Jack McDonald

Dirty Wars 2021-22

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. War and Dirty Wars | slides
  2. War and Political Order | slides
  3. Restraint in War | slides
  4. Strategy and Population Control | slides
  5. Historicising Dirty Wars | slides
  6. Political Warfare and Political Repression | slides
  7. Half Light Wars and Clandestine Warfare | slides
  8. Human Dignity and Political Community in War and National Security | slides
  9. Citizenship in War and National Security | slides
  10. Status in War & Sexual Violence in Conflict | slides
  11. The Shock of the Old | slides
  12. Identity, Identification, and Intelligence Organisations | slides
  13. Targeted Killings | slides
  14. Detention | slides
  15. Torture | [-]

Research Projects Workshop

  1. Research projects Workshop | [-]

Research Lectures

  1. Sovereign Violence and Legitimacy in Myanmar | [-]
  2. Revenge, Retribution, and Reciprocity in War | [-]
  3. Martial Law and Occupation | [-]
  4. War Powers and Contemporary Warfare | [-]
  5. Applied Lecture 1 | [-]
  6. Applied Lecture 2 | [-]