Seminar: "War, security and expert knowledges"

Past Event

08 February 2011, 5:30pm - 8:00pm

Said Business School
Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HP

Brian Rappert (Sociology and Philosophy, University of Exeter)
States of ignorance: the unmaking and remaking of death tolls

This talk will consider the complications and tensions associated with knowing about ignorance. In particular it will attend to how the social analysis of ignorance hazards being associated with its production. It will do so through questioning how the UK government contended the number of civilian deaths stemming from the 2003 Iraq invasion could not ‘reliably’ be known. The twists and turns of official public statements are interpreted against back region government and civil service deliberations obtained under the British Freedom of Information Act. Far from settling what took place, however, this material intensified the problems with analysts attributing and characterizing strategies for manufacturing ignorance. From an examination of the choices, contingencies, and challenges in the way actors and analysts depict ignorance, this article then considers future possibilities for inquiry whereby social analysts can question their ignorance while questioning claims to ignorance.

Brian Rappert is a Professor of Science, Technology and Public Affairs in the Department of Sociology & Philosophy at the University of Exeter (UK). His recent books include Experimental Secrets (University Press of America, 2009), Controlling the Weapons of War (Routledge, 2006), Biotechnology, Security and the Search for Limits (Palgrave, 2007) and Technology and Security (Palgrave, 2007, edited).

David Rodin (ELAC, University of Oxford)
Explaining the absolute prohibition of torture
This paper provides a moral explanation and justification of the absolute prohibition of torture. Moreover, it does so under a significant constraint. It explains the absolute prohibition of torture while at the same time arguing that the right not to be tortured is not, in the relevant sense, absolute. How can the prohibition of torture be absolute if the right not to be tortured is not absolute? The answer lies in the way that the rejection of torture functions as a value within our political community. David will develop this explanation in the context of a discussion of Michael Walzer’s well-known account of the dilemma of “dirty hands” in political action.

David Rodin is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford where he Co-Directs the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethic and International Affairs in New York. His publications include War and Self-Defense (OUP, 2002), which was awarded the American Philosophical Association Sharp Prize, as well as articles in leading philosophy and law journals and a number of edited books including Preemption (OUP, 2007) and Just and Unjust Warriors (OUP, 2008). A Rhodes Scholar from New Zealand, David has a B.Phil. and D.Phil in philosophy from Oxford University. He was previously Senior Research Fellow at the Australian National University. He was the inaugural Director of Research at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, and a founding member of the Oxford Leverhulme Programme on the Changing Character of War. David has a busy teaching and consulting schedule and is a regular lecturer at the UK Joint Services Command and Staff College where he provides ethics training for senior officers up to the rank of two-star General. He has also worked in the private sector as a Senior Associate with the Boston Consulting Group.

Luis Lobo-Guerrero (SPIRE, Keele University)
Security, knowledge and expertise in the insured liberal worldThis presentation is based on the argument of his book ‘Insuring Security: Biopolitics, Security and Risk’ (Routledge, 2011). The book explores how insurance is in fact a biopolitical effect that results from a constant interaction between the ‘entrepreneurial power’ of insurers and merchants, and the ‘sovereign power’ of states. Although the book traces this relationship to the emergence of the third-party form of insurance in the thirteenth-century medieval renaissance and theorises the concept of risk underlying insurance as ‘fungible uncertainty’, the presentation will focus on the idea of risk as fungible uncertainty in relation to contemporary forms of insurance in the world.

Luis Lobo-Guerrero is Lecturer in International Relations at Keele University and Research Fellow at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. His work focuses on an interrogation of the triad security-risk-power which he explores through the analysis of insurance as a liberal security technology. He is currently working on a trilogy of books on this topic, the first of which ‘Insuring Security: Biopolitics, Security and Risk’ has recently been published by Routledge. The second volume, ‘Insurance and War: marine underwriting and the British state at war in the modern period’ is being completed and will be published in 2012. The third volume, ‘Insurance and Life’ will be the outcome of a Leverhulme Trust-funded project entitled ‘Capitalising Security through Life Insurance in the UK’ to be completed by the summer of 2012. Lobo-Guerrero is the leader of the Emerging Security Research Unit at Keele University and the convenor of the Biopolitics of Security Network. His work has been published in Security Dialogue; Theory, Culture & Society; Review of International Studies; International Political Sociology, among other journals.