Gender, Race and War

Module code: PL3145

How does war come to be thought of as virtuous, just or humanitarian? The post-Cold War era has been defined by a renaissance in war. During this period, armed conflict has emerged as a central component of the ethical foreign policy agendas pursued by liberal states. Drawing on the latest developments within the field of critical military studies, this module interrogates the techniques and processes through which violence has been normalised, sanitised and obscured within contemporary global politics. 10 The module is divided into three parts. The first section, Narrating War, focuses on the politics of representation: exploring the ways in which racialised and gendered narratives shape and define contemporary understandings and experiences of war through popular culture and media reporting. It is through the stories we tell about violence as societies that war becomes both possible and legitimate. The second section, Fighting War, looks at the evolution of war-fighting practices in the post-Cold War era from the fetishisation of high-technology as part of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) to the re-discovery of counterinsurgency techniques in the midst of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The final section, Remembering War, considers the political and cultural significance of the rituals through which we commemorate and memorialise violence: from body counts to the Poppy Appeal. Understanding the forms of remembering and forgetting that are central to such practices offers us important insights into the intersections of nationalism and militarism in contemporary liberal societies. Taken together, this module offers a rigorous engagement with how contemporary wars are fought, experienced, legitimated and represented. Situated within feminist, postcolonial and poststructural approaches to the study of war, this module presents students with the tools required to make sense of the logics and dynamics of militarism and militarisation. Doing so allows students to engage with the challenges and dilemmas confronting those interested in contesting liberal state violence in the 21st century. Students are assessed through two assignments. The first, is a 1,000 word short essay that is worth 30% of this module. The short essay requires students to provide a critical analysis of the narratives through which a particular popular culture ‘artefact’ (such as a film, computer game or novel) attempts to communicate the meaning, experience and legitimacy of war. The second, is a 3,000 word essay that is worth 70% of this module. This longer essay requires students to respond to a set question from a range of options, each of which relates to material covered in a weekly topic.