Hope everyone has had a great week – here are a few interesting things we’ve come across (usually while avoiding other work):
First up, the US government shutdown is now in its second week. Lots of interesting things have been published on this, and of course it has huge implications for government staff who either aren’t allowed to work or have to work for no pay. On the security front, it also means that 90% of US nuclear safety regulators were shut down yesterday. The article notes that ‘If something truly terrible goes down, of course, they’ll be able to call in emergency backup’ – though efforts to actually make reactors safer are now officially on hold. While we usually think of the US as a ‘reliable’ nuclear power state in terms of safety procedures, Greenpeace US have long campaigned to shut down American nuclear reactors, with some success in particularly problematic cases.
The Guardian have started a worthwhile debate over UK universities overseas partners, as six UK universities set up campuses in Uzbekistan – a country with an abysmal human rights record – including forced labour practices. This report also follows discussions from earlier this year over UK universities’ investment in (and generally close ties to) fossil fuel industries. Isn’t it time to start holding universities accountable for unethical practices?
A guest post on the Duck of Minerva asks, Why didn’t the US ‘re-interpret’ the UN Charter on Syria?
Some research found interesting links between slave ownership and modern management practices. Control over every aspect of human lives basically allowed slave owners to maximise productivity, and the lessons learnt are still used in management today.
Lastly: Don’t be that dude: handy tips for the male academic – a discussion that unfortunately still needs to be had, in 2013.
Have a good weekend all!
Like all the best IR blogs, we’re going to share some interesting things we come across. We’re going to do a weekly round up of interesting things every Friday morning, this week:
An article from the Guardian on American gun use raises some interesting questions about security priorities. It notes that ‘there have been fewer than 20 terror-related deaths on American soil since 9/11 and about 364,000 deaths caused by privately owned firearms’. It asks, ‘what if we no longer thought of this as just a problem for America and, instead, viewed it as an international humanitarian crisis – a quasi civil war, if you like, that calls for outside intervention?’
Terrorism however remains in the news as events in the Westgate shopping centre, Nairobi, unfold. al-Shabaab have been live tweeting the attack, and this stands as the latest example of al-Shabaab utilising modern technology and social media to get their message across; something which this report from last year explores in great detail.
The British Media continue to speculate about the involvement of British citizen Samantha Lewthwaite in the Nairobi attacks despite al-Shabaab stating that they don’t use women in the battlefield.
A British artist paid tribute to the soldiers and civillians of WWII who died on D-Day by carving human sillhouettes into the sand of Aromanches, “The idea is to create a visual representation of what is otherwise unimaginable – the thousands of human lives lost”.
The build up to the Football World Cup in Qatar is killing 1 person a day as slavery, forced labour and brutal conditions are an everyday relaity for the workers building the stadiums and infrastucture for the 2022 event.
Boeing have recently tested an unmanend f-16 fighter jet. Officials said they would be great for training pilots who could use them for target practice. However it seems like the latest step down the road towards automated killing machines.
Having just returned from a great conference in Warsaw I feel like it’s a good time to sit down and write some thoughts down. The conference itself was very well organised – with a lot of interesting sections. Being part of the section on securitisation and politicisation, I inevitably attended quite a few panels on securitisation theory. It’s an area where a lot of interesting work is being done, but many discussions ended up in the same place – expressing increasing fatigue with securitisation theory itself. As a theory, it has been revised in so many ways that much of the work being done under the heading is unrecognisable from the original theory set out in Security: a New Framework for Analysis. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing – much of this work is all the better for it.
However, the endless need to revise securitisation theory to ‘fit’ an ever increasing number of empirical research areas increasingly calls into question the utility of the theory itself. As Claudia Aradau raised in one panel – perhaps it’s time to return to just looking at security practices instead? In many ways, critical work done in IR in the 1990s – pre-securitisation theory – was more rich and nuanced. David Campbell and Rob Walker come to mind, among others. While securitisation theory provides a rather neat framework for analysing how security works, with clear criteria and facilitating conditions to analyse, perhaps it’s a little too neat for actual empirical analysis. It has provided a lot of insight into how security ‘works’, but I’m increasingly sceptical of how useful it is for studying security in the real world. Perhaps it works better as a guide than a definitive theory.
In Warsaw, I heard it referred to both as ‘dead’, and as ‘passé’. Whatever your position, it is definitely increasingly contested. In my eyes, this can only be a good thing.
New podcast series from the Politics department at the University of Birmingham, this week covering:
‘Barack Obama’s erratic handling of the Syria crisis, the legal and political questions surrounding international intervention in the civil war there, and the consequences for Britain’s world role of parliament’s vote against participation in any military strikes’
Available here: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/government-society/departments/political-science-international-studies/news/2013/09/syria-politics-podcast-01.aspx