Almost every explanations of change in war and the state rely on the myth of the mass armies. The notion that a symbiosis was created between on the one-hand an increasingly centralized state who provided public goods and on the other a mass of faceless individual citizens who are willing to serve it in exchange for these goods. These explanations, however, never engage with who exactly was part of these mass armies or even question what was massive or even citizen about them. Who could, and by extension could not, engage in this exchange of martial labour for political goods has changed drastically over time. At its most succinct, this dissertation assumes that there are more similarities between the 'end' of mercenarism in the 19th century and the recent inclusion of women in Western armies and their construction as worthy, or unworthy, atomistic units of warfare.
By engaging the literature of international security with historico-sociological methods, I investigate the case of the decline of the nobility as a martial class, the appearance and disappearance of mercenaries, the concurrent apparition of the myth of the mass citizen-armies with the problematization of foreign fighting, and ultimately the recent politics of inclusion in the military.
I explore these cases through the use of monumental analysis (the change in military monuments and symbols over time), the study of invented traditions, changes in portraiture, and discourses of military service over the last 300 years.
Supervisor: Keith Krause
Second reader: Anna Leander
Doctoral dissertation: The Atomistic Unit of Warfare
Understanding Who is Used and Not Used in Warfare.
What do the politics of security around foreign fighting look like?
Prometheus, the titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans but is eternally punished for his transgression. This is the metaphor made by the Ottawa monument to the Canadian veterans of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. Foreign fighters, from the reign of James I to returnees from Syria today have faced persecution and prohibition regardless of the groups they have fought with, even when their home government supported these groups. While fighting Germany in 1939 to 1945, returnees were labelled as 'Prematurely anti-fascist' in North America. Today, they are labelled as 'foreign terrorist fighters'. Is the threat real or imaginary? What is at stake when foreign fighters are problematized?
This research project critiques the presentism focus of research on foreign fighters from Syria and their construction as terrorist threats by policy-makers and academics alike. It seeks to demonstrate that current and past foreign fighters are not a physical threat. It also provides historical depth and analysis to the study of this phenomenon.
I presented some of this research at various conferences, including the International Studies Association in Toronto (2019) as well as the Swiss Political Association in Zurich (2019).
This research envisions two complementary papers.
Paper 1: A historical-comparative of legislative discourses on foreign fighting which demonstrates that when laws against foreign fighters are made, they are done not to protect the national state. Counter-foreign legislation from the Soldier (Foreign Enlistment) Act in the 17th century to today serve the function of re-affirming the identity of lawmakers. This paper focuses on Westminster debates in the United Kingdoms and Canada.
Paper 2: Returnees from Syria and Iraq are not a threat. By using my own Islamic States Attacks in the West (ISRAW) dataset, I demonstrate using advanced statistical methods that returnees are not more effective or lethal terrorist threat in the West.
I conduct this research independently.
How can Critical Security Studies Research Methodology Inform Pedagogy?
Plato's Socrates described himself as a Gadfly who went from Athenian to Athenian in order to question them about what they thought was obvious and thus disturbed their routine.
With this project I seek to question the disconnect between the impressive methodological developments and self-awareness of critical security studies with the way security studies is generally taught.
Critical security study is at its essence an awareness that security scholars, when they study security, engage in the securitization of the phenomenon and thus reproduce what they study. The scholar is thus part and parcel of the world he studies and influences it. Research on security is always political.
What about teaching security? Pedagogy is by far the most impactful way scholars influence the world (even though most measurements of academic impacts discount this). From this, one would expect a reflexive pedagogy which seeks to engage students as security actors. An overview of different security courses and their syllabus indicates this is not necessarily the case.
This project wants to produce a pedagogical framework that can be used to teach security in accordance with its methodological imperatives. I draw heavily from my seven years of experience as a military instructor in designing this project.
It will produce two things: A general conference paper on designing a course which accomplishes the above objectives and a fully-fleshed course which applies these principles.
The course will be taught at the Graduate Institute of Geneva in Fall 2019.
Swiss National Foundation Project on the Automated interpretation of political and economic policy documents:
Machine learning using semantic and syntactic information
As part of a 10 researchers team led by Prof. David Sylvan and Prof. Jean-Louis Arcand which combines experts in the discipline of economics, political science, and computer science, this project seeks to generate an understanding of how government communications are understood by their audience.
I am part of the political science side of the project as a research assistant and thus provide input on the qualitative coding and implementation of the research design.
Islamic State Attacks in the West Dataset (ISRAW)
This is the dataset combining various sources (JPW, GTD, primary sources) to track Islamic State terrorist attacks in the West between 2014 and 2018. It varies from GTD and JPW in terms of coding but I use them to cross-reference my entries.
I am still using it for various projects and thus it is not publicly available. However, I am happy to co-operate on a paper, if you are interested, just drop me a line.
Slayers of Leviathan
Simple question: What kills states? An independent research project still at the stage of an empirical probe.