From the 23rd to the 24th November I attended the Galle Dialogue 2015, held in Galle, Sri Lanka. The Galle Dialogue is a major international multilateral meeting of navies in the Indian Ocean. Organised by the Sri Lankan navy, the dialogue attracted this year 300 participants from over 37 nations. The sixth installment of the dialogue, focussed on the theme “Secure seas through greater maritime cooperation”. The conference was opened by the prime minister of Sri Lanka, and included, among others, presentations by India’s chief of naval staff, Nigeria’s chief of naval staff, the deputy chief of staff from the Pakistan Navy, the State Minister of Defense of Sri Lanka, as well as representatives of UNHCR, IOM, and UNODC. The first day focussed on the contributions of different navies to maritime security in the Indian Ocean, while on the second day the issue of migration and international corporation to tackle ocean borne crime were discussed. As the only academic presenting at the conference, I discussed in my lecture the relationship between maritime security and the blue economy, and how more cooperative ocean governance structures might be set up. I drew on the results of the lessons learned project of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia as well as my ongoing ESRC funded project on maritime security governance. Further information on the Galle Dialogue, including the full program, papers, and videos, is available here.
On the 11th of November I gave a talk in the research seminar series of the Department of Politics and International Studies of SOAS. I presented my study on the piracy high risk area and the politics of this zone. Largely focusing on the empirical side of the story, I aimed at showing what kind of politics and sovereignty the establishment of such a zone of exception entails. Details of the event are available here, and you can listen to the talk here.
How do international and regional organizations, states and non-governmental organizations cooperate and relate to each other in security governance? This was the main question of a two day conference hosted by the Center for Security Studies of the ETH Zurich. The conference, held from 6th to 7th of November 2015, featured 19 presentations and was organized in four sections: 1) Global-regional, 2) inter-regional, 3) intra-regional links and 4) critical perspectives. I contributed to section four and argued in my presentation that assemblage theory gives us a great tool to study the diverse relations of new modes of security governance. Discussing the diverse relations that the piracy high risk area entails, I argued for the appreciation of complexity and grounding analysis in practical relations. The full conference program is available here.
What is the status of expertise in conflict resolution? Which crisis situations lead to the assembling of what forms of expertise and what gets included and excluded? Those were the questions addressed at an authors workshop organized by the Center for the Resolution of International Conflicts (CRIC). The two day event (22.-23.10.2015) brought together a range of experts in different fields of conflict studies from across the globe. Participants included, among others, Pinar Bilgin, Anna Leander, Ole Waever, Tom Biersteker, Trine Villumsen Berling, Keith Krause, David Chandler, and Peter Vale.
The discussion demonstrated how diverse the field of conflict expertise is and how varied the forms of knowledge included are. The manuscripts presented will be published as an edited volume in 2016. At the workshop I presented a reflection on Somali piracy expertise and how it has changed over the life cycle of the Somali piracy crisis on the basis of my own experiences. Here is the abstract of the paper titled ‘Experts in an Adventure with Pirates. The assembling of Somali piracy expertise’:
The 2012 animated comedy “The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!” tells the story of an encounter of a pirate crew with a scientist, set to be a certain Charles Darwin. The encounter leads to an unusual alliance that results in Darwin winning the “scientist of the year” award and the Pirate Captain succeeding in the “pirate of the year” competition. This chapter tells the story of an encounter of experts with Somali pirates set roughly at the same time when the movie hit the cinemas. I recast how different constellations of Somali piracy expertise were assembled in response to the emerging problematic situations. My story is told from the inside out. I start with a range of personal reflections on how I assumed the role of a piracy expert and use a range of personal encounters with fellow experts and with the governors of counter-piracy to develop a narrative of how Somali piracy knowledge was made. The results is an incoherent narrative of how piracy knowledge has moved as the crisis unfolded and was increasingly managed. I recast a movement from experience based questions (“best practices” on how to prevent and manage a piracy attack), to questions concerning the ‘legal finish’ (how to prosecute piracy suspects?), the long-term management and prevention of piracy (what are the causes of piracy and how can we prevent the emergences of piracy?), reflexive questions (what lessons can be learned from counter-piracy?) and to the problem of exit strategies (is the piracy crisis over and can the system put in place be reversed?). Following this life-cycle of the piracy crisis allows as to understand how different problematic situations assemble distinct expertise and how the expertise that matters changes over time.
Maritime Security has made it into the curriculum of the European Security and Defense College (ESDC). Following up on the action plan of the European Maritime Security Strategy (EUMSS), the ESDC has launched three training courses on maritime security held in Spain, France and Italy. This a pilot phase and the aim is to develop a joint curriculum for the next years.
The Italian Center for High Defence Studies organized a maritime security course from 19th to 23rd of October in Rome. The first day explained the EUMSS and put it into context, the second day was devoted to the EU’s External Action in the field of maritime security. The remaining days included a session on piracy, on maritime domain awareness, EUNAVFOR Med as well as military cooperation in maritime security. The course that attracted 35 professionals from across Europe was concluded with an exercise. At the course I gave three presentations. On day one I discussed the Action Plan of the EUMSS in the light of its implementation, on day two I introduced the problems linked to maritime security capacity building with a particular focus on sustainability, politics and ownership. My presentation on day three concerned the lessons from Somali piracy giving an overview of the results of the lessons learned project for the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
From 8–9 October 2015 I attended a workshop in Duisburg titled “Translations in World Politics”. The workshop brought together a crowd from IR, policy studies, and Science and Technology Studies to re-think how the concept of translation can made fruitful for the study of politics. The papers presented the different ways of using the concept. Some used it to refer to linguistic translation, while other drew on the extensive meaning as shifting situations and inscriptions. In the workshop I presented a first draft of my paper in which I theorize the High Risk Area controversy in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. Starting out from assemblage theory and an understanding of translation as territorialization and de-territorialization, I argued that the best practice manual (BMP4) and the map of the High Risk Area present inscriptions of the entire counter-piracy assemblage.
Maritime Security Studies is a thriving field of research that not only addresses pressing political issues, but entails a fascinating set of scholarly questions, concerning territory, knowledge, sovereignty and international cooperation. Drawing on the success of earlier meetings (workshops in Cardiff and Geneva, and a section at the 2014 WISC conference in Frankfurt), maritime security scholars from across Europe met in the frame of the 9th Pan-European Conference on International Relations organized by the European International Studies Association. In six panels and one roundtable we discussed from the 23. to 26.9 the rise of maritime security strategies, challenges within distinct regions, and maritime threats such as illegal migration, piracy and boundary disputes. At the roundtable we discussed the need for maritime security studies to go into two directions: To theorize more, but to recognize that good theory is always anchored in practical problems and practice. We were particularly delighted to welcome Michel Soula from NATO headquarters for the section. A full overview of the program is available here.
What is the state and future of the African Standby Forces (ASF)? And what should be the main purpose of the forces, peacekeeping, rapid crisis responses, or addressing the broader range of security risks? This was the core theme of the 4th international conference on strategic theory held in Stellenbosch from 16th to 18th September. The event was organized by Stellenbosch University in conjunction with the Royal Danish Defence College and broad together academics, analysts, diplomats and military representatives to discuss the ASF. It quickly emerged that there are quite different viewpoint on the ASF, in particular whether it should be seen as success or failure. From a military viewpoint, the way that the ASF could potentially respond to contemporary crisis situations remains limited. Yet, on the positive side, a substantial number of troops have been trained, and forces have gained much experience in collaboration. In my own contribution to the conference, I asked for the role that the ASF can play in maritime security. I argued for the importance of mainstreaming maritime security and that the issue domain should be part of the discussion of the ASF. The ASF could be a major institutional structure for strengthening maritime security collaboration, in particular for joint law enforcement operations or maritime domain awareness. Further Information and the full conference agenda is available here.
What are the promises of practice theory for the study of global politics? The paper titled “The play of international practices” co-authored with Frank Gadinger explores this question. It is now out in International Studies Quarterly 59(3). It is available as open access here. This is the abstract:
The core claims of the practice turn in International Relations (IR) remain ambiguous. What promises does international practice theory hold for the field? How does the kind of theorizing it produces differ from existing perspectives? What kind of research agenda does it produce? This article addresses these questions. Drawing on the work of Andreas Reckwitz, we show that practice approaches entail a distinctive view on the drivers of social relations. Practice theories argue against individualistic-interest and norm-based actor models. They situate knowledge in practice rather than “mental frames” or “discourse.” Practice approaches focus on how groups perform their practical activities in world politics to renew and reproduce social order. They therefore overcome familiar dualisms—agents and structures, subjects and objects, and ideational and material—that plague IR theory. Practice theories are a heterogeneous family, but, as we argue, share a range of core commitments. Realizing the promise of the practice turn requires considering the full spectrum of its approaches. However, the field primarily draws on trajectories in international practice theory that emphasize reproduction and hierarchies. It should pay greater attention to practice approaches rooted in pragmatism and that emphasize contingency and change. We conclude with an outline of core challenges that the future agenda of international practice theory must tackle.