NCHS contributes to the 56th Annual Convention of ISA

NCHS researchers contribute to the 56th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association (ISA). ISA has been the premier organization for connecting scholars and practitioners in fields of international studies since 1959. With well over six thousand members in North America and around the world, ISA is the most respected and widely known scholarly association in this field. The 56th Annual Convention will be held on 18-21 February 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

As part of the panel Humanitarianism And Technology: Agents, Actions And Orders, Mareile Kaufmann (PRIO) will present the paper ‘Drone/Body: the Drone’s Power to Sense and Construct’. Kaufmann highlights that “so far, the main critical discussion on the power of drones over human bodies focused on destruction of bodies in targeted killings”.

 “with the rise of the ‘good drone’ we witness an increasing acceptance of drone deployment, especially in humanitarian and civilian emergencies where the drone has demonstrated its power: it finds victims, takes pictures of territory, directs aid, guides people out of disasters, and provides data for early-warning-systems. As a result, drones are identified and promoted as a tool that eventually outreaches human physical capacities and seem better suited than the human body to coordinate disaster help. In combination with novel technologies it does not only see, it hears (gun shots), it feels radiation, it interprets data, it reads RFID chips and smells chemicals. As much as these superhuman, better-than-body functions may support humanitarian disaster management, they also create new regimes of omnipresence. Drones not only form a powerful technological quasi-body, they also exercise power over bodies.” In her paper, Kaufmann argues that “through its hyperphysical characteristics, as well as its increased deployment as a ‘good drone’ in humanitarian and civil disasters, the drone also contributes to the construction of bodies – a form of power that also needs critical investigation.”

Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (PRIO) will present a paper on “Drones, border control and migrants in distress at the EU borders: map, rescue, protect or push back?”, where she looks at how the drones are presented as the most adapted solution to respond to the perceived needs of border surveillance at sea.

Gabrielsen Jumbert points out that “drones can see more, for a longer period of time and at a lower cost, and thus fills the “dull” job of simply watching over remote areas, for hours on end, in search for any movement or minor change. They are also presented as the most suited to spot the small vessels that migrants use to cross the Mediterranean. Yet, as argued in the paper, they seem to first and foremost provide a sense of control as they are incapable of actually sorting migrants at the border through aerial surveillance. In order to render the border control drones acceptable however, the EU Border Agency Frontex and drone industry officials insist on the potential that drones can enhance Search and Rescue capacities by providing life-saving information.” The paper critically assesses some of the risks entailed by these dual objectives. Her paper will be presented in a panel entitled Unsettling Borders: Rethinking Ethical Politics in IR (II) – Subversive (Re)Drawings.

Øystein Rolandsen (PRIO) will organize and partake in the panel Violence And Statebuilding In Northeastern Africa. The panel investigates how varied uses and degrees of violence have shaped statebuilding in northwestern Africa since 1960. Non-state armed groups are integral to this process, even though they are commonly viewed as undermining states. Members of this panel find instead that the violence of states and non-state armed groups often illustrate congruent processes, such as in Kenya and Sudan when state actors employed non-state armed groups to establish stronger state control, and in Somalia where violent non-state actors infiltrate into political networks of states.

As highlighted by Rolandsen “recent experiences with private security providers demonstrate how state actors appropriate new violent actors to manage assistance from powerful non-African states. Ultimately these exercises of non-state violence strengthen states along increasingly diverse trajectories. Panelists also explore violence and failures of state building. Sudan struggles with weak center and regional movements in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile that vacillate between reform and separatism. South Sudan lacks instruments and vision to maintain and solidify a peacetime political system as state actors face challenges from militias and rebel groups. Eritrea’s project of stalled authoritarian state building erodes the state’s domestic and international legitimacy.” As part of this panel, Rolandsen will present the paper ‘South Sudan: The Failure Of Neopatrimonial Statebuilding’.

Presenting at the panel Battles Of Ideas And Narratives (I): The Production Of Knowledge In Conflict And Intervention, John Karlsrud (NUPI) will discuss the paper ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick – The Consequences for Information and Knowledge Production when Including Intelligence in UN Peacekeeping’.

As highlighted in Karlsrud’s abstract “In 2014, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali will establish a new type of military intelligence capability, the All Sources Information Fusion Unit (ASIFU) and it has also sought permission to deploy surveillance drones. Staffed by officers from the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, the ASIFU will conduct tactical and human intelligence on the ground. At the UN, the word ‘intelligence’ has for long been anathema, but over the last decade member states has increasingly accepted the need for the UN to gather information to reach its objectives. The ASIFU and the surveillance drones will raise a host of issues that should be explored further.”

Drawing on Emirbayer and Johnson’s reading of Bourdieu, the paper see the entry of European troops in UN peacekeeping, and in particular the ASIFU and its attendant capabilities and qualities, as an example of field contestation and will analyze the tentative outcomes of this dynamic. Karlsrud asks: “What kind of information and knowledge will the ASIFU produce? How will the establishment of the ASIFU impact on the perception of whether UN is an impartial actor in Mali?” Based on empirical fieldwork in Mali, Karlsrud’s paper explores how the UN collects information in Mali, if the inclusion of these capabilities can improve the ability of the UN peacekeeping mission to collect information and achieve its objectives, or whether this marks a turn of UN peacekeeping towards peace enforcement, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism.

As part of a roundtable discussion about the book ‘Governmentality And IR Theory: New Possibilities For Analyzing The Global’, Ole Jacob Sending (NUPI) will discuss his book chapter “Diplomats and Humanitarian in Crisis Governance”. The book is edited by Ole Jacob Sending, Vincent Pouliot and Iver Neumann and published by Cambridge University Press (2015).