This is a selection of book reviews situating and discussing the scholarly work of colleagues.

Unpacking urban geopolitical narratives: Sara Fregonese on war in the city

Fregonese War and the cityIn 1975–1976, Lebanon and the city of Beirut were consumed by devastating armed conflict. But whereas this empirical fact is uncontested, its historical causes and political meanings remain controversial. Sara Fregonese’s book War and the City focuses on the rationalisation of the conflict and asks: Do Western descriptions of the war live up to the realities observed in Beirut? War and the City puts the spotlight on important political practices, which are the ways actors co-construct meaning in and through their own urban environments, and how those interpretations may develop differently from far-away truth claims. This said, the book also includes (exceedingly) structuralist narratives, and it raises important questions about whose perspectives (in Beirut) are listened to and heard. Furthermore, its treatments of works from related disciplines – security studies and International Relations especially – is underdeveloped if not outright crude.

Hagmann, Jonas (2022). War and the city: Urban geopolitics in Lebanon (Sara Fregonese), London, Tauris, 2020. Urban Studies, OnlineFirst PDF

The post-geographic age? Patrick Porter on distance, security, and war


Advances in information, communications, transport and weapons technology, leading US politicians claim, radically shrunk space and distance. They stripped geography of the protective function it once played and collapse the traditional distinction between ‘over there’ and ‘over here’: In the post-geographic age, the US and its allies are exposed to insecurities in and from all places, which is why global military operations are required to uphold American national security. But does this ‘globalist’ reading of world politics respect the logistical and strategic challenges posed to military operations? Patrick Porter’s book The Global Village Myth confronts the post-geographic narrative, its empirical validity and practical consequences. His critical examination is sophisticated and much warranted – yet the empirical narrative also unevenly developed, and the analysis difficult to adapt to non-US cases and thus international politics writ large.

Hagmann, Jonas (2016). The global village myth: Distance, war, and the limits of power (Patrick Porter), London, Hurst, 2015. European Review of International Studies 1(3): 158-162. PDF

Geschlechtergeographie der Schweizer Sicherheits- und Friedenspolitik


Wie ordnen (Un-)Sicherheitsdiskurse Geschlecht und Raum? Bettina Friedrich analysiert die Schweizer Sicherheits- und Friedenspolitik anhand kritischer Ansätze aus Geographie und Politikwissenschaften. Damit stellt Verorten, Verkörpern, Verunsichern eine wichtige und überfällige Intervention in die Schweizer Sicherheitsforschung dar. Doch die Arbeit zeigt auch methodische Schwächen . So bleibt mangels sozialwissenschaftlicher Untersuchungsanlage unklar, ob verschiedene Aussagen empirische Tests bestehen. Ob in der Schweizer Sicherheits- und Friedenspolitik beispielsweise Frauen tatsächlich öfters stereotypische Bilder zugeschrieben werden als Männern, oder ob Geschlechteraspekte der Waffenheimabgabe von Militärs wirklich nicht hinterfragt werden, das ist nicht schlüssig bewiesen, weil unklar bleibt, ob solch komparative Aussagen in der Grundlagenarbeit überhaupt erfragt wurden.

Hagmann, Jonas (2014). Verorten, verkörpern, verunsichern: Eine Geschlechtergeographie der Schweizer Sicherheits- und Friedenspolitik (Bettina Fredrich), Bielefeld, Transcript Verlag, 2012. Geographica Helvetica 69(1): 63-64. PDF

The politics of enlisting private companies for national security 


Concerns with terrorism not only influence Western security policies, they also affect the internal political organization of Western polities as such, as private actors become enlisted increasingly directly to the fight against terrorism. Karen Lund Petersen analyses such governmental attempts at ‘responsibilising’ companies. Looking at how politicians in Denmark and the United States formulate the need for society-wide responses to the risk of terrorism, her book examines how novel conceptualizations of the private sector’s security role(s) are developed, and how companies respond to such ideas. Corporate Risk and National Security Redefined is an elegant book on the contemporary evolution of Western security politics. It provides a sophisticated systematization of the risk literature and an accomplished, timely and indeed much warranted critical perspectiveon the politics of enlisting private actors in new security agendas.

Hagmann, Jonas (2012). Corporate risk and national security redefined (Karen Lund Petersen), London, Routledge, 2012. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 25(3): 480-482. PDF

Security technology as object of political contestation (the case of ballistic missiles)


Technology is as an important residual category in many accounts of international security, yet the precise roles played by technology are rarely analyzed in more depth. Columba Peoples directs attention to this situation by focusing on American ballistic missile defense. Does technology determine national foreign and security policies, or is the relationship inverse and technology better understood as controlled by politics? Justifying Ballistic Missile Defence provides a decidedly reflexive and highly elaborate account of the politics of framing security technology. Points of further debate remain, however: Are ballistic missiles good representatives of security technology writ large? Could framings of such technologies not also depend on the question of who owns or controls them? And must critical analyses of technology in international affairs really abandon the normative components of Critical Theory, as the author suggests?

Hagmann, Jonas (2012). Justifying ballistic missile defence: Technology, security and culture (Columba Peoples), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010. Peace Review 24(2): 242-245. PDF

Tickner and Waever on geo-cultural pluralism in the ‘international discipline’

Waever Tickner IR scholarship

The International Relations (IR) discipline becomes increasingly reflexive, also as regards its own foundational myths, intellectual inclinations, professional structures, and national and regional variations. This volume marks a landmark contribution to this research agenda. Collecting essays on 16 regions from all continents of the world, it characterizes and differentiates a spectacular number of geo-cultural epistemologies in IR. With these contributions, as well as its conceptual framing and conclusions, the volume draws a new and diverse picture of the evolution and state of IR. In so doing, it powerfully challenges the traditional portrayal of IR as a sequence of intellectual ‘great debates’ taking place at US universities. Readers will be impressed by the global diversity of IR scholarship, the strong reliance of some communities on US works, as well as the pronounced intellectual and professional parochialism of US IR itself. Successfully re-casting the discipline’s self-representation, the book opens up a challenging debate about how pluralistic the ‘international discipline’ is and should be.

Hagmann, Jonas (2010). International Relations scholarship around the world (Arlene B. Tickner and Ole Wæver), London, Routledge, 2009. Journal of Peace Research 47(5): 665-666. PDF

Is HIV/AIDS a matter of international security? The securitization of public health  

Elbe Virus Alert

Since the early 1990s, agenda-setters such as the US government, UNAIDS or the International Crisis Group are linking HIV/AIDS to security. Yet, should HIV/AIDS be framed in such ways, and what political practices does such presentation empower? Virus Alert enquires into the securitization and governmentalization of HIV/AIDS. Drawing on rich empirical material, it dissects the various rationales put forward for a combination of HIV/AIDS and security, to then problematize its embedding in new rationalizations of political rule. The book leaves some questions open, such as why the security relevance of HIV/AIDS should be judged against concepts such as national or human security, or what the precise interplays between securitization and governmentalization are. Yet, the monograph’s empirical work is impressive and its analytical framework stimulating, which is why it is a recommended read for anyone interested in critical enquiries into the politics of security.

Hagmann, Jonas (2010). Virus alert: Security, governmentality, and the AIDS pandemic (Stefan Elbe), New York, Columbia University Press, 2009. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 39(2): 584-585. PDF

Ist Frankreich eine Zivilmacht? Kempin zum strategischen Wandel im Hexagon  

Kempin Frankreich

Verschreibt sich die französische Aussenpolitik zunehmend dem Multilateralismus? Wendet sich Paris vom Einsatz militärischer Mittel in den internationalen Beziehungen ab? Kurzum: Ist Frankreich auf dem Weg zur Zivilmacht? Anhand sozio-linguistischer Ansätze und vier empirischer Fallbeispiele – dem Kosovokrieg, dem amerikanischen Schlag gegen die Taliban in 2001, den Krisen in Côte d‘Ivoire nach 2000 und der amerikanischen Irakinvasion von 2003 – zeichnet Ronja Kempin nach, wie das sicherheitspolitische Handeln Frankreichs in Politik und Öffentlichkeit von verschiedenen Akteuren erklärt wurde, und wie dabei eine Verschiebung weg von alten (militärischen) und hin zu neuen (zivilen) Identitätselementen ersichtlich wird. Doch die Idealtypen ‘Militär-‘ und ‘Zivilmacht’ und methodische Zuordnung empirischen Materials zu ebendiesen Leitkonzepten bleibt vage, und so erscheinen die gemachten Schlüsse zur französischen Aussenpolitik überzeichnet und allzu stereotypisch.

Hagmann, Jonas (2009). Frankreichs neue Sicherheitspolitik: Von der Militär- zur Zivilmacht (Ronja Kempin), Baden-Baden, Nomos,2008. Friedenswarte 84(4): 142-144. PDF

Security technologies: Biometrics, ID cards and data storage in France and Great Britain 

Ceyhan Identifier

The journal Cultures & Conflits becomes an increasingly important reference for IR scholarship. This special issue here focuses on security technologies, i.e., issues such as biometrics, ID cards, and data storage/protection. Its articles by Ceyhan, Laniel, Piazza, and Preuss-Laussinotte provide empirically grounded analyses on France and Great Britain, and based on French philosophy and sociology. The special issue’s popularization of Foucauldian and, at times, Bourdieuan approaches to politics is clearly a welcomed contribution to more Anglo-Saxon security debates. Then again, learning and insemination between scholarly communities should be reciprocal. Seen in this perspective, the French authors, too, must be challenged for doing little to engage with scholarship from other academic traditions.

Hagmann, Jonas (2008). Identifier et surveiller : les technologies de sécurité (Ayse Ceyhan et al.), Paris, L’Harmattan, 2007. Surveillance & Society 5(3): 340-342, reprinted in 6(1/2009): 69-70. PDF

Peace in the Pacific: Galtung on healing in US-Japanese relations 

Galtung Pax Pacifica

Contrary to what this book’s title suggests, Pax Pacifica: Terrorism, the Pacific Hemisphere, Globalisation and Peace Studies is more about a stock-taking effort of peace and conflict dynamics in the Pacific region than an analysis of terrorism or globalization, or even the region holistically understood. This is because its chapters map violence structures in US-Japanese relations, and they give good practical indications for rituals of political healing there – but they do not, as readers might expect, embed its content in existing scholarly literatures on the region or conflict resolution as such. Seen this way, Galtung’s recent book displays an impressive passion for peaceful change. Its haphazard organization, reduction of the Pacific region to US-Japanese relations, and casual allusion to complex academic concepts such as identity or culture, however, turn it more into a novel than a scholarly monograph.

Hagmann, Jonas (2008). Pax Pacifica: Terrorism, the Pacific hemisphere, globalisation and peace studies (Johan Galtung), London, Pluto Press, 2005. Journal of East Asian Studies 8(3): 512-514. PDF

The sources of military power: States’ effectiveness to do what? 

Brooks Creating military power

What are the sources of military effectiveness? This book argues that all too often, answers to this question focus on national availabilities of manpower and material capabilities as seemingly self-evident explanations. Contrary to this perspective, the authors of Creating Military Power (edited by Risa Brooks and Elizabeth Stanley) argue that nations are unevenly capable of extracting ‘military power’ from these sources, and that such ability depends on cultural and societal factors, political institutions, as well as pressures from the international arena. The book’s conceptual framework is applied consistently across its empirically substantive and informative chapters and case studies. Yet, the central question remains what type of ‘effectiveness’ the monograph focusses on: Are the authors assessing states’ effectiveness to mobilize military power from available resources, or are they talking about states being unevenly effective in military confrontations with others?

Hagmann, Jonas (2008). The difficult re-conceptualisation of military power: The sources of military effectiveness (Risa Brooks and Elizabeth Stanley), Palo Alto, Stanford University Press, 2007. H-Net/Humanities and Social Science Online, April 2008. PDF

Lene Hansen’s ‘Security as Practice’

Hansen Security practice

Lene Hansen’s Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War endeavors to show how research based on poststructuralist discourse analysis can yield analytically beneficial and methodologically sound insights – and it largely delivers on this promise. It introduces readers to post-structuralist IR theorizing and shows how the Balkans were repeatedly frames as cultural ‘Others’ in the West. As an elegant presentation of post-structuralist identity theorizing in International Relations, it established itself as a mandatory read for all those interested in critical approaches to international security.

Hagmann, Jonas (2007). Security as practice: Discourse analysis and the Bosnian war (Lene Hansen), London, Routledge, 2006. Journal of Peace Research 44(5): 638. PDF

Demokratische Kontrolle der Sicherheitskräfte 

Bryden Caparini Private actorsDas Genfer Zentrum für die Demokratische Kontrolle der Streitkräfte wurde 2000 vom Bund gegründet. DCAF ist bemüht, Fachwissen und best practices über Mechanismen zur Herstellung der demokratischen Rechtschaffenheit der Sicherheitsakteure zu generieren. Nebst spezialisierten Publikationen auf Themengebieten wie Polizeiwesen oder Geheimdienste greift der Think Tank in seiner seit 2002 bestehenden Jahrbuchreihe transversale Themen auf. Das soeben erschienene Jahrbuch 2006 beschäftigt sich mit der Problematik privater Sicherheitsakteure, die sich oft den etablierten konstitutionellen Kontrollmechanismen entziehen.

Hagmann, Jonas (2007). Private actors and security governance – The DCAF yearly book (Alan Bryden and Marina Caparini, eds.), Münster, LIT Verlag, 2006. Allgemeine Schweizerische Militärzeitschrift 173(1): 52. PDF