Publication | The Departed Militant



My latest publication – The Departed Militant: A Portrait of Joy, Violence, and Political Evil – is now forthcoming at Security Dialogue.

This is a quite personal piece in which I offer a narrative or portrait of the contours of what is usually termed ‘terrorism’ based on my own friendship with an Islamist militant fighting in Syria in the Lebanese city of Tripoli.

The article explores how subjectivities are fractured towards political violence through fundamentally joyous, spiritual, and affirmative encounters with different cultural, religious, ritualistic, and personal phenomena, concluding with a discussion of the ontology of political evil read through my own meetings with those branded with this term.

To (try to) make all this happen, I blend together a mix of social theory, empirical studies of violence and war, Sufi spiritual thought, Surrealist aesthetic theory, Arabic poetry/aesthetics, as well as photographic representations of what I discuss.

The paper can be downloaded here.

View this document on Scribd

European International Studies Association Meeting in Sofia

The 2019 Pan-European Conference, hosted by the European International Studies Association (EISA), took place this September in Sofia, Bulgaria. The 2019 conference theme focused on the ‘seen and unseen of international relations,’ drawing together leading scholars from across the world.

In Sofia, I presented several papers exploring the relationship between material technological design and world politics, and another on the place of photographic methods in studying international affairs. I also spoke at one of the opening plenaries for the conference and two roundtables focused on International Political Sociology.

Celebrating the forthcoming release of a special edited I have edited (Composing Global Security), the European Journal of International Security also hosted an open reception during the event.

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Programme | Post-Critique in Rio de Janeiro

Next week, I am organising a workshop on the theory, practice, and methods of post-critique for International Relations in Rio de Janeiro, at the Institute of International Relations of PUC-Rio. The workshop will draw on a diverse range of critical perspectives, including international political sociology, critical security studies, feminist theory, decolonial theory, and beyond.

Participants at the workshop include myself, Anna Leander, Jimmy Casas Klausen, Michael C. Williams, Paulo Chamon, Jef Huysmans, Audrey Alejandro, Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Esme Bosme, Roberto Vilchez Yamato, Christian Bueger, Farai Chipato, Joao Nogueira, Paula Sandrin, Jean-Francois Drolet, Andrea Gill, Thiego Braz, Matt Davies, Stefano Guzzini, and more.

The workshop has the following structure:

    1. What’s (the problem with) post-critique?
    2. Crisis and Critique
    3. The Theory of Post-Critique
    4. The Practice of Post-Critique
    5. Methods for Post-Critique
    6. Post-Critique Beyond the West

The programme for the workshop can be downloaded here.




© J.L.Austin

Post-Critical IR in Rio de Janeiro | Call for Papers

Post-Critical IR moves its discussions to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August (29-31) 2019.

A number of places at the Rio workshop are available for new participants. Our goal is to use these places to extend our discussions beyond their current boundaries. We are particularly keen to hear from interested participants with a focus on feminist, postcolonial, activist, anti-capitalist, speculative philosophical, ethnographic, and other perspectives on the critical study of world politics. However, we remain open to any perspective. Participants at any academic level are welcome.

This is a great opportunity to explore the future of critical approaches to IR outside Europe and North America with a leading group of scholars including Joao Nogueira, Vincent Pouliot, Michael C. Williams, Ole Waever, Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Anna Leander, Marieke de Goede, Isabel Bramsen, Isabel Rocha de Siqueira, Iver B. Neumann, and more.

Selected participants will have their return flights to Rio de Janeiro, along with hotel accommodation and lunch/dinner, covered for the duration of the workshop. Participants will need to arrange their own visas, if necessary, as well as insurance and other formalities.

To apply to participate please visit the post-critical IR website.

Politics Beyond Technology

In a few days (May 6th) the first Politics Beyond Technology workshop will begin, co-organized with the VIPRE Initiative and NORDSTEVA. The workshop brings together academics and practitioners focused on the place of technology in world politics, with a particular focus on the role of Digital Fabrication (3D Printing) in world politics. Co-convened by myself and Anna Leander, I will be presenting on my latest work on International Political Ergonomics. A keynote lecture will be delivered by Professor Nishant Shah on ‘Against Appified Politics: Feminism, Intersectionality, and Digital Governance.’

The programme for the workshop is available below.

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Towards an International Political Ergonomics

This article introduces International Political Ergonomics (iPER). iPER is a novel research programme focused on achieving political change through the ergonomic (re)design of world politics.

This is an unusual article for me. It combines critical theory, behaviouralism, practice theory, deterrence theory, and more to suggest a radical transformation in the vocation of IR.


The article begins with the old Marxist cliche: our goal is not only to interpret, but to change the world. And that’s what the piece is about: how, today, IR can/cannot make its knowledge production ‘matter’ on/in the world. I get there by noting, first, that a consensus has emerged, across IR and social science of all kinds: knowledge production (ideas, epistemics) *alone* almost never produces social change in and of itself. A simple example: only *telling* a smoker that their habit will kill them. A complicated example: only *telling* governments that torture does not produce good intelligence and damages their standing. People keep smoking, governments keep torturing: whatever you tell them.

So, what to do?

Comparing IR to applied fields (design theory, ergonomics) and applied sciences (economics), I note how these fields materialise – make concrete – their knowledge. They design things. Build them. Distribute them. And quite literally re-construct society. IR doesn’t do that, yet. I suggest it starts doing so. Drawing on design theory, ergonomics, cognitive philosophy, post-structuralist thought, micro sociology, and more, I argue that material intervention is the most powerful mode of societal intervention. iPER provides a theory of disruptive material-political interventions that can *increase* human deliberative and/or rational capacities in situations of social controversey. It shows how we can do much more than seek the ear of the prince: transforming IR’s vocation.

The piece applies its theory to violence prevention, detailing some of my collaborations with engineers, design theorists, and others. And concludes by exploring some of the (many) ethical and political dilemmas iPER brings up, some of which even imply it’s, yes, a bad idea.

The article is now available online first at European Journal of International Relations here. A full version can also be downloaded directly here.