Colonial Counterinsurgency in Comparative Perspective, Sept. 18-19

Gareth Curless and Martin Thomas
Centre for War, State, and Society, University of Exeter

Palestine police poster (1)Online registration is now open for a two-day conference, ‘Colonial Counterinsurgency in Comparative Perspective’, to be held on 18 and 19 September 2014, the University of Exeter.

The recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have prompted renewed interest in Britain’s colonial experience of rebellion and state breakdown, while current French interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic have stirred controversy over French military actions in former colonial dependencies, promoting accusations of ‘imperialist humanitarianism’. Yet, in spite of increasing interest in the history of counterinsurgency and empire, we lack comparative studies of colonial responses to armed insurrection, civil disorder, anti-colonial paramilitaries and other irregular forces. The aim of the conference is to address this imbalance by drawing on examples from the British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese empires, as well as case studies from China and Southern Africa. Continue reading “Colonial Counterinsurgency in Comparative Perspective, Sept. 18-19”

Rhetoric of Massacre and Reprisal in Algeria’s War of Independence

Martin Thomas
Director, Centre for War, State, and Society
University of Exeter

There has long been agreement among historians of Algeria’s violent decolonization that particular massacres and, more particularly, the retributions they provoked, decisively altered the nature of the conflict. Massacre, it is averred, changed the cultural codes, the military rules, and the permissible limits to mass violence within Algeria’s population and between French security forces and local insurgents.

Why this should be the case remains harder to explain. The demonstrative horror of mass killing intentionally shrinks the middle ground. It destroys the prospects for compromise, denying political and personal space to the otherwise non-committal. Meant to polarize, its violence signifies the ultimate rhetoric of shock. Little wonder that historians of Algeria’s war concur that massacres served as decisive conflict escalators, whether strategically, symbolically, or both. Continue reading “Rhetoric of Massacre and Reprisal in Algeria’s War of Independence”

Prelude to Intervention: French Wars in Africa, Part I

Map: "French geopolitics in Africa and Foccart's legacy" (1960-1991), from Bat's article in Afrique Contemporaine.
Map: “French geopolitics in Africa and Foccart’s legacy” (1960-1991), from Bat’s article in Afrique Contemporaine.

Jean-Pierre Bat
Research Associate, Centre for War, State and Society
Author of Le syndrome Foccart (2012)

In the first of his two-part Forum essay, Dr. Bat illuminates the distinct colonial and post-colonial history that helps explain current French military policy in Africa (1950s-present).

Today, the French Parliament will vote on the country’s present military engagement in the Central African Républic (CAR). Why? Because it remains a (poorly understood) constitutional requirement that any French military intervention overseas be approved by the National Assembly after every four months. Moreover, even if President Nicholas Sarkozy and his successor, François Hollande, have sought to republicanize France’s wars in Africa – dressing them in the clothes of democratic legitimacy and UN approval – the locations and priorities underpinning those interventions speak to a post-colonial inheritance dating back to the 1950s and the era of ‘Mr. Africa’, Jacques Foccart. Continue reading “Prelude to Intervention: French Wars in Africa, Part I”

Exeter’s ‘The Rhetoric of Empire Conference’, 22-23 May

Martin Thomas 

Announcing a two-day conference hosted by Exeter University’s Centre for War, State and Society22 – 23 May 2014

RhetoricofEmpireConpicWhy did imperialist language become so pervasive in Britain, France and elsewhere in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? What rhetorical devices did political and military leaders, administrators, investors and lobbyists use to justify colonial domination before domestic and foreign audiences? And how far did their colonial opponents mobilize a different rhetoric of rights and freedoms to challenge imperialist discourse? These are some of the questions that we hope to address during this two-day conference, which is funded under a three-year Leverhulme Trust research project led by Professors Martin Thomas and Richard Toye. Continue reading “Exeter’s ‘The Rhetoric of Empire Conference’, 22-23 May”