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Beyond a politics of recrimination: Scandal, ethics and the rehabilitation of violence

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-11-28, 15:35 authored by Jamie M. Johnson
The practice of contemporary warfare seems to be plagued by scandal. It is often assumed that the act of bearing witness to these moments of ethical failure, in which the relationship between the martial and the ethical breaks down, plays an important role in holding powerful actors to account for their conduct. Considerable faith has been placed in the role of transparency and truth-telling as foundations for normative engagements with war. This article argues that we must be cautious about this investment. Drawing on the work of Jean Baudrillard, this article offers a method for critically reading scandals as a series of line-drawing manoeuvres. Taken together, these manoeuvres demonstrate how scandals function to enable, excuse and obscure the complex landscapes of violence that define the spectacular and mundane sites of contemporary war. Reducing critical engagements with violent practices to a logic of recrimination, scandals often function to revitalise the very principles they appear to contest. Focusing upon the socio-political implications of wartime scandals, this article demonstrates that the performative force of scandals is therefore the reproduction of a violent status quo rather than opening up new spaces for imagining less violent futures. Offering a critical reading of controversies relating to the provision of humanitarian assistance and education in Afghanistan, this article reflects on the ambiguities and anxieties of critiquing violence.

History

Citation

European Journal of International Relations, 2016, 23 (3), pp. 703-726

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, ARTS AND HUMANITIES/Department of Politics and International Relations

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

European Journal of International Relations

Publisher

SAGE Publications (UK and US), ECPR, Standing Group on International Relations

issn

1354-0661

eissn

1460-3713

Acceptance date

2016-08-17

Copyright date

2016

Available date

2017-11-28

Publisher version

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1354066116669569

Language

en

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