The terror of transparency

As I exit customs and walk into the concourse area of the airport I am greeted by familiar sounds and images. The departure terminal appears in front of me as a patchwork of restaurants, cafés and shops. Walking towards the duty free area my body absorbs the sounds of carts, moving walkways, boarding calls and passengers in transit. This could be any major international airport. I glance at the blue sky through the transparent ceiling while moving towards a virtual map. The map plots out the terminal in detail: anodyne shops and restaurants, kid’s lounge areas, a yoga studio, prayer rooms, a barber shop, and other amenities filling every digital interstice. I view myself (“you are here”) in relation to the display. The self-referential and sterile terminal-world that unfolds is structured according to the logic of algorithms and indexes of consumer patterns. It is a microcosm surrounding me, in which everything is visible, tangible, interconnected and given.

Being at the airport reminds me of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s insistence that the global subject lives in an era marked by a “terror” of transparency. As he wrote on Centre Pompidou, its see-through interior and interactive flowchart milieus indicate a space of control articulated by total visibility. Arguably, his critique precedes our era: from GPS to Google maps, from TripAdvisor to Instagram surveillance; from Tinder-dating to the biopolitics of MyFitnessPal, the world we live in is gradually losing whatever veil it once had. The students in my war studies courses speak nostalgically about the 1980’s, an era they take as indicative of a world that was not comprehensively mapped up and known – a world in which travel implied the possibility of getting lost. As I stare at the interactive terminal map at the airport I can see their point: we live in a world of measurability and predictability. Thanks to technology, we struggle to get lost.

I stroll past World Duty Free to the sound of news imagery from last night’s US strikes in Syria. Footage of the aftermath of cruise missiles tearing up Syrian army bases pulsate alongside commercials. There are significant differences between the interior ambience of an airport and the logics of war but there are also common denominators. Much like the airport, war is socially invested and coded. If we take the time to read military doctrines we notice organisational practices aiming to create war as an operational and efficient microcosm. The military architecture, much like the flowchart of the airport, helps to socially construct the world around us. As the footage from Syria illustrates, this is not a discrete battle-space. Rather, the military microcosm impinges on our world as an ever-expanding ‘area of operations’ demarcated and striated by military camps, lines of communication, ideas of range, trajectories, and logistics. In so doing it unfolds according to the duration of a predictable “battle rhythm” that strives to coordinate, prepare, and execute warfare in a universal military time-zone (“zulu time”).

As the bombings in Syria indicate, ours is a time characterised by ‘Global Strike’ – the military capability to strike wherever, whenever – from a distance. The military architecture is an embodiment of the hunter’s view; an ever-increasing visibility and better and better imagery of the future battle-field. War is all about fantasies of transparency. Its microcosm is controlled according to strict logics that analyse when “something is out of the ordinary”, monitors and deduces large-scale patterns of life, enters them into plot-sheets so as to anticipate actions and erase future threats in real-time.

The path along the airport is predetermined and fulfilled. The interior that surrounds me has no potential for becoming differently There is no wondering what will be around the corner. Thanks to the “terror” of transparency and total visibility, we might never get lost again. I stare indifferently as the imagery of Tomahawks replay once again on the screens next to me; a feedback loop. “You are here” the digital map at the airport tells me.

Dan Öberg is Associate Professor of War Studies, Department of Military Science, Swedish Defence University, Stockholm, and a STINT visiting professor at Tokyo University. His current research and teaching focus on war and warfare from a critical perspective. His recent publications include research articles in Millennium Journal of International Studies, International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, and Journal of Narrative Politics.

His recent article ‘War, transparency and control: the military architecture of operational warfare’ was published online by CRIA here

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Studying small states in international security affairs: a quantitative analysis

The international security architecture of today has incrementally evolved through numerous international negotiations taking place in a broad variety of international organisations and regimes. Over time, this has led to a large body of international security rules and norms, covering a wide range of different security issues, such as nuclear weapons and non-proliferation, arms trade, disarmament, interventions, conflict resolution or peace-building. Thus, multilateral negotiations provide crucial building blocks for the current international security architecture.

Despite the great importance of international security negotiations for international security practices, there is little comparative scholarly work on the negotiation dynamics across a variety of different contexts and between many different state actors. My article “Studying small states in international security affairs: a quantitative analysis” seeks to fill this gap. It studies dynamics of 100 different international security negotiations and examines differences in the participation of states. To this end, it addresses the general questions: How vocal are states in international security negotiations? Are some rather silent while others participate more actively despite the fact that voicing a national position is important to make a mark? The paper also addresses the specific question whether and if so why smaller states differ from larger states in how they act in international security negotiations.

International security negotiations take place in a variety of different context. This encompasses two of the UN’s six principle organs, the first committee of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA-C1) and the Security Council (SC), as well as several international organisations and regimes created and subsumed under the UN umbrella, such as the ATT regime and the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In 100 negotiations taking place between 2008 and 2012, coding of the records (in verbatim protocols, minutes, press releases) captures how often each state speaks up in a negotiation. This reveals that there is considerable variation in the extent to which states participate in negotiating international security rules and norms.

On average a state spoke up 36.29% of the time. The most vocal countries are the U.S. (204 speeches), Iran (188 speeches), Russia (166 speeches), France (157 speeches), the UK (137 speeches), Pakistan (135 speeches), Brazil (130 speeches), and Canada (129 speeches). On the other end of the spectrum, countries such as the Republic of Congo, Greece, Mali, and Mozambique made only five speeches each and the Central African Republic, Tajikistan, Tuvalu, Benin, or Kiribati even remained totally silent. The fact that some countries voice positions very often, while others remain completely silent in international security negotiations is puzzling for several reasons. First, in these contexts the international security architecture is negotiated, which is important for all states. Second, actively participating in international security negotiations is not only an expression of state sovereignty, but also a means to influence the shape of the international security architecture. Hence, all states should be motivated to actively participate in the international organisations and regimes that deal with international security issues.

In order to explain the puzzling variation between how active states are in international security negotiations, the paper distinguishes between capacity and incentives as driving forces of state activity. The empirical examination of the plausibility of the hypotheses through a combination of quantitative regression analysis and narrative interview evidence reveals that – in line with realism – smaller states are indeed often less vocal when it comes to negotiating international security. Yet, unlike realism, this activity gap between smaller and larger states is not only due to power differences, but also differences in financial capacities. Smaller states have slimmer budgets for the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in their capitals and for the negotiation teams at the headquarters of the international security organisations or the international security regimes. Thus, unlike larger states, smaller states are more often confronted with situations in which the cannot actively participate in international security negotiations, either because the MFA was not quick enough to develop national positions for all ongoing issues and send negotiation instructions to the diplomats at the international negotiation table, or because the number of diplomats the small state has posted to the international negotiation arena is too small to cover all ongoing negotiations. The article shows that not only political and financial capacities matter, but incentives as well. States with strong incentives in military affairs are more active in international security negotiations, while smaller and poorer states are more likely to shelter under the security umbrella of larger counterparts instead of getting active themselves.

However, smaller states can punch above their weights and become active in international security negotiations, but this requires adjustments. Smaller states have fewer capacities and cannot cover all international negotiation issues to the same extent and with the same intensity as larger and richer states. Yet, smaller states can revisit their priorities and adjust them when need be in order to free resources from other negotiations in order to closely follow international security negotiations.

Diana Panke holds the Chair in ‘Multi-Level Governance’ at University of Freiburg. Her research interests include international negotiations, multilateral diplomacy, comparative regionalism, small states in international affairs, European Union politics as well as compliance and legalisation. In these fields, she has published several monographs and journal articles (including BJPIR, RIO, IPSR, EJIR, CPS, Cooperation and Conflict, Millennium, JCMS, JEPP, WEP, JEP and International Politics).


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EU visa liberalization, Eastern Partnership countries and Russia: challenges and outcomes


In recent years, the massive inflow of refugees to the European Union has conspicuously exposed the crucial role of neighbouring countries in migration flows to the EU, either as countries of origin (as has been the case for Syria over the past few years) or transit for migrants on their way to Europe. Therefore, while the EU pursues its migration policy worldwide, it places a particular emphasis on its eastern and southern fringes.

The EU seeks to act as a driver of change in its vicinity to prevent the emergence of ‘new dividing lines’ across the continent and simultaneously ‘reinforcing stability and security’ in adjacent areas (European Neighbourhood Policy created in 2004). For post-Soviet countries, a visa-free regime is the biggest incentive that the EU can offer in the short-term. Therefore, it constitutes a powerful EU leverage over the reform process in countries like Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova or Armenia. Visa liberalization has also emerged as a prominent issue in the agenda of cooperation with Russia. Until cooperation was frozen in response to the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine, EU actors shared the view that the visa dialogue is a long-term process and an opportunity per se to raise issues related to human rights and democracy with their Russian counterparts.

While visa liberalization is a major expectation of Eastern neighbours, the EU’s visa policy is fraught with tensions between two potentially competing objectives: on the one hand, the transformation of the partner countries through the promotion of core values (such as the rule of law, democracy and human rights) and people-to-people contacts; and on the other hand, the pursuance of the EU’s security interests in its neighbourhood, that has emerged as a buffer zone playing a crucial role in keeping the irregular migrants outside the EU’s borders.

In essence, the EU’s policy mirrors a (potentially swinging) pendulum between normative and security drivers. Intra-EU dynamics (in particular, EU actors’ preferences and bargaining among them) frame the initial balance between normative and security objectives in the formulation of the visa liberalization agenda. Whereas for the European Parliament and eastern EU member states this agenda should be used to transform Eastern partners and to scrutinize human rights compliance, some other EU member states (e.g. France and the Netherlands) prioritize security issues. In light of the differences between other EU actors (especially within the Council), the technical and monitoring role of the Commission is pivotal, especially at key stages of the visa liberalization.

However, while the substance of EU demands predominantly mirrors security concerns, interaction with the partner countries and adjustments to the regional context have significantly altered the balance between normative and security objectives by triggering a shift towards the former. Since 2014, the EU has indeed used the visa liberalization process as a major instrument to sanction Russia’s actions in Ukraine in violation of international law. With Eastern Partnership countries like Georgia and Ukraine, the EU (whatever the security concerns raised by its member states) has been cautious about not delaying further the visa liberalization process, as this would entail huge political costs for the elites and may undermine support for European integration in the partner countries. This interplay calls for analysing EU external policies as dynamic processes that are shaped through shifting interactions between EU actors and third countries.


Sandra Fernandes is Assistant Professor at the University of Minho in the Department of International Relations and Public Administration (School of Economics and Management). She is Deputy-Director of the Department, Head of the BA in International Relations and Head of the MA in International Relations. She is also a full member of the Research Center of Political Science [CICP] at UMinho. Her research interests are in the field of international relations with a focus on European Studies, Post-Soviet Studies, EU-Russia relations, Foreign Policy Analysis and Security Studies. She is a specialist on Europe-Russia political and security relations.

Laure Delcour is scientific coordinator and research fellow of the EU FP7 CASCADE project at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme. Her research interests focus on the diffusion and reception of EU norms, policy and institutional templates in the Eastern neighbourhood and on region-building in the post-Soviet area. She is currently a Principal investigator under a French-UK (ANR-ESRC) research project analysing the EU’s influence on domestic change in the Eastern neighbourhood. She is also a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe (EU International Relations Department).

Their recent article ‘Visa liberalization processes in the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood: understanding policy outcomes’ was published online by CRIA here

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Of Military Coups, Purges and Interventions: Turkey’s Syria Dilemma


On the evening of 15th July 2016, I landed in Istanbul and crossed the buzzing capital to embark a ferry that took me a few miles away to the beautiful island Büyükada, to participate in a two-day workshop organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars together with the Global Political Trends Center, Kültür University in Istanbul. The topic of discussions was Iran’s relations with its neighbours one year after the nuclear agreement made with P5+1. Cruising the Bosphorus in spectacular sunset in the company of two Turkish ladies met on their way to visit their family, little did I know that a military coup was in the making…let alone that the workshop’s participants would be accused of staging it. That same evening, after receiving messages from relatives inquiring about military operations in Turkey, I tuned into the few channels available in the hotel and watched in bewilderment as President Erdoğan issued an appeal over FaceTime for people to take the streets and oppose the putschists. During the night, muezzins in the mosques relayed the call for public mobilization. Police cars and navy gathered massively on the island.

After the failed attempt, I spent a few days in Istanbul. In the city, the feeling of national unity was overwhelming. I tweeted about the impressive mobilization at Taksim Square where thousands of pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP, Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi) crowds mingled with secularists and far-right nationalists. Syrian refugees waved the flag of the Syrian revolution to celebrate the failure to topple the government that offered them asylum.

A few weeks later, a pro-Erdoğan newspaper published an article on how ‘US-sponsored conspirators’ had gathered on Büyükada to plot the coup. They were talking about our policy workshop (!), which was significantly less exciting. They had it all figured out. After all, Büyükada was the island where the British government conspired in 1919! Now, the US government was doing what the British had done nearly a century ago. Actually, workshop participants were not predominantly from the US but from the region (Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey). A few were former diplomats and the majority were scholars and think tank experts from the Woodrow Wilson Center, the International Crisis Group and the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Being accused of both plotting a military coup and being an agent of foreign powers was very serious for me. Although the allegations were sufficiently outlandish for them to gain any real traction, I took great offence as a citizen and academic from the region. Throughout my career, I’ve made a point to preserve my professional and moral integrity and maintain my independence from state agencies inside and outside the region. But none of this had any value whatsoever in confronting the newspapers. No matter how I tried, I could not get the Turkish press to retract the allegations or publish my statement.

On a broader level, this coup initiated a two-fold reaction on the part of the Turkish government. Domestically, Erdoğan initiated a massive campaign against alleged Gulenists, targeting any individual suspected of dissent. It made no difference that many of our Turkish colleagues present at the workshop were Erdoğan sympathizers; one even wrote a weekly column for Karar, a renowned pro-AKP newspaper. They were interrogated and publicly shamed; and until this day, several of them remain suspended from their position.

One month later, on August 24th 2016, Erdoğan sent his army along with Free Syrian Army fighters into Syrian territory. This military intervention came after five years of troubled relations with the Southern neighbour. Syria and Turkey used to boast about their ‘common destiny, history and future’. The mutual relation transformed from enmity in the 1990s to détente in the early 2000s, grew into amity after AKP’s rise to power in 2002, and reverted back to enmity in the aftermath of the Syrian uprising. In the process, Syria and Turkey’s ‘special’ relation collapsed. After March 2011, the Syrian crisis morphed into full-blown violence, adding to the immense death toll, the number of wounded civilians, massive human displacement inside and outside the country, and unprecedented levels of physical and cultural destruction. Since then, the Syrian regime lost control of wide swathes of its territory to Kurds, Islamist opposition fighters and, after 2013, to Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). During this time, Turkey experienced increased turbulence on its territory. The conflict led to an influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees, an emboldened Kurdish militant movement, which spread from its remote mountains to the heart of South-Eastern cities such as Diyarbakir and Cizre, and which was re-empowered by the proclamation in November 2013 of Western Kurdistan (Rojava) in Northern and North-Eastern Syria, as well as cross-border operations perpetrated by ISIS.

According to Turkish scholars met in the workshop, Erdoğan’s new foreign policy was motivated by the twin domestic threats of ISIS and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In previous months, Turkey pursued a parallel military and diplomatic strategy: to increase military support to Syrian opposition groups in the northern Aleppo province to counter the Kurdish (PYD/YPG)-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF); to seek new international partners by mending relations with Russia. By launching direct military operations, Turkey sought to weaken the Kurds as America’s main security partner in northern Syria.

Internationally, the coup prompted the activation of meetings between Erdoğan and Putin. This rapprochement with Russia, Assad’s main ally, initiated a change in Turkey’s official language and approach to the Syrian regime. For the first time since 2011, an official statement called for the participation of Syrian leadership in future negotiation processes. The future of Syria was discussed at the end January 2017 in Astana (Kazakhstan) between Turkey, Iran and Russia – so far with no significant breakthrough between the selected Syrian representatives at the table. It is yet too early to assess whether these recent foreign policy re-alignments, combined with strategic developments linked to the recapture of Aleppo by the Syrian Government thanks to Russia, Iran, Iraq and Hizbullah’s support, will initiate a new chapter in Turkey and Syria’s relations, and what consequences lie ahead for Syrian opposition groups and refugees in Turkey. But the consequences are far-reaching. And while Erdoğan continues to face an insoluble dilemma on the South-Eastern front, he also initiated a disturbing new chapter on the domestic front.


Marwa Daoudy is Assistant Professor in International Relations at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Prior to arriving at Georgetown, she taught at the University of Oxford’s department of Politics and International Relations and was a fellow of Oxford’s Middle East Center at St Antony’s College (UK). Her recent article published in CRIA Volume 29, 2016, Issue 3 ‘The structure-identity nexus: Syria and Turkey’s collapse (2011)’ can be found online as a Free to Access article here


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Cuban Two Step? Havana, Washington and Moscow in 2016

The archetypical asymmetric relationship between Cuba and the United States has undergone historic change. After more than 50 years, bilateral diplomatic relations have been restored and in March 2016 Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba for 90 years. Obama’s desire for a foreign policy legacy is often named as the primary reason for the rapprochement between these two Cold War enemies. Havana’s changed relationship with Caracas, triggered by the deteriorating economic situation in Venezuela, is thought to be another cause. But the reconciliation can be seen in another light – as a challenge to the traditional assumption regarding asymmetric relationships that the larger of the countries dominates the smaller.

For more than 50 years Washington had attempted to economically and politically isolate Cuba, but by the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century this position had been ‘turned on its head.’ It was the United States that had become politically isolated in Latin America, and it was isolated with regards to the issue of Cuba. This was in part due to changes in Cuban foreign policy in the early 1990s, which had seen the island’s political influence increase both regionally and throughout the developing world. Add to that the appearance of progressive governments, or the ‘pink tide,’ in Latin America in the early 2000s, and many Latin American leaders began to question Washington’s treatment of Havana, which appeared to remain dominated by Cold War thinking. This was most noticeable in June 2009 at the 39th General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) when, under pressure from the member states, Cuba’s suspension to the organisation was revoked. A very different scenario from the OAS’s Eighth Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs in January 1962 when the US had applied pressure to the organisation to suspend Cuba from the OAS. To improve its relationship with Latin America, Washington had little choice but to change its Cuba policy.

The power dynamic that emerged challenges assumed thinking regarding asymmetric relationships, particularly so since Cuban-U.S. relations also had a considerable effect on the island’s relationship with Moscow. The nature of Cuban-U.S. relations, and the two countries’ shared histories, has catalysed Moscow’s interest in Cuba since the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917. The outcome is that the distance between Cuba and the United States, rather than between Havana and Moscow, has been the most important factor for Cuban-Soviet relations, and subsequently Cuban-Russian relations, as well. Cuba’s story contests the notion that the intensity of an asymmetric relationship decreases as the distance between the two countries increases.

Cuban-Russian relations remain important for both countries, evidenced by the Russian spy-ship Viktor Leonov docking in Havana the day before the start of the first bilateral talks between Havana and Washington in 2014. Put simply, Cuban foreign policy is not going to fundamentally change in the aftermath of this announcement, but it will remain symbolic as areas of contestation remain in Cuban-U.S. relations, most noticeably the U.S. embargo, payment for nationalised property and the Guantanamo Naval Base. The Cold War may be over, but Havana’s tropical climate has not yet fully thawed U.S–Cuban relations.


Dr. Mervyn Bain is Head of Department for Politics and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen and has published various articles on Cuban foreign policy in journals including the Cuban Studies, Journal of Latin American Studies, Communist and Post Communist Studies, and The Latin Americanist, amongst others. He is also the author of the two books Soviet-Cuban Relations 1985 to 1991. His article “Moscow, Havana and asymmetry in international relations,” will appear in print in Volume 29, Issue 3 of CRIA in October 2016. It can be found online as a Free to Access article here.

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Franco-British defence cooperation on the anniversary of Lancaster House: What can a Treaty produce in five years?

On 2 November 2010, the French and British heads of state and government signed the Lancaster House Treaty aimed at enhancing their bilateral cooperation in all areas of defence and security, Since, the Internet has regularly offered pieces assessing the progress made over the first few years of the treaty’s entry into force. Analyses of facts have been harsh: the accord is largely doomed to “deliver little”. In public debates, the signing of the treaties aroused fears of lost sovereignty and of a fatal blow to the EU security and defence policy or to the relationship with Germany.

On the contrary, both the French and British governments have since advertised the harmony and smooth progress of the Franco-British defence relationship. The treaty receives rare public treatment during short windows of “Strategic communication” during: bilateral summits, military exercises, arms fairs or even the end of a joint military intervention. On such occasions, the discourses offer an idealised view of the bilateral relationship and announce further ambitious cooperative programmes.

Arguably, policy-makers’ or commentators’ discourse has been influenced, in one direction or another, by the underlying discourse of similarity, or even twinnship between France and Britain. According to a widely accepted narrative, history and culture have given France and the UK all the more reasons to be close allies and all the more reasons to fail being so. This narrative arguably raises expectations among the actors involved in this cooperation, thus encouraging further clear-cut and often dogmatic discourses on the possible output of the bilateral treaty. Expectations were further reinforced by the feeling of urgency stemming from the current economic hardship and the need to make savings through cooperation.

The examples we have from strongly institutionalised bilateral relationships indicate that cooperation practices develop and reinforce over time. Further, cooperation and regime theory illustrate that, in the absence of enforcement mechanisms, parties to a treaty are unlikely to change their behaviour significantly. Bilateral defence agreements like the Lancaster House Treaty lack such enforcement mechanisms. This article thus looks, beyond the simplifying conflict-harmony narratives, at the progress made under the Treaty in its five years of existence.

What has the treaty produced?

The letter of the Treaty indicated the two states’ commitment to pursue cooperation in two main areas of conventional defence: the ability of their armed forces to work together and deploy in operations (Art.2 and 5), and joint procurement together with the fostering of defence industrial integration (Art.6, 7, 8 and 9). The signing of the Treaty was accompanied by a Summit Declaration listing a dozen of specific projects to be undertaken bilaterally.

Since 2010, two significant projects have failed. First, the integrated carrier group was abandoned in May 2012, with the British government’s decision (it seems, for budgetary reasons) to opt for a version of the American F-35 fighter jet that are not equivalent to the catapult system of the French aircraft carrier, thus limiting the extent of to which the Navies can integrate their carrier strike capabilities. The second failure concerns medium altitude long endurance (MALE) drones, where the French government eventually opted for buying readily available American Reapers. This decision resulted from incapacity to choose among several potential industrial partners, including the Germans of EADS and the British of BAE Systems. Nevertheless, other capability projects are still being discussed between France and the UK, such as tactical drones and armoured vehicles.

Three central projects were given the green light at the January 2014 summit: the anti-ship missile Sea Venom with an integrated bilateral development and production contract awarded to MBDA, an anti-mine underwater system with a small contract to launch the demonstration phase placed in 2015, and “Future combat air systems” with a joint demonstration programme involving Dassault and BAE together with four other French and British companies.

On the operational side, the French and British Ministries of Defence have engaged in the development of a non-permanent Combined joint expeditionary force (CJEF), to be available as a first-entry force for short, high-intensity operations. Most of the work since 2010 has been dedicated to discussing the details of the plan, considering the scenarios in which the force could be used, notably pondering on the relationship of the bilateral force with other individual allies and regional alliances. While the “initial validation of concept” of the force was declared in June 2015, there remain a number of difficulties, notably in terms of doctrinal differences, language, and more importantly the exchange of information due to system incompatibilities and the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing agreement of which France is not part. Nonetheless, the bilateral work done over the past five years among the French and British militaries, through working group meetings and exercises, has permitted to reach a much higher level of interoperability. The bilateral intervention inLibya (2011) and the French-led operations in Mali (since January 2013) and the CAR (since December 2013) have also challenged the military partnership while at the same time demonstrating political commitment to its continuation.

If all of this is attributable to the treaty, it could be argued that the latter has indeed, already “delivered”, within the limits inherent to treaties with no enforcement mechanism. But how much of this has happened because of the treaty? Industrial collaborations and military exercises and interventions of course happen between all European states regardless of specific institutionalisation. In the conventional domain, only the on-going integration of the missile sector, too, requires legal backing in the form of intergovernmental agreements to be signed as supplementary clauses to the treaty. And in fact, only one article of the Treaty is actually binding (Art.6, §1, guaranteeing mutual access to shared equipment and facilities) the rest of the agreement is declaratory and unspecific. That being, progress in the projects announced at the summit is generally assessed against the Treaty itself, suggesting the effectiveness of its symbolic value. And it can be said that the Treaty has, since 2010, been reified and even personified, as it has argued it must be “kept alive”.

Now, what has the treaty not produced?

Firstly, and obviously, it has not prevented the two governments from acting according to what they perceive to be in their independent national interests, as is evident from the procurement decisions mentioned above. Secondly, the treaty has not destroyed the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). CSDP missions have indeed been launched— at France’s insistence— in Mali and in the CAR. Notably, the Franco-British pact has not made the UK any more pro-CSDP, as was evident in the British opposition to launching EUFOR Libya in 2011. Thirdly, the treaty has not created bilateral UK-French leadership in the EU or NATO, nor has it led to the harmonisation of their ways of warfare (notably when it comes to rules of engagement and decision-making processes). Fourthly, the treaty has not turned France away from Germany and more towards the United States, given that this was already the case already before 2010. Finally, it will not affected the two states’ sovereignty but only their access to certain technologies and infrastructures in limited fields of nuclear and missile technologies. And this is notably because the UK is already and primarily linked primarily to the US for its nuclear deterrent.

Finally, the treaty has had one significant unintended consequence: Lancaster House has given birth to a new sub-field and research agenda in Europe, with an array of conferencesseminars, journal special issues and PhD theses covering Franco-British relations and bilateral or “minilateral” defence cooperations. Certainly from that perspective, like the CSDP in the 2000s, Lancaster House has delivered.


Visiting Ph.D. candidate at POLIS, University of Cambridge
Ph.D. candidate at Sciences Po Paris & King’s College London
This piece is co-posted with the Ultima Ratio blog.

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Cambridge Review Co-hosts Black Sea Security Event

On 15 October 2015 the Cambridge Review of International Affairs was pleased to partner with the Forum on Geopolitics, for an interdisciplinary panel entitled Dark Waters: Security in the Black Sea Region. The Cambridge Review was delighted to welcome as speakers Vice Admiral Ian Corder, the UK Military Representative to NATO and the EU, Dr. Anna Dolidze,Deputy Defence Minister of the Republic of Georgia, and Dr. Slawomir Raszewski, Department of War Studies, Kings College London. We were further delighted to include Mr. Bruce Clark, Religion & Ethics Correspondent and former International Security Editor at The Economist, as moderator.

The panelists addressed a myriad of security concerns facing the Black Sea region, including but not limited to issues of maritime jurisdiction, energy security as related to the highly politicised commodity of gas, and increasing terrorist and separatist threats. All panelists addressed the growing role Russia played in the region, citing Russia’s actions as a growing military concern and calling for a need to deter Russia’s “adventurism” in the Black Sea region.

Thanks to our panelists, moderator, co-sponsor, and all who came!


Kaitlin M. Ball is a Managing Editor of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs, an attorney, and PhD Candidate in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS).

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Urbanization: An Agenda of Under-addressed Insecurities

An urbanized place has the following characteristics: a high concentration of population, a municipal governance structure, infrastructural services, and economic activity to support the population. ‘Urban problems’ occur when the growth of one or more of these attributes are out of balance. In 2015, 54% of the world lived in cities; 70% of the world will live in urban centers by 2050 (62% in Africa, 65% in Asia and 90% in Latin America). Meanwhile, the global rural population, currently at 3.4 billion, is expected to decline to 3.2 billion by 2050.

Despite its hype, urbanization is neither inherently positive nor negative; whichever direction it takes depends on the planning and governance underlying it as well as the growing international networks of city leaders and authorities. The following is a summary of major public policy and planning issues to keep in mind. First, urbanization does not have to be discussed to the exclusion of rural development. Second is the need to focus on disaster risk management in urban planning. Third is the need to make provision of services fiscally sustainable.

1) City bias and rural neglect: The rural and urban are two sides of the same coin, an idea largely overlooked in most articles and reports addressing the challenges and trends of today’s rapidly developing mega-cities. Neglecting the rural side restricts the conversations necessary for improving rural development, such as increasing agricultural innovations and systematically documenting land rights, all of which enhance long-term rural prospects.

The Harris and Todaro model, despite its theoretical shortcomings, argues that the rural push and the urban pull is generally motivated by perceived urban-rural differences in expected income rather than actual earnings. The reality is that rural migrants may find themselves in crowded urban slums living on the margins of a saturated formal sector working in dead-end service jobs. Poverty, marginalization, and insecurity are permanent conditions for the vast majority of migrants and refugees (depending on the driver of migration). However, the model suggests that if expected urban income equals rural income, there may be less incentive to migrate.

Since restricting urban-rural migration has been shown to be ineffective in limiting city growth, even harming economic, social and environmental development, it is far better to have policies that respect mobility as a basic human right while improving both rural and urban development, especially through improving land rights, use and distribution in addition to promoting economic competitiveness and improving rural livelihoods. The ideas of resiliency and smart planning needn’t solely be highlighted in urban environments, although both the rural and urban agenda will require diversified policies to address unique challenges.

2) Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) into Urban Planning: The benefits of urbanization amass according to the agglomeration theory—urban areas are seen as having inbuilt advantages that increase opportunities and enable cities to be great drivers of growth and poverty reduction. Urban life is associated with higher levels of education, better health, enhanced political and culture involvement, and better access to social services.

While there may be increasing opportunities, sustainable development challenges will become increasingly concentrated in cities, namely lower-middle-income countries, bringing about issues of waste management, greenhouse gas pollution, limited housing, health, poor living quality and other issues that call for a re-thinking of interdependent systems. Disasters will likely further aggravate the aforementioned environmental and socio-economic inequalities. With the Syrian conflict pushing refugees to primarily urban centres, namely in Lebanon and Jordan; the Ebola outbreak’s impact on Freetown; and Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation of Tacloban, cities are facing the impact of different disasters.

The tasks to address are then two-fold: 1) the day-to-day chronic stressors that weaken social fabric (high unemployment, inadequate social services, inefficient transportation systems and poor sanitation); and 2) the acute shocks that are sudden (i.e., earthquakes, tsunamis). Disaster and climate risk management should be placed at the core of all development planning, investment and decision making, given that the growing interdependencies of different systems will yield particularly high costs for human lives, infrastructure, and environmental losses. Three areas will need to be standardized in urban planning: a) highlighting the role of DRR for increasing risk information for decision-making; b) having a governance framework to address DRR through clear roles and responsibilities; and c) requiring different departments and sectors, as well as the public, to work together in identifying measures in preparedness, recovery and response. The good news is that the majority of 2050’s urban infrastructure has yet to built (up to 75%), allowing space to see ways of building up hazard-resistant systems and improving existing facilities (i.e., storm-resistant housing and other innovations).

3) Fiscal Sustainability of Service Provision: Finally, service provision will especially be a fraught issue in rapidly expanding cities for two reasons: 1) increasing competition and involvement in the informal sector often leads to urban poverty, signaling pronounced challenges to enabling the same availability of safety nets in urban areas as there are in rural areas; and 2) while the government may respond with social protection programmes, this raises questions on their prolonged fiscal sustainability depending on growth projections.

Urban centres will need to plan how the benefits of city life will be equitably shared, especially through policies that aim to balance the distribution of urban growth. This can prevent excessive centralization of administrative and economic functions, enabling better access to social services and efficient service delivery. Good governance is crucial to for economic and social development and this requires listening to those on the “fringes” by taking note of innovations in slums and including informal settlements into citywide planning documents. Another way to address this is through prioritizing data for policymaking in a way that accounts for the differences of service delivery in urban centers versus that in more stretched out rural areas. New metrics, both quantitative and qualitative, first need to be differentiated in qualifying urban, rural and peri-urban environments ( demanding comparative adjustments) and most importantly need to reflect the actual issues and indicators that the urban-poor view as important to their lives to combine with or develop new indicators in multidimensional composite scores.

In sum, public policy cannot afford to lag behind the rapid path of urbanization. Alongside considering proactive planning into new models of urban development, this requires integrated approaches alongside accurate and timely data on global trends to evaluate current and future policy priorities.


Ruth Canagarajah completed her MPhil in Public Policy at the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS).

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Remembering the 2014 Gaza Conflict: One Year On

On 20 July 2015, Ardi Imseis was invited to brief the United Nations Security Council Arria-formula meeting on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of Israel’s 2014 offensive against the Gaza Strip. Excerpts of his address appear below:

I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of Malaysia and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for extending an invitation to me to address you.


The humanitarian impact of the 2014 hostilities on the people of Gaza was immense by any measure: over 2,250 Palestinians killed, including at least 1,462 civilians, of which more than 550 were children; close to 500,000 people displaced at the height of the hostilities, with approximately 100,000 remaining internally displaced, their homes destroyed or severely damaged and uninhabitable.

Public infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, suffered heavy damage, affecting nearly every aspect of daily life. Alarmingly, this included the bombardment and abuse of United Nations premises, inviolable as a matter of international law, resulting in the death of at least 42 Palestinians, including 16 children, and the injury of 230 others who had taken shelter there. While far less in scope and scale, Israelis too suffered, with 72 killed, among them five civilians, including one child.

While much more can and has been said about the humanitarian impact of the 2014 hostilities on Gaza…I have chosen to focus on the matter of accountability under international law, and what the Council and its members can do to address the root causes of what is, by now, one of the longest running conflicts on the agenda of the United Nations.


In this regard, the conclusions and recommendations of the latest Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza are a good reference point. After documenting “substantial information pointing to serious violations” of international humanitarian law and human rights law by Israel and, to a much lesser extent, Palestinian armed groups, including possible war crimes, the Commission urged “all those concerned to take immediate steps to ensure accountability, including the right to an effective remedy for victims” (para. 74). In this context, the Commission recommended that “the parties should cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court and with any subsequent investigation that may be opened” (para. 82). It also called upon the parties to promptly establish “credible, effective, transparent and independent accountability mechanisms” (para. 83).


While much can be said of the obligations of Israel and the Palestinians vis a vis the 2014 Gaza conflict and its aftermath, matters of economy along with the nature of this occasion compel me to focus on some of those of the international community, including as raised by the Commission of Inquiry.

It is trite to point out that the Council is fully empowered to address the situation in Gaza through any number of measures, including through the adoption of binding decisions under the Charter. This could conceivably include in a decision requiring Member States to cooperate to bring Israel’s blockade of Gaza to an end, or indeed, its prolonged military occupation of Palestine altogether. At the very least, this would trigger obligations of Member States not to recognize as lawful the situation created by Israel’s internationally wrongful acts in occupied Palestine, nor render aid or assistance in maintaining that situation. In addition, the Council could also take decisions requiring Member States to sever economic, diplomatic, and other relations with Israel until it complies with its decisions. The Council could also take a decision requiring all Member States, including Israel, to appropriately prosecute or extradite persons alleged to have perpetrated war crimes arising out of the 2014 Gaza conflict or to otherwise cooperate with the work of the International Criminal Court in that respect.

These are but a few examples of what the Council could theoretically do to address the appalling situation in Gaza, the facts of which speak for themselves. Of course, what is required is neither new law nor new facts, but rather the existence of sufficient will among Council members to act in unison in line with the purposes and principles of the Charter. And despite differences of opinion that may exist within the Council, there is ample precedent to go on.

Take for example the Council’s consistent pronouncements on the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, or the illegality of Israeli settlements in the OPT, or the illegality of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. Each of these are contained to varying degrees in Security Council resolutions 252 (1968), 298 (1971), 446 (1979), 452 (1979) and 465 (1980), among others. What some of these resolutions demonstrate is that even where a Council member may disagree with the majority of the Council, use of an abstention (and in the case of a permanent member, an abstention over a veto) can offer an effective means of registering such disagreement without frustrating the will of the Council as it seeks to discharge its solemn legal obligations under the Charter.

But where the Council is unable to act due to lack of a sufficient majority unimpeded by the veto of a permanent member, the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry remind us that that does not signal an end of the matter. As High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, all Members of the Council, indeed all Member States of the UN, are under independent legal obligations to not only respect, but to ensure respect, for the terms of those Conventions. This includes the legal obligation, under article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to pass laws at the domestic level that criminalize the commission of grave breaches of the Convention (all war crimes under international law), and also to locate and try persons suspected of having committed or ordered the commission of such offences. Under article 147 of the Convention, these include willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment; willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health; unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person; the taking of hostages; and the extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.

This is, in part, what the Commission of Inquiry intimated when it recommended that members of the international community “exercise universal jurisdiction to try international crimes in national courts,” and “comply with extradition requests pertaining to suspects of such crimes to countries where they would face a fair trial” (para. 89).


It is well to recall that the principle of universal jurisdiction was first used by the Supreme Court of Israel in litigation involving Israel’s prosecution of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1961. Today, a growing number of High Contracting Parties, including a number of Council members, have enacted or begun to enact domestic legislation empowering their courts to invoke universal jurisdiction, in some degree or another, in accordance with their obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention. These mechanisms should be examined closely with a view to employing them to ensure a measure of accountability for war crimes committed during the 2014 Gaza conflict.


Since at least the imposition of Israel’s blockade in 2007, the issue of Gaza has attracted a great deal of attention, all of it warranted. Nevertheless, one cannot discuss the issue of Gaza in isolation from the rest of what is unfolding in the remainder of occupied Palestine. This was a matter not lost on the Commission of Inquiry in its consideration of the issues before it. Nor should it be a matter lost on any of us today.

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip has presented some of the most considerable challenges to the international system in the post-1945 era. The advent of the UN Charter was meant to herald a new world order based on peaceful resolution of disputes, suppression of acts of aggression, and development of friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. Nevertheless, whether in breach of the general prohibition on the use of force, the unlawful acquisition of territory through the threat or use of force, the prolonged violation of a peoples’ right to self-determination, or the systematic settler colonialism at its root, the illegality of Israeli practices in occupied Palestine – of which these are but a representative sample – demonstrate that the question of Palestine triggers legal principles that go well beyond the relatively narrow positions of each of its immediate protagonists. Rather, the principles at play are of such fundamental import to the maintenance the international system as such that each State has an interest in ensuring against their violation. Put simply, the situation in occupied Palestine is about more than merely the place and its people; it is about the maintenance of the international rule of law as we know it.

Having regard to the reasons behind the very establishment of the UN Charter system, and the promulgation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, helps bring this point into sharp relief. For centuries prior to the interwar years, the use of force in international relations was a perfectly legitimate tool of statecraft, “policy by other means,” as von Clausewitz put it. Likewise, the right of conquest of territories occupied as a result of such use of force was considered axiomatic. Of course, this all imploded during World War II, with consequences that need not be recalled in full. Suffice to say, as a result of these events, including the despicable treatment of civilian populations subject to foreign military occupation in central Europe during the war, the UN Charter was promulgated, affirming the prohibition of the use of force in international relations, along with its corollary prohibiting the acquisition of territory through the threat or use of force. Likewise, the Fourth Geneva Convention was promulgated prohibiting, among other things, collective penalties, forcible transfer of protected persons, and the transfer by an occupying power of its civilian population into the territory it occupies. Indeed, as a matter of international law, occupation is meant to be a temporary condition, with sovereignty never vesting in the occupant but rather in the people occupied. By all objective accounts, these were the principles that underscored the foundation of the UN Charter system. And by all objective accounts, including those of the United Nations, these are the principles that are under direct threat in occupied Palestine.

As we consider how to respond to the situation in occupied Palestine following Israel’s 2014 offensive against the Gaza Strip, it is respectfully submitted that the Council keep these considerations foremost in mind.



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Do global market mechanisms turn us into homo economicus?

Following the 2008 Financial Crisis vehement criticism of neoclassical economics as an academic discipline, and of the global economic and financial system which has been built using its findings, has become the mode du jour. This is as true of International Relations as is of other branches of the arts and social sciences – as demonstrated by recent (complimentary) reviews in CRIA of Ha-Joon Chang’s most recent book and of a kind of revisiting of the work of Karl Polanyi.

Chang has become something of an anti-austerity rock star, and Polanyi a ‘lost genius’, because they, among others, are proponents of a ‘new’ kind of critique of orthodox economics. This critique doesn’t follow the line of what was the more ‘popular’ critique of orthodox economics, Marxism. It therefore doesn’t fall prey to many of the arguments which have been used to dismiss it (namely that attempts to implement Marxist economic theory in practice have by-and-large been colossal failures).

They have instead suggested that neoclassical (or ‘market’) economics doesn’t work not simply because it is an exploitative system run in the interests of the minority against those of the majority, but because the presumptions which it makes about human behaviour are out-of-step with how people actually behave. The rational, calculative animal that markets rely on to maintain their dynamics, homo economicus, simply doesn’t exist.

Some, following the observations of psychologists such as Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, conclude that ‘rational’ human decision-making isn’t as ‘rational’ as we think it to be. Others, following Polanyi, claim that it is difficult to come to the conclusion that people are inherently ‘self-interested’ and ‘materialistic’ when they are embedded in webs of social context. Economists and economic historians drawing on either or both argue that, to paraphrase Chang himself, these shortcomings mean that economics as a discipline should not be treated as a science. Economics is instead best seen as a branch of the humanities akin to politics or history, and the ‘facts’ of the market should instead be considered ‘opinions’.

This line of argument, however, isn’t new – something demonstrated by the fact that Polanyi’s magnum opus, The Great Transformation, was originally published in 1947. Debates over the point(s) made by Polanyi and others have been going on in sociology and in anthropology for well over half a century. Some of the conclusions reached can tell us a lot about what might be wrong with the approach taken (broadly speaking) by Chang, Polanyi, and many, many others.

The ‘conclusions’ which I’m referring to are those reached by a number of sociologists influenced by the work of Michel Callon. A ‘founding father’ of a theoretical current in Science and Technology Studies called ‘Actor-Network Theory’, Callon argued in his 1998 work The Laws of the Markets that what had blighted critiques of orthodox/neoclassical economics is that they had treated the discipline in a theoretical manner. Critically-minded sociologists and anthropologists had been narrow-minded in viewing economics as a set of hypotheses to be verified and/or falsified, rather as an object of study in and of itself.

So what Callon (and those who, roughly speaking, ‘follow’ his theoretical inclinations and line of argument) is saying is that to try and figure out whether the neoclassicists were originally ‘right’ in the first place or not is to miss the point. Neoclassical economics has had an incalculable influence on the social, political, economic and legal structures prevalent in the world today, and trying to prove the assumptions underpinning the discipline wrong is not going to change any of that.

An altogether more interesting (and controversial) direction which Callon takes this argument in is to introduce the notion of ‘performativity’, referring specifically to the ‘performativity of economics’. Here, Callon states that trying to figure out what ‘human behaviour’ is in its most original form is futile because the ‘engineering’ done by technocrats influenced by neoclassical economics itself has an impact on the way we have that makes trying to figure out how we might ‘naturally’ behave pointless. It’s a classic constructivist move. Economists are wrong in assuming that there is such a thing as ‘human nature’, but in assuming that it exists have essentially brought the world they imagined to be true into being.

Economics makes this ‘imagined world’ a reality, according to Callon, through a form of action called ‘framing’. This means that either tangible goods (such as property) or intangible goods (such as labour) are divorced from the interpersonal or socio-cultural connections associated with them through the vagaries of ‘the system’. If you own a house and don’t adhere to the adage of ‘buy low, sell high’ because of the sentimental value attached to it, for instance, you stand a chance of getting battered by a crash in property markets. You will, it follows, not repeat the same mistake again.

Where we can see such ‘framing’ occurring on a grand scale is in the recent events in Greece. Here, SYRIZA attempted to steer a course away from the ‘austerity’ demanded by orthodox economics, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF, and promptly stopped because they ran the risk of sending the country into financial meltdown. Yanis Varoufakis, the country’s exuberant ex-Finance Minister, has wisely stayed out of the matter after realising that confronting the ‘minotaur’ of economic orthodoxy had led to Greek bonds rapidly becoming next-to-worthless, or at least more worthless than they were when S&P downgraded their bonds to ‘junk’ status in 2010.

The whole assertion that ‘this is a coup’ only goes so far, however. Greece’s creditors had, over the course of the negotiations between Greece and ‘the Troika’, made clear that offering Greece debt relief could be problematic. This was in part because the regulations governing the Global Financial System had already been set and in part because taxpayers would be outraged that what they saw as Greek profligacy was affecting their wallets. To ‘perform’ an economy, it follows, one has to stick to the script. All of the agents involved may not be ‘naturally’ inclined towards behaving in such a dispassionate way, but because of the (potential) consequences if they don’t, to a great extent they have to.

Following this line of argument doesn’t mean suggesting, however, that the global economic and financial system is bereft of some very serious and fundamentally compromising flaws. Callon and other adherents of Actor-Network Theory don’t try to argue that the systems which they study are stable or even that cohesive – quite the opposite, in fact. The IMF backtracking on their generally hardline stance towards debt relief is an example of a modification, in some small way, of the ‘system’.

What I do suggest is that IR scholars wishing to analyse contemporary global capitalism take a step back and, to paraphrase another developer of ANT, Brutno Latour, ‘let the actors speak for themselves’1. Studies of global capitalism need not be devastatingly critical or enthusiastically positive – it is possible, and perhaps preferable, to treat it not as something that is necessarily ‘bad’ or necessarily ‘good’ or more appropriately for this piece ‘wrong’ or ‘right’, but rather as something that simply is.

For an explanation of Callon’s line of argument which is (thankfully) largely devoid of the jargon that Callon tends to write in, see Andrew Barry and Don Slater’s 2002 article ‘Introduction: The Technological Economy’ in Economy and Society, volume 31. If you’d like to read a (rather angry) riposte to Callon’s thesis, see Daniel Miller’s 2002 article ‘Turning Callon the Right Way Up’ in the same volume of Economy and Society (a special issue devoted largely to Callon’s work regarding markets). 

Those looking for an introduction to Actor-Network Theory in general should read either Callon’s 1986 piece ‘Some elements of a sociology of translation’ in the John Law’s edited volumePower, Action and Belief: a New Sociology of Knowledge or (preferably) the introduction to Latour’s 2005 book Reassembling the Social: an Introduction to Actor-Network Theory.

Jack Smith is an undergraduate student with the Human, Social and Political Sciences faculty at the University of Cambridge and is an intern with CRIA. He is affiliated with King’s College.

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