Armed Forces, Security, and the Use of Force in U.S. History. Annual Conference of the Historians in the DGFA (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Amerikastudien/German Association for American Studies)

Armed Forces, Security, and the Use of Force in U.S. History. Annual Conference of the Historians in the DGFA (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Amerikastudien/German Association for American Studies)

Prof. Dr. Michaela Hampf (FU Berlin); Prof. Dr. Barbara Lüthi (Universität zu Köln)
Akademie für Politische Bildung
Vom - Bis
21.02.2014 - 23.02.2014
Barbara Lüthi

Historians of North America have long focused on armed conflict, both on the American continents and overseas. From the colonial wars to the deployment of military drones, warfare has been central to defining the nation and its role in the world. Warfare and security issues are inextricably linked. Despite the present-day attraction of security as an attention-grabbing word in politics and the public sphere, the study of security is a missing chapter in many state-of-the-art surveys of historical literature. Especially after the Second World War, security has found major attention in the fields of International Relations and its sub-discipline Security Studies. Security Studies evolved during the nuclear age and were originally foremost about the study of the threat, use and control of military force. During the past three decades a broader understanding of securitization processes has evolved, extending beyond state actors and including activities that develop „from below.“ Security needs are understood as socially and/or politically constructed and as central to shaping specific security practices. In a similar vein as security, the understanding of armed conflicts and armed forces has been part of the „widening-debate“: Not just conventional armies and wars, but also small armies, irregular forces, non-state actors, civil wars and so on have come under scrutiny in the context of the New Military History. The existence of a direct link between armed forces, (national) security issues and the impact of state violence (directed at external and internal targets) became apparent not only since 9/11 and the onset of the “War against Terror”. The creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which seeks to establish internal security by means of controlled application of state violence and the simultaneous coordination of military intervention abroad is just one example of the connection between the military, the security apparatus and state violence. At the same time – with increased efforts to sustain internal and global security – the armed forces of the United States have experienced a complete restructuring, due to reasons of austerity, but also in order to create a smaller and more flexible army prepared for fighting asymmetrical wars. The proposed conference takes such contemporary developments as a starting point to instigate a broader historical debate that looks beyond present-day developments, such as the Indian Wars of the 19th century, the American Civil War and naval armament at the end of the 19th century, or Cold War constellations.

The goals of the conference are manifold. Although focused on a historical perspective on North America, it aims to include papers at the intersection of the New Military History, Cultural History of Violence, Security Studies, and Postcolonial Studies while at the same time allowing for interdisciplinary approaches which delineate the historical, cultural, and institutional configurations in which the links between armed conflicts, security and state violence exist.

Section I: Legitimizing State Violence.
This panel will include historical case studies which seek to delineate the discursive parameters and narratives, legal and medial conditions as well as institutional settings through which in-/securities and threats have served as legitimate grounds for state violence and/or led to armed conflicts. It inquires into the specific conditions for de/legitimating specific security measures as justified or non-justified. Papers could deal with the history of terrorism, imperialism, counterinsurgency, racial conflicts, or the role of non-/state actors such as Private Military Contractors (PMC).

Section II: Security Technologies and Armed Forces.
This panel will seek to analyze the specific usages and logic of security technologies (protection, safety, surveillance), especially applied by armed forces and other state actors. What are the epistemological, biopolitical, and historical dimensions of past and present-day techno-security, of the growing convergence of recent technologies of surveillance and war-fare? What is the impact of techno-(in)securities on everyday life and practices? Are we experiencing a militarization of civil life? Does techno-security contribute to social categorizing in terms of gender, race, class, age? Who are the targets of such security technologies, and who on the contrary needs to be protected through certain technologies? What perceptions of in-/security contribute to the legitimation of the use of such technologies?

Section III: Security and Governance at Home and Abroad.
This panel addresses the question of America’s impact on and instruments of global governance understood as its ability to shape and define expectations at the global level but also at home. What types of governance arrangements can be observed in security affairs, for ex-ample pertaining to the question of hegemony, international regimes, institutions, international law or norms? In what specific ways did armed forces provide a basis for global and national governance in interaction with governmental organizations, different institutional and non-state actors?

Section IV: Violent conflict and the Body.
This panels ask for the embodiment of armed conflict. Possible topics include the micro- geographies of bodily encounters between Native Americans and Europeans or the orientalization of “Muslims” or “Asians”, the social vulnerability and exposure of corporeal bodies in wars and violent conflicts, but also the gendered and racialized bodies that fight wars and those that support them in various capacities. Papers could come from the fields of gender, dis/ability, and race studies, from body history, military history, and security studies.

Section V: Visual History of State Violence and Armed Forces.
Images occupy an important role as a medium through which social life and history can be analyzed. They influence historical processes and the perception of reality. The photos from inside the military detention center at Abu Ghraib for example confronted the public with images of women soldiers as perpetrators of torture and violence, while many debates were still centered on women’s vulnerability in war. Images have provided evidence of state violence and the practices and actions of military personnel but at the same time have been used by the state as means to justify security measures and the use of military force. Images can also support a politics of fear, form opinions or produce counter images of the prevailing reality in society. In movies and photography, images constitute specific frames of meaning through which Americans have perceived themselves and the world.

Please send an abstract of no more than 500 words and a 1 page CV to both conveners before September 15, 2013.



Barbara Lüthi

Institute of Anglo-American History
50923 Köln