth’s words, a history that is “no longer straightforwardly referential . . . to arise where immediate understanding may not”.6 Focusing on the perpetrators of reworlding violence, such as Koli, may prove particularly fruitful for such a project. For while according to the colonisers the purported criminality of the colonised was a sign that they were naturally impulsive, aggressive, and mentally weak it was colonialism that subjected the colonised to tensions so great they were driven, as Fanon argues, to murder and other forms of reworlding violence. If the colonial context necessitates a rethinking of the causes of criminality, then understanding postcolonial trauma requires that we rethink the historical genealogies of the production of perpetrators like Koli—perpetrators who have not only been reduced to bare life but whose criminalisation continues, as in the colonial era, to be part of the process of managing populations and of reducing them to bare life.
6. Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 11. 13
BURN/T OUT Dealing with Historical Displacement in Contemporary Belfast Dr. Brendan Ciarán Browne & Casey Asprooth-Jackson Dr. Brendan Ciarán Browne is Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution and Fellow at the Centre for Post-Conflict Justice, Trinity College Dublin Casey Asprooth-Jackson is an artist and filmmaker from Rochester, New York
n Northern Ireland, addressing the legacy of over 30 years of armed conflict is a feature of the so-called ‘post-conflict’ climate. Dealing with the past has become an industry, with myriad (and much needed) community-based NGOs developing projects that shine light on those legacy issues that impact the everyday lives of victims and survivors. Simultaneously, ‘top-down’ historical enquiries and judicial investigations have been initiated alongside perceivably ‘softer’ grassroots approaches. Art, theatre and curatorial practice have been employed to widen the discussion and engage with a broader and more diverse public audience. One of the most under-examined aspects of the period of time often referred to as the “the troubles” (1969–1998) is the displacement of some 45–60,000 civilians forced from their homes as a result of outbreak of civil unrest and the associated trauma they experienced.1 Those who were ‘Burnt Out’ (to borrow the colloquialism) became either refugees (moving south of the Irish border or further afield), or remained within the Northern Irish state, becoming in modern-day 1. See S.J. Connolly & G. McIntosh, ‘Imagining Belfast’, in S.J. Connolly (ed.), Belfast 400: People, Place and History (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012), pp. 13–62; P. Conroy, T. McKearney & Q. Oliver, All over the Place: People Displaced to and from the Southern Border Counties as a Result of the Conflict 1969–1994 (Monaghan: Border Action, 2005). 15
Installation view, Reflection (2019). Photo by Mark Hamilton.
parlance, ‘Internally Displaced Persons’. 2 The impact of this mass movement of civilians remains pronounced in the present day, with residential and societal segregation a feature of ‘post-conflict’ Northern Ireland.3 The relatively scant volume of academic work on the issue of historic displacement is perhaps due to how widespread the phenomenon was. Perhaps a more cynical (or realistic) view could be proffered in that, the issue of the forcible displacement of civilians, despite being widespread, is not considered as significant when compared to the more impactful experiences of other victims and survivors; the death of a loved one being the most obvious.4 2. See B.C. Browne & C. Asprooth-Jackson (2019) ‘From 1969 to 2018: Relocating historical narratives of displacement during ‘the Troubles’ through the European migrant crisis’, Capital & Class 43:1 (2019), pp. 23–28. 3. P. Shirlow & B. Murtagh, Belfast: Segregation, Violence and the City (London: Pluto Press, 2006); P. Shirlow, ‘Belfast: A Segregated City’, in C. Coulter & M. Murray (eds.), Northern Ireland After the Troubles: A Society in Transition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), pp. 73–87. 4. C. Bell, ‘Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland’, Fordham International Law Journal 26 (2002), pp. 1095–1147; S. McDowell, ‘Who are the 16
DR. BRENDAN CIARÁN BROWNE & CASEY ASPROOTH-JACKSON
And whilst sensitive to the need to avoid adding layers of complexity to the discourse around victimhood in Northern Ireland, with the help of a grant from the ISRF, the authors embarked upon a 2-year project to recover some of the hidden histories of displacement from victims and survivors across Northern Ireland. Subsequently, on April 10th 2019 (coinciding with the 21st anniversary of the signing of the historic Good Friday/Belfast Agreement), ‘Burn/t Out’ was launched at ArtCetera Studio, Belfast. ‘Burn/t Out’ Departing from documentary interviews with the ‘displaced’, the ongoing research project examines the long-term impact of being forced from your home as a result of violence or intimidation. In the first iteration of the exhibition in Belfast, these longform qualitative interviews with victims and survivors of displacement were exhibited alongside objects linked to the memories of those who experienced such trauma, as well as textual and visual representations of displacement. Methodologically speaking, research participants were ‘returned’ to the spaces where they were forced from and asked to reflect on the experience in terms of its enduring impact in the present day. The decision to make ‘public’ these oft-hidden ‘private’ experiences of violent displacement was one that the authors considered carefully, with the conclusion reached that, in order to advance a broader debate on the disproportionate impact of this traumatic moment on the many victims and survivors across the north, such experiences deserved to find a public representation beyond the pages of academic journals. Thus, it remains the very strong contention of the authors that, ‘those families who were violently displaced are indicative of the “everyday” victim and survivor in Northern Ireland, whose experiences will remain hidden behind a mask of stoicism’.5 Victims? Debates, Concepts and Contestation in ‘Post-Conflict’ Northern Ireland,’ Conflict Archive on the Internet (2007), accessed: 22nd May 2019; M. Breen-Smyth, ‘The Needs of Individuals and their Families Injured as a Result of the Troubles in Northern Ireland,’ Northern Ireland: Wave Trauma Centre; S. Jankowitz, ‘The “Hierarchy of Victims” in Northern Ireland: A Framework for Critical Analysis’, The International Journal of Transitional Justice 12:2 (2018), pp. 216–236. 5. B.C. Browne, ‘The Troubles: Tens of Thousands of People were Violently Displaced in Northern Ireland’, The Conversation, February 21st 2019. 17
Sitting alongside recovery of traumatic narratives of displacement, one of the major issues the authors wished to investigate was the impact that continuous reflection on the past has on an exhausted presentday public, particularly those involved in a booming community NGO sector who have been grappling with ‘issues of the past’ since the signing of the 1998 Agreement. Thus, the study of displacement in Northern Ireland seeks to provoke reflection on a critically underexamined experience, while ruminating on the fatigue it has produced across society. Held at once, these opposing tendencies suggest a synthesis: that the endeavor to recall and recover from the trauma of the past is also the struggle not to burnout. Choosing the Space: ArtCetera and Belfast City Centre Arguably the most critical decision the authors had to make was where to physically exhibit their work; spatial segregation being one of the most enduring problems of the so-called ‘post-conflict’ political landscape (as noted above). Dialogue with engaged community actors,
Installation view, Remnants (2019) & Return (2019). Photo by Mark Hamilton.
DR. BRENDAN CIARÁN BROWNE & CASEY ASPROOTH-JACKSON
Installation view, Restitution (2019). Photo by Mark Hamilton. most notably ‘Healing Through Remembering’, an NGO with over 20 years’ experience in grappling with issues of the past, was considered prudent and necessary. Additionally, in being true to a desire to produce work that transcends disciplinary boundaries—a key feature of the approach to knowledge production favoured by the authors—an ‘expert’ panel from across the fields of art production and community work was assembled at Trinity College Dublin’s Long Room Hub, to problematise, inter alia, issues around curation and dissemination of findings. The decision where to exhibit was intricately linked to the need to avoid reproducing sectarian interpretations of the issue at hand. The phenomenon of violent displacement at the outset of ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland is one that cuts across the so-called sectarian divide. In essence, the authors were keen to avoid reproducing an ‘us versus them’ binary, one that would ultimately fail to advance meaningful discussion on the issue and effectively shut down wider engagement. Placing the work in perceived ‘single-identity’ community spaces across the city, areas that the ‘other’ community would not readily access, could perhaps have diluted the potential impact of the work overall. Belfast city centre—viewed by many as a ‘shared space’—was 19
Detail, Restitution (2019). Photo by Mark Hamilton. deemed the most appropriate location, with ArtCetera Studio, formerly of ‘Red Barn Gallery’ acclaim, chosen for its unassuming, malleable approach to art production and its longstanding engagement with art work that has at its core issues pertaining to social justice. Additionally, as a space under threat from ‘displacement’ of its own—the result of a rapid and at times, violent process of urban ‘regeneration’6—there appeared something more than symbolic in choosing the venue.7 Situated just beyond the border of Belfast’s rapidly-developing Cathedral Quarter, ArtCetera Studio is one of a handful of independent enterprises left in a neighborhood increasingly characterised by corporate retail. Indeed, if the ‘shared’ character of the city centre was once defined by the activity of community 6. W. Neill, ‘Marketing the Urban Experience: Reflections on the Place of fear in the Promotional Strategies of Belfast, Detroit and Berlin’, Urban Studies 38:5–6 (2001), pp. 815–828; F. Gaffikin, M. McEldowney & K. Sterrett, ‘Creating Shared Public Space in the Contested City: The Role of Urban Design’, Journal of Urban Design 15:4 (2010), pp. 493–513. 7. For more detail on the issue of the displacement of small business from Belfast city centre, and the process of urban regeneration therein, see: SaveCQ, Belfast. Available at: https://savecq.wordpress.com/whats-the-problem/ (Accessed: 22nd May, 2019). 20
DR. BRENDAN CIARÁN BROWNE & CASEY ASPROOTH-JACKSON
Detail, Restitution (2019). Photo by Mark Hamilton. artists and alternative initiatives, today it is determined instead by neoliberal development policies enacted by the Northern Ireland State.8 In seeking to produce a space for reflection on the history of violent displacement in Belfast, the authors were drawn to the site of a contemporary contestation regarding the kinds of spaces allowed to thrive in the city’s centre. Rendered within ArtCetera Studio’s walls, ‘Burn/t Out’ aimed to intervene in support of the independent and non-sectarian initiatives that provide the basis for substantive reflection and discourse. Enduring Violence As a society in transition, Northern Ireland remains ‘at risk’ of spontaneous acts of violence that often throw the population ‘back’; if not in practice, certainly in thought. During the exhibition’s run (10th– 22nd April), news broke on Good Friday morning that a 29-year-old journalist, Lyra McKee, had been shot dead by the so-called dissident republican group, the ‘New IRA’, whilst covering a riot in Derry city. 8. A. Grounds & B. Murtagh ‘The Neoliberalisation of the Cathedral Quarter and its Contestations’, paper presented at AESOP Prague Annual Congress 2015: Definite Space—Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, Czech Republic. 21
The death of Ms McKee sent shockwaves across the north, and was felt acutely in both Derry and Belfast, of which Ms McKee was a native. The tragic killing further sharpened the focus of the authors who had long grappled with issues related to the showcasing of work that is ‘backwards’ focussed. However, it further demonstrated the crucial need to address the issues of ‘the past’ and the legacy of the past in the present, to move beyond this ‘negative peace’,9 at a time when the transition in Northern Ireland remains challenging and unfinished.
Note: Brendan and Casey received an ISRF Small Group Award, 2018–19. The project continues to be the focus of study for both authors and has been commissioned for exhibition in Brussels https://www.theguardian.com/ news/2019/jun/25/the-new-left-economics-how-anetwork-of-thinkers-is-transforming-capitalism. For more information on the 2019 Belfast ‘Burn/t Out’ exhibition, please visit: https://bit.ly/2UqL2n2. Photo: Detail, Burn/t Out (2019). Photo by Mark Hamilton.
9. J. Galtung, ‘Violence, Peace, and Peace Research’, Journal of Peace Research 6:3 (1969), pp. 167–191. 22
THE STATE ON THE COUCH Dr. Keir Martin ISRF Political Economy Research Fellow, 2017–18 Keir is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
n 2003, Canadian law professor Joel Bakan created something of a storm with the publication of his best-seller The Corporation.1 In it, Bakan attempted to explain to a wider audience what a corporation would look like if one thought of it as a person. This was not so much of a stretch of the imagination, legally speaking, as in the US and the UK, corporations are considered to be ‘persons under law’; non-human entities with many of the rights and obligations that they hold in common with, but separately from, the human persons that created them. Bakan’s real impact came not with his careful explanation of the otherwise obscure legal principle of ‘corporate personhood’ however, but with his characterisation of the kind of person that the corporation would be if it actually were human. ‘Do you work for a psychopath?’, screamed the advertising tag for the book and the festival-winning documentary that it inspired. Focusing on how corporations are legally mandated to pursue their own self-interest in the form of profit above any other form of ethical responsibility to others, Bakan argues that this is exactly the kind of pathological personality that we would instantly recognise as psychopathic in a human person; the relentless drive to secure one’s own interest at the expense of others who one is only capable of seeing as objects in the service of those desires. Bakan’s critique was so effective because it placed a seemingly technical problem in very human terms; a move that paradoxically enough was enabled by the very principle of corporate personhood upon which modern corporate entities are based. By putting the corporation on the couch, Bakan managed to put a face to a sense that a growing number of people had: that the entities that governed their lives increasingly did not have their best interests at heart. 1. Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (Free Press, 2004). 23
the state on the couch
For all their undoubted influence, corporations are not the only non-human entities that seek to shape and regulate our lives on a daily basis. Nation-states have perhaps an even greater influence on us. Indeed, it is only through their legal rules and regulations that the judicial rituals through which corporations come into being can occur at all. How might we characterise these entities and their relationship to us if we were to follow Bakan’s lead? If we put states on the couch, would our clinical diagnosis uncover that they too are psychopaths? Or do they suffer from another form of anti-social pathology, or even (unlikely as it would seem to some) might we find out that they are merely run-of-the-mill moderately well-adjusted personalities with only the usual array of minor everyday tics and neuroses to make them therapeutically of interest to us? One immediate difference that we might note between the corporation and the state is their purported roles. According to Bakan, the corporation’s fundamental basis as a personality is the relentless pursuit of self-interest, and any benefit that accrues to us is the happy yet unconscious outcome of that pathological drive to wealth and power. The state by contrast is (supposedly at least) established with the protection of our interests at heart. Its role is to step in to regulate our disputes amongst ourselves and to protect us from our enemies abroad, like a concerned teacher or kindergarten worker intervening in playground squabbles to ensure that they don’t get out of hand. This might suggest that the state might be best viewed in terms of a role rather than a pathology. In contrast to the corporation as psychopath, the state can be viewed as the parent-figure whose job is to protect us; both from others and, increasingly, from ourselves. This last point is important when putting the state, as we find it in its current form, towards the end of the second decade of the third millennium, on the couch. If we view the state as a parent then it would be easy to romanticise it, in contrast to the corporation as psychopath. Who wouldn’t agree that, on the whole, parents as a class are desirable and necessary as a group when compared to psychopaths? We see something of this in the nostalgia in some quarters for the good old Keynesian days of greater state involvement in the economy and society that has arisen in response to 40 years of neoliberalism and 10 years of post-crisis austerity. We see it too in the romanticisation of 24
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State on the Couch by Erin Kavanagh (2019). See http://www.geomythkavanagh.com/ for more of Erin’s work.
Scandinavia and its cuddly welfare state as an alternative to the UK’s cold corporate neoliberalism in some quarters of the British media. But the role of ‘parent’ is an ambiguous one, and even well-intentioned inappropriate parents can potentially do more harm to the children in their care than any number of short-lived encounters with passing psychopaths. Transactional Analysis, as a school of psychotherapy, explicitly recognises this with its Parent-Adult-Child model of relations. In many contexts Parent-Child relations are entirely appropriate. However, these are mostly relationships between those adults with parental or caregiving responsibilities on the one hand and those children who they care for on the other. Amongst adults, Adult-Adult relationships tend to work the best. Where, in such relationships, an Adult takes on the role of Parent, she treats the other as if they were a Child instead of a fellow Adult, forcing them to comply or to rebel, an act that itself often still casts them in a Child-like role. Such a potential to inappropriately slip into Parent-Child is there in all Adult-Adult relationships, particularly those between Parents and their now-adult Children, as many readers of this journal, half-anticipating and halfdreading a visit from their own parents, will readily testify. Parents who try to mould their children in their own image or continue to cling 25
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onto the idea that their growing offspring are still helpless infants, in order to satisfy their own neurotic need for control, can do more harm than good. It’s often the case that such over-controlling parents are the most ostentatiously caring and nurturing. Indeed, in such cases it’s often hard to see where beneficent nurture ends and maleficent control begins. The expansion of the Welfare State in the UK in the post-war decades did wonders for the lives of millions of its poorer citizens, but it is worth remembering that the provision of those services was often coupled with a moral policing of the sexuality and family lives of its recipients. Likewise, the Scandinavian model so highly regarded in The Guardian might provide an admirable baseline standard of living for its citizens (if not all of its residents) compared to many other countries. But it comes coupled with states that often seem to treat their citizens as recalcitrant children in need of constant hand-holding to ensure that everyone plays well together. This might be preferable in many regards to the neoliberal state that came to prominence in the UK and particularly the US over the past couple of decades. This kind of state, that endlessly cuts back on the care it showed for its weakest citizens whilst increasing the amount of surveillance and imprisonment that it imposed upon them, could easily be characterised as the equivalent of the abusive parent who neglects to provide her children with appropriate care and support and attempts to deal with the consequences of that neglect through angry punishments disguised as discipline. Either way, there is a potential overlap with Bakan’s perspective on the corporation as psychopath here. What the psychopath on the one hand and the inappropriate parent (whether benevolent-controlling or neglectful-abusive) on the other have in common is a tendency to treat those that they are related to as objects for their own ends rather than subjects in their own right. In even the healthiest of interpersonal relationships there will be moments when we treat those we love as objects, when we manipulate or control them in order to get a desired result that we honestly believe is in their interest; the grabbing of the hand that stops a child or an adult partner stepping in front of a bus that they hadn’t seen coming, for example. The problem is when such behaviour becomes habitual; when it becomes 26
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a ‘mother-knows-best’ degree of manipulative control that stops children from exercising their judgment to become the people they desire to be. Where the seemingly social-democratic Scandinavian states and the seemingly neoliberal Anglo-American states of the early 21st century share common ground is in a desire to ever more minutely manage the desires and dreams of their citizens. One continues to provide for its citizen-children whilst the other neglects them, but both are increasingly interested in controlling what kind of people they think their citizens should be. In this regard, they both resemble the kind of neurotic controlling parent, whose children one often meets as clients in the therapy room. The 21st-century state is the parent who can’t let go of their children’s childhood, and who comes around to their child’s home and rearranges the ornaments for them.
WINNING IS LOSING The Tragedy of Just War Dr. Cian O’Driscoll ISRF Mid-Career Fellow, 2018–19
he idea that war can ever be ‘just’ is understandably controversial. So far as it suggests that the commissioning of young men and young women to kill and be killed by other young men and women may sometimes be a righteous activity, it is easy to see why it might be regarded as wrongheaded. Drawing on the latest scholarship, my purpose in this short essay is to introduce the idea of just war, to offer some thoughts on its relevance to contemporary international politics, and to ask what we learn about it when we regard it in light of its principal blind-spot, namely, the concept of victory. Considering it through the prism of victory, I will argue, tells us something very important about why, despite being so obviously problematic, we must take the idea of just war seriously. The Idea of Just War Just war is not, of course, a new idea. It boasts a long and venerable lineage that most scholars date back to the sunset of the Roman Empire, and to the 4th century CE writings of Saint Augustine in particular. Others trace its history even deeper, to ancient Greece and other classical civilisations.1 In either case, the idea of just war 1. For the standard history of the just war idea see: Jonathan Barnes, ‘The Just War’, in Norman Kretzmann, Antony Kenny, and Jan Pinborg (eds.), The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982). On its classical antecedents: Rory Cox, ‘Expanding the History of the Just War Tradition: The Ethics of War in Ancient Egypt’, International Studies Quarterly 61:2 (2017): 371–384. The classic treatment of the history of just war thinking is provided by James Turner Johnson across several texts, most notably: Ideology, Reason, and the Limitation of War: Religious and Secular Concepts, 1200–1740 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); and Just War Tradition and the Restraint of War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981). 29
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Jacques-Louis David, Combat de Mars contre Minerve (1771), Louvre, Paris. Creative Commons license.
developed over time in such a way that it came to rest on the dual claim that war may, in certain circmstances, be justified and that it is possible to discern between just and unjust uses of force. These commitments are usually parlayed by contemporary theorists into two discrete but interlocking poles of inquiry bearing on, respectively, the conditions that justify the recourse to war (jus ad bellum) and the proper conduct of war (jus in bello). Jus ad bellum inquiry speaks to the question of when, if ever, the resort to war might be justified. Scholars quibble about the exact answer to this question, but there is a general consensus that deliberations about the decision to resort to force should revolve around considerations of ‘just cause’, ‘proper authority’, ‘right intention’, ‘aim of peace’, ‘reasonable chance of success’, and ‘last resort’. Jus in bello inquiry investigates the question of what, if any, constraints should apply to the conduct of war. It is here that one encounters reflections on ‘proportionality’, ‘discrimination’, 30
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and the related categories of ‘non-combatant immunity’ and ‘double-effect’. There is no need to labour this brief introduction to the idea of just war by explaining these principles in any depth. There are plenty of books available for the reader who wants more information on their finer points.2 I would, however, note that they are best understood, not as a rote checklist to be ticked off, but as open-ended questions designed merely to inform and guide our ethical evaluation of warfare.3 The Latin tags should not mislead us to assume that the idea of just war is a scholarly confection that has little practical significance. While it may in the past have been an obscure hobby pursued only by Catholic theologians, its recent prominent in the discourse of political and military leaders suggests a very different story. As numerous scholars have shown, just war has become the predominant frame through which military and police elites in the western world and beyond discuss matters of war and peace.4 Michael Walzer has famously dubbed this development ‘the triumph of just war’.5 The Victory of Just War The prominence of just war in public discourse has been mirrored by an upsurge in academic interest in what is variously referred to as just war theory or just war tradition. Recent years have seen the 2. For example: Alex J. Bellamy, Just Wars: From Cicero to Iraq (Cambridge: Polity, 2006). Also: Nicholas Fotion, War & Ethics: A New Just War Theory (London: Continuum, 2007). 3. Chris Brown, ‘Just War and Political Judgement’, in Anthony F. Lang, Cian O’Driscoll, and John Williams (eds.), Just War: Authority, Tradition, and Practice (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2013), p. 46. 4. Mark Totten, First Strike: America, Terrorism, and Moral Tradition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), pp. 80–83. Nicholas J. Rengger, ‘The Wager Lost by Winning? On the Triumph of the Just War Tradition’, in Lang, O’Driscoll, and Williams (eds.), Just War. President Obama’s 2009 Nobel Peace Prize is perhaps the chief example of a political leader invoking the just war idea. Barak Obama, ‘Nobel Lecture: A Just and Lasting Peace’, available at: www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2009/obama/lecture/ (accessed: 18 May 2019). 5. Michael Walzer, ‘The Triumph of Just War Theory (and the Dangers of Success)’, in Arguing About War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004). 31
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establishment of specialist journals devoted to the ethics of war as well as a profusion of books that seek to refine and adapt the idea of just war so that it speaks to every conceivable domain of contemporary armed conflict. Since the invasion of Iraq, for example, scholars have extended the idea of just war so that it speaks to cyber operations, post-conflict peace-making, the use of force short of war, and the use of non-lethal weapons. It is surprising to note, then, that, amid this flurry of activity, just war theorists have had nothing to say about one concept that is integral to how people think about and approach war: victory. Victory has historically been regarded the ‘telos’ or ‘very object’ of war, with commentators routinely affirming that war is all about winning.6 It is baffling, then, that scholars of just war have steered clear of any engagement with it. This claim requires careful elaboration. What I am suggesting is that just war theorists do not engage the idiom of victory. While they frequently speak about the endings of war, they make no reference to, or use of, the language of winning and losing. Rather, they act as if it is not a part of what Walzer calls the moral vocabulary of war. Perhaps ironically, the abnegation of victory in just war scholarship is nowhere more apparent than in respect of writings on the principle of ‘reasonable chance of success’. Contrary to what one might expect, this principle does not demand the prospect of a certain victory as a condition for waging a just war. It merely creates a prima facie case against the recourse to force in cases where it is likely to be futile. It is, in this respect, no more than a utilitarian backstop designed to guard against feckless military adventurism.7 As such, it actually has very 6. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. by Harry Rackham (London: Wordsworth, 1996), p. 3. General Douglas MacArthur, ‘Farewell Address to Congress, 1951’, available at: www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/douglasmacarthurfarewelladdress.htm (accessed: 18 May 2019). 7. The classic expression of the principle is furnished by Francisco Suarez: Francisco Suarez, Selections from Three Works, ed. by Thomas Pink (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2015), p. 937. For a contemporary account: A. J. Coates, The Ethics of War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), p. 139. Also see: Frances V. Harbour, ‘Reasonable Probability of Success as a Moral Criterion in the Western Just War Tradition’, Journal of Military Ethics 10:3 (2011): 230–241. 32
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little to say about victory itself. Moreover, and perhaps most tellingly, it substitutes the language of ‘success’ for that of ‘victory’ without either interrogating or problematizing it in any way. There is, however, one area of contemporary just war scholarship in which the idiom of victory features prominently. Jus post bellum analysis emerged as a field of inquiry in the 1990s when a group of scholars proposed that, rather than concentrating all their attention on the recourse to and conduct of war, just war theorists should devote more effort to thinking about the post-conflict obligations of the victors. The job of the jus post bellum theorist should be, they stated, to formulate ‘moral precepts to guide the post bellum activities of victors.’8 Despite its prominence in their writings, however, victory is not the central concern for jus post bellum theorists. The majority of scholars working in this area is less interested in determining what victory means than they are in stipulating how victors should conduct themselves in post-conflict situations.9 Instead, then, of illuminating the concept of victory, jus post bellum analysis treats it as a threshold condition for an account of how belligerents should comport themselves after victory has already been achieved. The general point to take from this, then, is very simple. It is that just war scholars have tended to either circumvent the language of victory altogether or skim over it in a manner that invokes it without investigating it. Why is this? And what do we discover when we think more directly and substantively about victory in relation to just war? The answers to these questions turn out to be quite interesting. The Irony of Just War Just war theorists appear ill at ease with the language of victory. They 8. Louis V. Iasiello, ‘Jus Post Bellum: The Moral Responsibilities of Victors in War’, Naval War College Review 57:3/4 (2004), p. 40. 9. David Rodin, ‘Two Emerging Issues of Jus Post Bellum: War Termination and the Liability of Soldiers for Crimes of Aggression’, in Carsten Stahn and Jan K. Kleffner (eds.), Jus Post Bellum: Toward a Law of Transition from Conflict to Peace (The Hague: Asser, 2008). Also see the recent emergence of what is being called jus ex bello theorising. The key work in this area is: Darrel Moellendorf, ‘Jus Ex Bello’, Journal of Political Philosophy 16:2 (2008): 123–136. 33
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reject the discourse of winning and losing as too adversarial, and too prone to tempt the kind of triumphalism and excess that runs counter to the spirit of the just war idea. This rejection takes many forms—too many, in fact, to recount in this short essay. I treat them all in some detail, however, in my forthcoming book, Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Just War. What I can say here is that a common concern unifies them. This is the worry that, so far as the idiom of winning requires there to also be a loser, the language of victory highlights the conflictual character of just war. It draws attention to the fact that, so far as just war is a means of resolving disputes, it represents a basic willingness to accept that matters of right can be settled by a contest of might. This is deeply uncomfortable for just war theorists as it suggests that the idea of just war rests in some part at least upon an acceptance of ‘might is right’.10 Victory, in other words, lays bare the compromise that lies at the heart of just war thinking. It reveals the willingness of just war theorists to accept that war can (and must) sometimes be relied upon to determine who is right as well as who is left.11 Just war scholars have historically attempted to circumnavigate this fact by presenting just war as something other than war. By casting just war not as a type of war but as a form of law enforcement, they seek to obscure the degree to which victory in a just war denotes the ‘successful exercise of power but not of right’.12 The risks inherent in this move are obvious. It sanitises just war by concealing its underlying brutishness. The argument that arises from this may be summed up in terms of two ironic reversals. First, what just war theorists appear to regard as a good reason for ignoring victory, I take as a reason for engaging it. Where, in other words, they see the propensity of victory to reveal the 10. Recognition of this fact underpinned Immanuel Kant’s scepticism of just war. He argued, ‘Nations can press for their rights only by waging war and never in a trial before an independent tribunal, but war and its favourable consequences, victory, cannot determine the right.’ Immanuel Kant, ‘To Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch’, in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), p. 116. 11. This is a play on the phrase attributed to Bernard Williams that war does not determine who is right, only who is left. 12. Stephen C. Neff, Justice Among Nations (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2018), p. 34. 34
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fact that ‘just war is just war’ as a reason for avoiding it, I contend that it is a reason for engaging it.13 It is precisely because victory compels us to acknowledge the fact that ‘just war is just war’, with all that this implies, that they must think about it more carefully than they have heretofore been prepared to do. Second, where the assertion that ‘just war is just war’ is usually invoked (most notably by Ken Booth) to tarnish and indeed discredit the idea of just war theory, I want to suggest that it is more helpful to think of it as a reminder of why we need it in the first place. It is, I want to argue, precisely because ‘just war is just war’, that we need to think so assiduously about it. Instead of being taken as a damning critique of just war theory, the realisation that ‘just war is just war’ should be treated as a restatement of its raison d’être. Conclusion What, then, do we discover about just war when we account for its relation to victory? We discover that, in the end, just war is indeed just war. It is neither a force for good in the world, nor a solution to its ills. Rather, it is a symptom of them. But this does not mean that we should wash our hands of it. This is not a case for its repudiation. On the contrary, the source of its limitations is also the reason we need it. It is because there are problems that are not conducive to tidy, diplomatic solutions but that nevertheless must be tackled that we find ourselves reaching for some means of reconciling the demands of justice with the exigencies of war. Unless one is willing to surrender the conviction that we can and should subject war to ethical scrutiny, the determination to discern between the just and unjust use of force ought to be respected for what it is, namely, a tragic but also noble commitment to ordering (as best we can) the affairs of international society according to the principles of justice. This is not an easy path to tread. It is fraught with dangers. The language of just war is seductive. It has a way of lulling people into a sanguine acceptance of war by leading them to believe that, so long as the relevant principles have been heeded, the use of force can be a good thing or a meritorious activity. The idea of just war can, in this way, be mistaken for a solution to the very problem of which it is a 13. Ken Booth, ‘Ten Flaws of Just Wars’, The International Journal of Human Rights 4:3–4 (2000): 314–324. 35
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part. So long, however, as one resists such hubris, and is mindful of the limitations baked into the very idea of just war, this is a snare that can be, if not avoided or disarmed, at least anticipated.
EVERYDAY HISTORIANS? Professor Charles Stewart ISRF Academic Advisor
n first encounter, the research interrogatives of Social Anthropology may seem perplexing, but they are actually continuous with the sorts of questions anyone might ask when meeting people from different cultures, or while travelling abroad. What institutions organize social life? How do other people view the world? Perhaps we are all anthropologists, just not professionals. This question of how academic disciplines connect with or radically depart from everyday thought might be a worthwhile matter for all social scientists to consider. As a brief illustration of what such an inquiry might look like I consider the case of History, a discipline with obvious connections to everyday practice. When the electricity bill delivers a shock one might rifle through past bills, and even look at the usage for that same month in a previous year. People habitually consult historical archives in compiling a tax return or in browsing a family album. We swim in the water of historical records ranging from sports statistics to meteorological data. Carl Becker famously captured this situation in the title of his 1931 Presidential Address to the American Historical Association: ‘Everyman His Own Historian’.1 We are everyday historians, however, not just because we ask historical questions and answer them using recognizable historical methodologies and resources such as archives. People form relationships with the past in a multitude of ways not all of which belong to the repertoire of disciplinary history. Some exploration of these apparent divergences enables a critical view of the relationship between everyday historical practices and professional historiography. Consider the following example from Greece where, with the loss of jobs and salary cuts following the 2009 financial crisis, people began to contemplate the possibility of hunger. This propelled many to think of the famines endured in Greece during the World War II German occupation. As a 77-year-old woman remarked to Daniel Knight: 1. Carl Becker, ‘Everyman His Own Historian’, American Historical Review 37 (1932): 221–236. 37
I now see that some people are going hungry. I notice that some children have been looking through rubbish bins in Trikala for scraps of food to eat. I even saw a man chasing a duck on the river. The hunger has returned; my children feel it too. Despite the fact that they have food to eat, we must now be careful. We do not want to become part of the starving population. The crisis [21st-century economic crisis] has returned us to the dark days of the 1940s where we must fear for our very survival. The crisis has ripped us up and thrown us back in time to a previous era.2 Granted the widespread opinion in Greece that Germany drives EU monetary policy the threat of starvation could easily be associated with a second ominous German incursion. Additionally, one of the few ways for the inhabitants of the Trikala area to make money during the crisis involved renting their farmland to entrepreneurs who installed photovoltaic panels over their fields. This undercut not only their food self-sufficiency, but also their ownership of the land. As Knight also documented, this impelled many locals to think back to a different historical phase, to the Ottoman period, when they worked as landless serfs on large estates in the region. The current crisis had thus compacted two dystopian pasts into their present. Knight terms such historical compression where life conditions at different points in time come to resemble each other ‘cultural proximity’. To use Knight’s terms again, the Greek situation exemplifies a ‘topological’ history where the past has been folded in such a way as to touch the present, or hover above it, casting a shadow. This temporal topology emerging from communal apprehension, and occasionally concretized in outright fear, provides one illustration of the ISRF Workshop theme, ‘Relating Pasts and Presents’. Unlike Becker’s ‘everyman’, who recognizes the separation between past and present, and answers historical questions using documentary evidence, the denizens of Trikala did not intentionally choose to investigate the past, nor could they keep separate from it. It crept up on them uninvited and collapsed their world in a temporal tangle. Walter Benjamin pictured this type of scenario as ‘a secret agreement 2. Daniel Knight, History, Time, and Economic Crisis in Central Greece (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), p. 69. 38
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between past generations and the present one’. 3 In his messianic Marxist vision the victims of past struggles spring to mind to galvanize those in the present, furnishing a moral sword to fight off oppression. I mention this to make the point that affective historical analogizing is not limited to Greece. In the widespread practice of historical reenactment affect plays a different role. The quote below comes from an African-American man who participated in the reenactment of a slave auction in St. Louis at an event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War: I can’t explain it, something happened to me up there, standing on that block. I looked out there, and it wasn’t just my eyes I was seeing through. I was seeing what somebody else saw, a long time ago, being torn away from everyone they loved. I felt what my ancestors must have gone through. . . . Up there on that same block, I guess you could say I was touching the past and, the past, well, it was touching me.4 Unlike the Greek case, here participants actively cultivate the experience of horrific past historical moments, yet rather than inducing depression or fear the reenactment produces senses of control and self-enrichment. In the case of American Civil War reenactors studied by Handler and Saxton5 participants may meticulously assemble their uniforms and paraphernalia consulting history books for accuracy. Yet they know that their reenactment will not successfully achieve historical authenticity. At a certain point, they disregard the history books in order to feel whatever comes up in the immersive activities of camping, marching, and mock-battling. They do not strive to test historical hypotheses, or provide new evidence, but rather to feel 3. Walter Benjamin, ‘On the Concept of History’, in his Selected Writings, Vol. 4 (1938–40) (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), p. 390. 4. Mark Auslander, ‘Touching the Past: Materializing Time in Traumatic “Living History” Reenactments’, Signs and Society 1 (2013): 161–183. 5. Richard Handler and William Saxton, ‘Dyssimulation: Reflexivity, Narrative, and the Quest for Authenticity in “Living History”’, Cultural Anthropology 3 (1988): 242–260. 39
the past from the inside through what they term ‘magical moments’. These exhilarating experiences of ecstatic trans-historical identification arguably make history a medium for something akin to a New Age therapeutic exercise in self-fashioning. Therein lies the authenticity they value. The appeal to emotions, disregard of objective evidence and violation of linear chronology which appear in popular historical practices were all rejected by the historical profession as it constituted itself in the nineteenth century. Historians are meant to take a dispassionate attitude toward their research; maintain a distinction between themselves as thinking subjects and their evidence, which should be available in the public domain; and to avoid anachronism at all costs. This overview allows the preliminary conclusion that only some of everyday historical practice is compatible with disciplinary history; much is incompatible and rightly rejected by historians. This brief anthropology of history nonetheless raises other questions. Professional historians spend formative periods of their lives as lay people and occasionally they too are driven by sentiments that should not, technically, have any place in their discipline. Michelet heard voices emanating from the dusty archives, and the Dutch historian Huizinga confessed that he was occasionally overcome by experiences of ‘historical sensation’ in which he felt himself merge with the past. It would be interesting to know how many historians chose their careers motivated by such magical moments early in life, and if such experiences continue to sustain the profession. The examination of continuities and disjunctions between everyday and professional historical practices prompts fresh understanding of what History currently does and aims to do. It is clear that history holds enormous interest for the public as attested by the consumption of historical fiction, documentary film, and indeed, Hollywood films ‘based on a true story’. The history profession must continue to support specialists capable of reading the languages and accessing the sources that will give us new data on the past. There can be no doubt about that. At the same time historians are well aware that the public want history in forms that activate the senses and the emotions. Already in 1931 Carl Becker exhorted his colleagues: ‘If we remain too long recalcitrant Mr. Everyman will ignore us, shelving our recondite 40
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works behind glass doors rarely opened.’6 I am suggesting here that historians already possess the necessary sensibility and communicative tools. An investigation of the epistemological ecosystem within which the discipline now lies—including technologies such as social media, online gaming and virtual reality—will help them to define their current role and objectives. Such an investigation might renew the other social sciences as well by allowing professionals to see themselves as engaging in practices and participating in sensibilities shared with the surrounding society.
Becker, ‘Everyman His Own Historian’, p. 235. 41
ISRF ANNUAL WORKSHOP 2019
The Question of Violence Date 29 September – 2 October 2019 Venue St. Hugh’s College, Oxford
For more information, visit http://www.isrf.org/workshops/ annual-workshop/
he question of violence hangs over our understanding of our human world. But what is violence and why does it matter? Ordinarily used to mean physical attack or disruptive intervention by which one individual or group damages another’s person or property, the term and its negative valence carry over into the social sciences to have broader application, with meanings ramified into the political and the personal domains. Active and covert disruption of social institutions manifest in financial, legal and economic forms of violence; colonisation and capture of language and culture, and constraints on informal ways of living, represent forms of violence framed as symbolic, epistemic, or psychological. In such ways and more, violence permeates our lives and raises many questions about how to live them. What, indeed, is violence itself? Etymologically cognate with vis (force) it should interest us because, as we might say, ‘Force is the ontological condition of life’; in the Newtonian codification of nature force is fundamental. It is also, in that codification, tied theoretically to other concepts that have found their way into descriptions, explanations, and normative evaluations of the social. Mechanics systematically links force to power, work, change and action in ways that can be explored and exploited for their suggestive, metaphorical and heuristic contributions to the explanation of social process and change. We might then see violence’s negative valence, especially in its relation to power, as tied to the effects of force applied in excess of what is needed to do work or achieve change, so as instead to harmfully interrupt human affairs. This more Aristotelian conception might (with apology to The Philosopher) allow us to say that ‘to unleash force is easy; but to direct it in the right degree, on the right object, to the right end and in the right way is not easy, and not everyone can do it’. Another interesting question is, why not? Against the background of the ISRF’s Fellows’ work in a format of short presentations, the 2019 Annual Workshop will facilitate reflective sessions and discussion in groups and panels to pursue the question of violence through such questions as these.
ISRF SOCIAL THEORY ESSAY COMPETITION Essay Topic Authors are free to choose both their topic and title Essay Length 10,000 words, all inclusive Essay Format Follow the JTSB Author Guidelines, available on the JTSB website Language English Submission Deadline 31 March 2020
he Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF) and the Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour (JTSB) intend to award a prize of EUR 7,000 for the best essay on a topic within the area of social behaviour and its investigation. The essay will be judged on its originality and independence of thought, its scholarly quality, its potential to challenge received ideas, and the success with which it matches the criteria of the ISRF and the JTSB. Essays selected for the shortlist by the Editors and the ISRF will be judged by a joint ISRF-JTSB academic panel (the ISRF Essay Prize Committee). The panelâ€™s decision will be final, and no assessments or comments will be made available. The result will be notified to applicants by email during July 2020, and will then be announced by posting on the websites of the ISRF and of the JTSB. The ISRF and the JTSB reserve the right not to award the Prize if there is no essay judged to be of sufficient merit. Visit http://isrf.org/funding-opportunities/essay-competitions/
This issue features: Deana Heath Brendan Ciarán Browne Casey Asprooth-Jackson Keir Martin Erin Kavanagh Cian O’Driscoll Charles Stewart