Prepared for the March 2 – 3, 2017 seminar, Theorizing (Dis)Order: Governing in an Uncertain World, organized by the winners of the 2016 – 2017 WPF Student Seminar Competition

The questions posed in this forum regarding the relation between governance and the production of order/ disorder are more difficult than they seem at first sight. […]

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The philosopher Eric Heller wrote, ‘Be careful how you interpret the world; it is like that.’[29] One of the challenges facing the social scientist is that a deep knowledge of a particular issue, or a particular place, allows the scholar to write about it with an authoritative subjectivity. In my own writings on Sudan, I have approached the same topic (e.g. political violence) from different perspectives, each time with some explanatory purchase. These different frameworks of explanation may be incompatible with one another, but that has not hindered me from using them.

My concluding point in this paper is therefore, that (dis)order may be in the eye of the beholder, or the pen of the writer, as much as in the world that is being observed or described. However, rather than lapsing into an irretrievable subjectivity and a resigned agnosticism, I prefer to be cautious about what can and cannot be explained, and to insist on always bearing in mind the limitations of any particular point of view.

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I recently came across a very interesting research proposal which was focused (in part) on the following question: How do public authorities in Central Africa respond to the displacement and return of refugees and migrants? Public authorities were defined as all forms of authority greater than the family, for instance, clans, religious institutions, aid agencies, […]

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The past week has given us contrasting pictures of how the world’s top two powers are making decisions about military spending, with announcements of plans for spending increases by both Donald Trump and the Chinese leadership. The comparison is not a flattering one for the US.

China announced its annual defense budget increase for […]

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Six reasons why the global arms makers love Pres. Trump:

1) His eagerness to increase Pentagon spending by $54 billion, especially given his disinterest in articulating how the spending relates to threats or what the new funds should enable. It is worth noting that the U.S. already spends more on defense than the […]

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Most adult Africans have, at one point in their lifetime, woken up to martial music on the radio, an unfamiliar face in a military uniform on the television, and the numbing discovery that their country has been snatched away from them overnight. Africans have also become accustomed to the tedium of sclerotic authoritarian regimes, sometimes […]

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