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Between Civilisation and Militarisation

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This research group explores historical concepts and global dynamics of “civilisation” and “militarisation” in relation to democratic governance. Conventional understandings of these terms by both scholars and policy makers/practitioners have long imagined and naturalised a neat divide between the spheres of “the civil” and “the military”, often marking the former as the “rule of law” and the latter as the “fog of war”. However, considering these concepts historically, ethnographically and philosphically, it is notable that conflations and recombinations of civil and military forms of order and security have been a continual social fact across time and space. This has been the case since security forces began to be organised, especially in the West and Western-influenced regions that were often, though not necessarily, colonised. Whether contemplating classical Greek and Roman texts, Renaissance philosophies of state authority, colonial military “reformist” writings, the history and sociology of “virtue” and “manners”, or Foucault’s inversion of the famed Clausewitzian axiom to say “politics is the continuation of war by other means”, one notes a continual tug of war between the foregrounding of either civil or military forms of order and authority, which belies a clear and incontrovertible distinction between these forms.

Proceeding on the assumption that the line between civilised and militarised spheres is not merely murky, but also manipulable, this group aims to address broad questions spanning the humanities and social sciences, such as: What does it mean to define a particular form of sociality as “civil” or “military”? Who decides on such categories, by what means and toward what ends? How are such definitions and decisions co-configured with changing concepts of law and war, security and order, and democracy itself?

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