Dirty Wars 2019-20

Like it says on the tin, this module is about “dirty wars” in theory and practice. The idea for the course is to explore what can be learned about war by thinking through and examining a subset of conflicts that have been labelled “dirty wars” (or equivalent) by theorists and/or participants.

In formal terms, we the course covers the relationship between categories of political violence, normative theory, and strategy. As a subset of that, the course focuses upon the role of institutions and institutional beliefs in war and national security. In particular, how do ideas and cultural beliefs shape state institutions responsible for national security? As a counter-point to this, the course engages with irreducible strategic dilemmas associated with war and national security. These derive from the adversarial relationship between states and those that seek to challenge them utilising clandestine means.

In less formal terms, this course is a trawl through some of the nastiest things that human beings do to one another. It explores the logics of mass killing and political repression, alongside a range of other kinds of atrocity. The course covers states killing people and claiming they are at war, states killing people while denying they are at war, and why these claims matter. In tandem, it analyses the bleed-through of intelligence collection and identification processes into everyday life and the political consequences of “securing the state.” It’s interesting, trust me.


Course Handbook: pdf - ebook - html

Reading List: link

Literature Search: pdf - docx

Bibtex Files: course handbook - literature search


Main Lectures

  1. Course Introduction: Dirty Wars and Denials of Status | slides
  2. Human Dignity & Political Community in War and Security | slides
  3. Regulating War and Warfare | slides
  4. Reasons for Restraint: Humanity and Human Rights | slides
  5. Is Any War Clean? Sexual Violence in Conflict | slides
  6. Treason, Political Community and Political Enemies | slides
  7. Strategy and Population Control | slides
  8. Political Warfare and Political Emergencies | slides
  9. Identity, Identification, and Intelligence Institutions | slides
  10. Torture | slides
  11. Targeted Killing and One-Sided Violence | slides

Research Lectures: Counting the Dead

  1. Accountability for Killing | slides
  2. Arguing About Civilian Casualties in Iraq and Syria | slides
  3. Epistemic Approaches to War and Warfare | slides
  4. Who Should Measure Which War Deaths, and How? | slides
  5. The Changing Observability of Armed Conflict | slides

Research Lectures: Digital Repression

  1. Technologies of Repression | slides
  2. The State/Platform/Copyright Nexus of Repression | slides
  3. Technology Will Save Us… Right? | slides
  4. Exporting Repression | slides | Lecture: Introduction - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5
  5. Digital Repression: What Is To Be Done? | slides Lecture: Introduction - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Conclusion - Course Wrap Up