War as Oikonomia by Other Means
Patricia Owens (University of Sussex)
In this seminar, Patricia Owens will present the new history and theory of counterinsurgency developed in her award-winning book, Economy of Force. Retrieving the older but surprisingly neglected language of household governance, she seeks to shows how the techniques and domestic ideologies of household administration are highly portable and play a remarkably central role in international and imperial relations. In two late-colonial British emergencies in Malaya and Kenya, US counterinsurgency in Vietnam, and US-led campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, armed social work was the continuation of oikonomia - not politics - by other means. Though never wholly successful, counterinsurgents variously sought to draw on and innovate forms of household governance to create units of rule in which local populations were domesticated. They did this through the selective delivery and withholding of humanitarian supplies; inside and through small-scale family homes, detention and concentration camps; depopulation and re-concentration in new villages and strategic hamlets; the creation or shaping of tribes and sectarian militias; and inside newly formed or reformed post-war national-states. Military strategists conceived such population control as 'sociological warfare' because the social realm itself and distinctly social thought are modern forms of oikonomikos, the art and science of household rule. There is an important story to be told of when and why the social realm first emerged as the domain through which human life could be intervened in and transformed. Economy of Force tells this story in terms of modern transformations in and violent crises of household forms of rule.
Patricia Owens is Professor and Head of the Department of International Relations. She joined Sussex in 2011 after holding positions in London and Oxford (where she recieved a teaching excellence award). In the summer of 2018, Owens will be Visiting Kathleen Fitzpatrick Professor as part of the Laureate Research Program in International History at the University of Sydney. She is a former fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.