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Moving the Center: South-South Geographies of Global War

11 February 2021

9:00 PST / 17:00 UTC / 18:00 CET

Places are limited - please register here and we will share the Zoom link

Scholars have a growing understanding of the infrastructural apparatus that makes global/imperial warfare possible, from drone bases to US detention sites, airport holding rooms and other built environments. The growing public awareness of these sites, however, has yielded a tendency to focus either on military soldiers (particularly the US military) or armed insurgents as the proper subjects of scholarly and public analyses. This “military v militants” frame often renders other places and spaces invisible, obscuring the vast, multiple, and uneven transnational security assemblages that sustain the US imperial formation.

This panel will examine the everyday realities that shape US imperial warfare. It asks: what is the stuff of US imperial warfare? How do targeted citizens and populations negotiate, strategize and live with surveillance in a contested, shape-shifting terrain?

Moving beyond the notion that the so-called “war on terror” operates smoothly across varying landscapes, the panelists examine how power is unequally distributed across a multitude of local security actors, from soldiers and paramilitary forces at checkposts and blockades to intelligence agents, spies, casual informants, and local strongmen. These opaque and often informal arrangements shape the everyday for targeted populations who must daily negotiate and strategize how to survive.

Samar Al-Bulushi is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. Her current book project (provisionally titled Citizen-Suspect: Militarism, Race and Geopolitics in the East African Warscape) draws on ethnographic research in Kenya to explore the relationship between the imaginative and grounded geographies of the so-called “War on Terror” in East Africa. She is a contributing editor at Africa is a Country and her work has appeared in public outlets such as The Guardian, Al-Jazeera, Intercepted, Jacobin, and Pambazuka News.

Madiha Tahir is a postdoctoral scholar researching digital war and transnational militarism. Her current book project is an ethnographic exploration of life and survival among populations targeted by drone warfare in the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands. Dr. Tahir is also pursuing a collaborative, multimedia project that builds a digital archive of the Pakistani afterlives of the ‘war on terror’ funded by Columbia University's Brown Institute for Media Innovation. She is the director of the short essay film Wounds of Waziristan, the co-founder of Tanqeed, a bilingual magazine of politics & culture with Mahvish Ahmad, and the co-editor of an essay volume Dispatches from Pakistan. A former journalist, her work has appeared in a variety of media outlets including Al-Jazeera, Vice, PRI and BBC’s "The World," and elsewhere.

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