political violence . . .

The study of political violence sits at the centre of my research agenda and is the locus around which many of my more conceptual or theoretical concerns (aesthetics, design, critique) are empirically explored. My approach to political violence is unusual. I am focused on understanding the practical enaction of violence in lived, experiential, or embodied terms. As such, I have interviewed and conducted participant observation with perpetrators of torture and members of designated terrorist groups, as well as conducted an ethmonethodological analysis of hundreds of perpetrator-filmed videos of ‘violence in action.’ These empirical inquiries have allowed my research to gain a unique insight into the ‘just-whatness’ of political violence.

Conceptually, I draw on an eclectic mix of approaches in order to understand how the perpetration of aberrant forms of political violence (torture, the targeting of civilians, terrorist acts, etc.) becomes possible. This includes drawing on tools from micro-sociology, science and technology studies, practice theory, cognitive philosophy, theories of affect, and beyond. Work outlining my findings has been published in leading journals and in monograph form. Following from this work, I previous led the Violence Prevention (VIPRE) Initiative, which explored how new sociological (material-semiotic) perspectives can aid in the prevention of violent human rights abuses.

Since 2023, my work on political violence has continued in my role as Principal Investigator for the multi-year transdisciplinary research project The Future of Humanitarian Design (HUD). HUD continues my working leading the Violence Prevention Initiative, but promises to translate its basic scientific research on the conditions of possibility underlying political violence prevention into concrete action through collaborations with architects, engineering scientists, and leading humanitarian organizations. HUD is funded by a 3.2 million EUR Swiss National Science Foundation grant.

© J.L.Austin

Khiam, Lebanon