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Men of Violence: The imperial origins of counterinsurgency expertise at the end of the British empire, 1919 - 1998

When: Tuesday, November 28, 2017
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM  

Where: 1902 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Graduate Students

Contact: Elizabeth Morrissey  

Group: Equality Development and Globalization Studies (EDGS)

Category: Lectures & Meetings


EDGS Graduate Lecture Series

Katya Maslakowski, History

How did counterinsurgency expertise become an essential technique of modern global governance? This talk locates the origins of counterinsurgency expertise within the twentieth century British Empire, and the asymmetrical wars of decolonization. By following soldiers, colonial police officers and administrators this talk will provide the historical background to the development of a new, distinctly anti-modern form of expertise, which rejected education, professionalization and scientific objectivity. Instead the counterinsurgency operators of Britian’s colonial wars from 1919-1998 placed their faith in instinct, creativity and experiential knowledge. At the heart of this story are the soldiers and police officers who served with the Royal Irish Constabulary during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-22), and who were then recruited for the small wars of decolonization in Mandate Palestine (1936-9 and 1939-48), Malaya (1948-60), Kenya (1952-60), Cyprus (1955-9) and Northern Ireland (1966-98), all areas known for their high instances of police violence and torture. The goal of this ongoing project is to understand how particular acts of violence came to be treated by men in the field as the only means of combating insurgencies and obtaining operational intelligence. This talk will argue that worst excesses of imperial violence did not originate at the level of government or military command. They happened on the ground through actions by individuals operating within a new epistemic culture that privileged violence as a tool of knowledge production. As these individuals migrated between imperial conflict zones they spread this intimate culture of violence on a global scale. The use of these unofficial techniques in the multiple theatres of counterinsurgency operations gave them the air of legitimacy they retain today.

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