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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%)

Content maybe subject to copyright    Report

Confronting the colonial: the (re)production of ‘African’
exceptionalism in critical security and military studies
Article (Accepted Version)
http://sro.sussex.ac.uk
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
This version is available from Sussex Research Online: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/79041/
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Maria%Eriksson%Baaz%&%Judith%Verweijen%
%
Published%in%Security)Dialogue;%Vol%49,%Issue%1-2,%2018%
https://doi.org/10.1177/0967010617730975%
%
%
6<9&%.,&)
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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.%
%
Keywords:%securitization;%militarism;%militarization;%Africa;%postcolonialism%
%
%
=#&%"34,&'"#)
%
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%
application%of%theoretical%notions%and%analytical%concepts,%including%context-specific%
adaptations%of%their%signification,%has%inherent%dangers%too.%It%may%lead%for%instance%
to%‘theoretical%and%methodological%discrimination’%(cf.%Eriksson%Baaz%and%Verweijen,%

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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%
democracies’.%Such%selective%application%of%conceptual%toolboxes%inescapably%mirrors%
our% biases% as% scholars% and% our% very% partial% constructions% of% the% world.% When%
addressing%social%phenomena%in%‘the%South’,%but%also,%for%‘Northern’-based%scholars,%
‘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%
Williams,%1997;%Mudimbe,%1988;%1994).%%
%
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%
militarism/militarization%(notions%that,%according%to%different%definitional%traditions,%
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%
attached%to%them%in%relation%to%‘African’%contexts?%What%may%such%choices%reflect%in%
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%
conceptual%choices%we%make%not%only%limit%what%we%see%and%hear,%but%(through%that)%
are%in%themselves%constitutive%–%therefore%opening%up%the%risk%of%perpetuating%and%
reproducing% the% problematic% and% ultimately% colonially% scripted% imageries% that%
continue%to%inform%much%scholarly%work.%%
%
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%
troublesome%imageries%of%‘African’%passivity%and%backwardness.%Yet%this%finding%does%
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%
(promoting%and%legitimizing%colonization%through%the%idea%of%Europe%as%the%universal%
norm)% and% particularism,% racism% and% Otherness% (promoting% and% legitimizing%
colonialism%though%the%imagery%of%the%inferior%Other)%(cf.%Bhabha,%1994;%Mudi mbe,%

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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%
concepts%to%‘Africa’)%and%discourses%of%sameness%(uncritically%arguing%that%concepts%
and%approaches%originati ng%in%‘the%North’%are%ap pl icab le%everywhere)%are%inherently%
problematic.%%
%%
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%
‘normalize’%the%‘Africa-as-a-country’%discourses%that%much%scholarship%highlighting%its%
diversity% tries% to% deconstruct?% And% does% a% singular% focus% on% ‘Africa’% not% risk%
reproducing% the% very% representations% of% ‘African’% Otherness% and% the% ‘African’%
exceptionalism%that%we%seek%to%problematize?%The%answer%to%the%latter%question%is%
an%unambiguous%yes:%such%a%risk%certainly%exists.%We%believe,%however,%that%this%risk%
is% less% acute% given% that% the% focus% here% is% on% querying% into% (common% academic%
renderings%of)%the%idea)of%Africa’%(Appiah,%1993;%Mudimbe,%1988)%rather%than%‘Africa%
itself’.% Our% choice% is% also% partly% grounded% in% postcolonial% s chol arship % that%
demonstrates%that%while%there%were%curious%similarities%in%the%representations%of%all%
colonized% Others% (Loomba,% 1998),% these% representations% were% also% marked% by%
difference% –with% Africa’% often% represented% as% being% at% the% highest% stage% of%
‘primitivism’.%These%differences%have%continued%to%work%in%the%postcolonial,%as%also%
reflected%in%much%Africa’%scholarship%(Abrahamsen,%2003;%Childs%and%Williams,%1997;%
Dunn,%2001;%Mudimbe,%1988).%%%%
%
The%rest%of%the%article%proceeds%as%follows.%The%first%part%reviews%(in%brush%strokes,%
given% the% limited% space,% and% therefore% at% risk% of% overgeneralization)% h ow% the%
concepts% of% militarism/militarization% and% securitization% have% been% applied% to%
‘African’%contexts%in%the%scholarly%literature.%We%then%explore%how%to%make%sense%of%
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%
reflecting%on%the%implications%of%our%analysis%for%academic%praxis.%)
)
>+,4%'&'?.&'"#) .#3) :'-'&.%'9:@:'-'&.%'?.&'"#) .22-'+3) &") 56$%',.#7)
,"#&+8&9)
%
The%notions%of%both%militarization/militarism%and%securitization,%which%have%a%distinct%
genesis%and%evolution,%have%been%applied%in%various%–%and%shifting–%ways%to%‘African’%

!
4!
contexts.% In% the% following,% we% consider% for% each% term% f irst% its% general% signifi cation ,%
and%then%its%specific%application%to%‘Africa.%%
%
Militarization/militarism-and-‘Africa’%-
%
The%term%militarism%has%been%defined%and%conceptualized%in%various%ways%(Berghahn,%
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;%
see%also)Eastwood%in%this%issue).%Additionally,%militarism%has%been%approached%as%a%
set%of%discourses%driving%and%resulting%from%‘militarization’,%interpreted%as%a%process%
(Luckham,%1994).%Central%to%most%definitions%of%militarism/militarization%is%the%idea%
of% ‘the% military’% (either% as% an% institution% or% a% notion)% ‘extending% into’% supposedly%
‘civilian’%spheres%and%subjectivities%(cf.%Thee,%1977).%Other%scholars%have%alternatively%
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%
essential%characteristics%that%separate%it%from%‘the%civilian’.%As%we%will%outline%below,%
it% is% in% part% the% attrib utio n% of% (seemingly)% universal% significations% to% either% ‘the%
military’%or%‘the%civilian’%that%renders%applications%of%militarism/militarization%across%
contexts%problematic.%%
%
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%
control,%the%Euro/US-centrism%of%these%accounts%was%obvious%(Luckham,%1994:%4),%in%
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’%
militarism/militarization%was%construed%as%a%(deviant)%opposite%to%(idealized)%notions%
of%modern’%(read:%‘western’)%armies%and%political%orders.%One%domain%in%which%this%
supposed% d eviance% came% to% the% fore% was% the% pronounced% political% role% of% many%
‘African’% military% establishments,% especially% their% ‘praetorianism’% or% penchant% for%
coup%d’états%(Welch,%1970).%%
%
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%
mutually%competitive%officers%of%different%ranks.’%%Others,%by%contrast,%read%‘African’%

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Cites background from "Confronting the colonial: The (re)p..."

  • ...…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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  • ...As reflected in the contribution by Eriksson Baaz, such apriori gendered assumptions risks downplaying the security predicaments of male (even militarised) brokers....

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  • ...They often become the eyes CONTACT Maria Eriksson Baaz maria.eriksson_baaz@statsvet.uu.se © 2019 The Author(s)....

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  • ...This project was conducted together by Maria Eriksson Baaz, Maria Stern, Chris Dolan and Harriet Grey in Uganda, exploring narratives of particularly male survivors of sexual violence....

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  • ...This article and special issue forms part of a research project conducted by Maria Eriksson Baaz, Swati Parashar and Mats Utas funded by the Swedish Research Council....

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01 Jan 2012-
Abstract: Acknowledgements, Introduction: Locations of culture, 1. The commitment to theory, 2. Interrogating identity: Frantz Fanon and the postcolonial prerogative, 3. The other question: Stereotype, discrimination and the discourse of colonialism, 4. Of mimicry and man: The ambivalence of colonial discourse, 5. Sly civility, 6. Signs taken for wonders: Questions of ambivalence and authority under a tree outside Delhi, May 1817, 7. Articulating the archaic: Cultural difference and colonial nonsense, 8. DissemiNation: Time, narrative and the margins of the modern nation, 9. The postcolonial and the postmodern: The question of agency, 10. By bread alone: Signs of violence in the mid-nineteenth century, 11. How newness enters the world: Postmodern space, postcolonial times and the trials of cultural translation, 12. Conclusion: 'Race', time and the revision of modernity, Notes, Index.

17,643 citations


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  • ...When addressing social phenomena in ‘the South’, but also, for ‘Northern’-based scholars, ‘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)....

    [...]

  • ...…and thereby Euro-centrism (promoting and legitimizing colonization through the idea of Europe as the universal norm) and particularism, racism and Otherness (promoting and legitimizing colonialism though the imagery of the inferior Other) (cf. Bhabha, 1994; Mudimbe, 1988; Spivak, 1993)....

    [...]


Book
30 Sep 1997-
Abstract: Security Analysis: Conceptual Apparatus The Military Sector The Environmental Sector The Economic Sector The Societal Sector The Political Sector How Sectors are Synthesized by Actors.

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  • ...…problematic tendency of securitization theory to uncritically reflect and reproduce the security politics of so-called advanced liberal democracies (see also Bigo, 2002), thus participating in the ‘defensive liberal politics of war by obfuscating the possibility of aggression’ (Barkawi, 2011: 715)....

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20207
20192
20184
20171
20021