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Journal ArticleDOI

Confronting the colonial: The (re)production of ‘African’ exceptionalism in critical security and military studies:

01 Jan 2018-Security Dialogue (SAGE Publications)-Vol. 49, pp 57-69

Abstract: Drawing on postcolonial theory, this article queries into the ways in which the concepts of militarism/militarization and securitization are applied to ‘African’ contexts. We highlight the selective nature of such application and probe into the potential reasons for and effects of this selectiveness, focusing on its signifying work. As we argue, the current selective uses of securitization and militarism/militarization in ‘Africa’ scholarship tend to recreate troublesome distinctions between ‘developed’ versus ‘underdeveloped’ spaces within theory and methodology. In particular, they contribute to the reproduction of familiar colonially scripted imagery of a passive and traditional ‘Africa’, ruled by crude force and somehow devoid of ‘liberal’ ideas and modes of governing. Yet we do not suggest simply discarding ‘selectiveness’ or believe that there are any other easy remedies to the tensions between universalism and particularism in theory application. Recognizing the ambivalent workings of colonial discourse, we rather contend that any attempts to trace the colonial into the present use of the concepts of securitization and militarism/militarization need to acknowledge the problematic nature of both discourses of ‘African’ Otherness and those of universalism and sameness.
Topics: Militarization (57%), Postcolonialism (international relations) (52%), Exceptionalism (51%), Universalism (51%)

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Confronting the colonial: the (re)production of ‘African’
exceptionalism in critical security and military studies
Article (Accepted Version)
Eriksson Baaz, Maria and Verweijen, Judith (2018) Confronting the colonial: the (re)production of
‘African’ exceptionalism in critical security and military studies. Security Dialogue, 49 (1-2). pp.
57-69. ISSN 0967-0106
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To%say%th at%theoretical%frameworks%and%concepts%need%to %be%adjusted%to%the%context%
of%study%is%to%state% the%obvious.%The%failure%to% do%so,%a%repeated%feature%in% th e%history%
of% academic% knowledge% production,% opens% the% door% to% ethnocentrism,% particularly%
Euro/US-centrism.% Yet,% as% a% range% of% postcolonial% scholarship% warns,% the% selective%

2016)% whereby%particular% contexts% are% implicitly% deemed% ‘too% underdeveloped’% for%
the% application% of% (supposedly)% theoretically% ‘sophisticated’% concepts% that% are%
commonly% used% in% relation% to% (purportedly)% ‘advanced% (postindustrial)% liberal%
our% biases% as% scholars% and% our% very% partial% constructions% of% the% world.% When%
‘at% home’% in% ‘the% North’,% theoretical% and% conceptual% choices% are% often% shaped% by%
colonial% imageries% and% power% relations% (cf.% Bhabha,% 1994;% Mudimbe,% 1988;% 1994;%
Spivak,% 1993).% The% echoes% of% colonialism% are% particularly% strong% in% scholarship% on%
‘Africa’,%which%in%the%colonial%lexicon,%was%construed% as %located%at%the%very%end%of%the%
evolutionary% ladder,% hence% constituting% the% least% developed’% Other% (Childs% and%
In%this%article,%we%examine%the%dan gers% and%justifications%of%universal%and%selective%
theory%application%to%‘Africa’,%focusing%on%the%(non-)%application % of%the%con cepts% of%
have% sometimes% distinct,% sometimes% overlapping% meanings)% and% securitization%
(sometimes%defined%as%partly%overlappi ng%with%militarization,%see%the%Introduction%to%
this% special% issue).% In% what% ways% are% these% concepts% used% and% what% meanings% are%
terms% of% underlying% assumptions?% In% particular,% what% (signifying)% work% do% these%
concepts% do?% Probing% into% these% questions% is% pertinent% in% the% light% of% the% strong%
Euro/US-centrism% that% continues% to% mark% scholarly% debates% on% securitization% and%
militarism/militarization% (cf.% Barkawi,% 2011;% Barkawi% and% Laffey,% 2006;% Bilgin,% 2011;%
Vuori,%2008;%Wilkinson,% 2007).%Furthermore,%it%is%warranted,%as%the%theoretical%and%
reproducing% the% problematic% and% ultimately% colonially% scripted% imageries% that%
As% we% demonstrate,% the% ways% in% which% militarism/mili tarizatio n% and% securitization%
have% u p% to% now% been% applied% to% ‘African’% contexts% risk% reproducing% familiar% and%
not%allow%for%a%clear% answer%to%the%question%whether%theoretical%and%methodological%
discrimination% is% indeed% at% work% and% whether% such% discrimin atio n% is% warranted.%
Taking% a% definite% position% on % these% issues,% we% contend,% is% dangerous% given% the%
contradictory% workings% of% the% colonial.% The% colonial% project% was% intrinsically%
characterized% by% the% politics% of% both% universalism% and% thereby% Euro-centrism%
norm)% and% particularism,% racism% and% Otherness% (promoting% and% legitimizing%
colonialism%though%the%imagery%of%the%inferior%Other)%(cf.%Bhabha,%1994;%Mudi mbe,%

1988;% Spivak,% 1993).% As% argued% by% Bhabha,% colonial% discourse% was% marked% by%
ambivalence,% in% that% colonizers% desired% a% reformed,% recognizable% Other% who% was%%
‘almost% the% same,% but% not% quite’% (1994:% 86).% Therefore,% any% attempt% to% trace% the%
colonial% into% the% present% use% of% the% concepts% of% securitization% and%
militarism/militarization% in% relation% to% ‘Africa’% needs% to% acknowledge% that% both%
discourses% of% ‘African’% Otherness% (uncriticall y% refuting% the% applicability% of% certain%
and%approaches%originati ng%in%‘the%North’%are%ap pl icab le%everywhere)%are%inherently%
Why,% then,% do% we% focus% on% ‘Africa’,% ( and% even% on% the% probl ematic% noti on% of % ‘sub-
Saharan%Africa’)?% By% treating% ‘Africa’% as% a% supposedl y% monolithic% whole,% do% we% not%
diversity% tries% to% deconstruct?% And% does% a% singular% focus% on% ‘Africa’% not% risk%
reproducing% the% very% representations% of% ‘African’% Otherness% and% the% ‘African’%
is% less% acute% given% that% the% focus% here% is% on% querying% into% (common% academic%
itself’.% Our% choice% is% also% partly% grounded% in% postcolonial% s chol arship % that%
colonized% Others% (Loomba,% 1998),% these% representations% were% also% marked% by%
difference% –with% Africa’% often% represented% as% being% at% the% highest% stage% of%
given% the% limited% space,% and% therefore% at% risk% of% overgeneralization)% h ow% the%
concepts% of% militarism/militarization% and% securitization% have% been% applied% to%
the% selective% application% and% diverging% connotations% of% these% two% concepts,% an d%
venture%into%a%discussion % of%the%signifying%effects%of%that% selectiveness.%We%end%by%
>+,4%'&'?.&'"#) .#3) :'-'&.%'9:@:'-'&.%'?.&'"#) .22-'+3) &") 56$%',.#7)

contexts.% In% the% following,% we% consider% for% each% term% f irst% its% general% signifi cation ,%
1981;% Stavrianakis% and% Selby,% 2012).% Among% other% conceptualizations,% it% has% been%
regarded% as% a% particular% ideology% (glorifying% war,% force% and% violence),% a% feature% of%
regimes%relating%to%military%buildu ps% (e.g.% increasing%spending%on%the%military)%or%a%
specific%kind%of%civil-military%relations%(Berghahn,%1981;%Stavrian akis%and%Selby,%2012;%
of% ‘the% military’% (either% as% an% institution% or% a% notion)% ‘extending% into’% supposedly%
conceptualized% militarism/militarization% as% ‘the% blurring% or% erasure% of% distinctions%
between% ...% military% and% civilian’% (Sjoberg% and% Via,% 2010:% 7).% Whether% regarded% as%
extending%into %or%merging%with%‘the%civilian’,%in%both% cases,%‘the%military’%is%attributed%
it% is% in% part% the% attrib utio n% of% (seemingly)% universal% significations% to% either% ‘the%
Analysing% studies% on% the% military% and% mili tarism% in% ‘developing% countries’% in% the%
1960s% and% 1970s,% Luckham% observes% th eir% gro unding% in% time-bound% theories% of%
modernization%and%political%development.% Focusing%on%democratization%and% civilian%
particular% in% relation% to% conceptualizations% of% ‘military% professionalism’% and% ‘civil-
military% relations’% along% Hu nti ngtoni an% (1957)% lines.% % After% a% brief% trend% whereby%
‘African’% armies% were% considered% agents% of% ‘modernization’% (Pye,% 1962),% ‘African’%
supposed% d eviance% came% to% the% fore% was% the% pronounced% political% role% of% many%
‘African’% military% establishments,% especially% their% ‘praetorianism’% or% penchant% for%
Some% scholars% located% these% ‘abnormalities’% in% the% very% nature% of% ‘African’% armies%
and% political% orders.% As% Decalo% writes% (1990[1976]:% 6),% ‘Many% African% armies% bear%
little%resemblance%to%the%Western%organizational% p rototype%and% are%instead%a%coterie%
of% distinct% armed% camps% owing% primary% clientelist% allegiances% to% a% handful% of%

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  • ...…simply as reflecting a North/ South divide problematically downplays the research conducted by scholars from ‘the Global South’, in turn reflecting the problematic trend of Northern white navel-gazing marking much of post-colonial studies (Chakrabarty 2000, Eriksson Baaz and Verweijen 2018)....


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  • ...They often become the eyes CONTACT Maria Eriksson Baaz © 2019 The Author(s)....


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