Jack McDonald

Dirty Wars 2020-21

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 - html

Reading List: link

Bibtex Files: course handbook


Main Lectures

  1. Soft Launch/Course Design | slidesS
  2. Course Introduction: War and Dirty Wars | slidesS
  3. War and Political Order | slidesS
  4. Restraint in War | slidesS
  5. Human Dignity and Political Community in War and National Security | slidesS
  6. Status in War & Sexual Violence in Conflict | slidesS
  7. Citizenship in War and National Security | slidesS
  8. Political Warfare and Political Repression | slidesS
  9. Strategy and Population Control | slidesS
  10. Identity, Identification, and Intelligence Organisations | slidesS
  11. Torture | slidesS
  12. Targeted Killing and One-Sided Violence | slidesS

Research Lectures: Interdependent Warfare

  1. Interdependent Warfare | slidesS
  2. Twilight Conflicts | slidesS
  3. Remote Warfare | slidesS
  4. War in a Goldfish Bowl | slidesS
  5. The Shock of the Old | slidesS

Research Lectures: War and Digital Rights

  1. War and Digital Rights | slidesS
  2. Information Warfare and Disinformation | slidesS
  3. Guns, Smartphones, and Liability to Attack | slidesS
  4. The State/Platform/Copyright Nexus of Repression | slidesS
  5. Exporting Repression | slidesS