CFP - “Weapons, the Social and War: Grasping the Productivity of Weapons on Organized Violence” ECPR Joint sessions of Workshops, Sciences Po Toulouse & Online - April 25th-28th 2023

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Call for Papers - ECPR Joint sessions of Workshops, Sciences Po Toulouse & Online - April 25th-28th 2023 “Weapons, the Social and War: Grasping the Productivity of Weapons on Organized Violence” (Deadline January 9th, 2023)

Chair(s) : Julien Pomarède, Université de Liège
Co-Chair(s): Catherine Hoeffler, European University Institute

Abstract: The aim of this Workshop is to originate conceptual alternatives to the dominant interpretation of the relation between weapons and war. 
Too often, weapons are seen as instruments serving the rationality of state violence. As war obviously requires weapons, the choice of its military means is supposed to reflect the desirable end state (Horowitz 2011). Such a reading has been extended to almost all types of conflicts: nuclear arsenals and deterrence serve the precarious peace among great powers (Freedman 2003); precision-guided munitions, drones or non-lethal weapons are necessary for fighting insurgencies (Strawser 2010). In the current Russia-Ukraine war, commentaries mostly relate to weapons depending on how they affect the strategic balance between the belligerents. 
The recent evolutions in the materialist and ideational sub-branches of international relations have generated stimulating alternatives to the mainstream view on the war/weapons nexus. An early reformulation emanated from historical materialist and bureaucratic politics approaches stressing the economic and corporate interests behind weapon development and exploring the structural role of the ‘militaro-industrial complex (Rasmussen 2015; Oikonomou 2012). 
More recently, a core critique addressed to the strategic paradigm is that weaponry exceeds the rationality of war makers (Bousquet, Grove and Shah 2017). Weapons are not reducible to the human intentionality of waging war efficiently. Rather, this lies in a variety of socio-political dynamics through which chemical agents, landmines, small arms, machine guns, bombs, missiles, etc. are defined, over time, as (un)ethical, (non)lethal, (un)precise (Seantel 2011). 
In war itself, the use of weapons is not purely rational and instrumentally driven but subject to other logics, such as (un)intended escalations in violence (Pelopidas 2017), racism (Satia 2018), technological fetishism (Holqmvist 2013) and gendered representations (Kinsella 2011). In other words, weapons are not just tools but social realities. They constitute productive sites where our relationship to violence is at play and, as such, impact human life at different scales and levels ꟷ the battlefield, subjectivities, bodies, and societies. 
However, while this literature is expanding, analyses that explore the practicalities, mechanisms and multi-scale effects of the weapons/war nexus are still rare. 
What makes a weapon (un)acceptable? 
What are the effects of weapons on combatants’ subjectivities and the dynamics of violence? 
What public-corporate networks lie behind the industry of weapons? 
Why and how do some weapons become 'popular' and fetishized and others stigmatized? 
The first objective of this Workshop is to encourage theoretically informed investigations of the social productivity of weapons. The critical debate on weapons and war remains, however, fragmented. Weapons are studied as separate realities and some, like drones, are more studied than others, such as chemical or nuclear weapons (Pelopidas 2020). This fragmentation obstructs the emergence of a shared theoretical soil. 
This Workshop's second objective is therefore to strengthen the dialogue among the findings drawn from the study of different weapons and sectors of armaments production. In this inclusive effort, we understand weapons broadly, to encompass the weapons themselves but also their related components, such as ammunitions, logistics, computerized environments, or localisation means like satellites.

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