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

In northern Uganda, where I have conducted field research on local security initiatives over the past three years, issues related to politics, power, and the state […]

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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

One way to theorize disorder is to address the ambiguity of its impact. Many studies show, for example, that disasters have winners as well as losers. […]

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The presentation by Veena Das, “Techniques of Power and the Rise of the Grotesque” made me reflect on how this topic intersected with the role of celebrities in the public sphere, particularly as the face of humanitarian causes. Are the figures of the grotesque and the “designer activist” in public life two variants of […]

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On March 8, 2017, Reiner Braun spoke to a group at Tufts University. In a world where global military expenditures top 1.8 trillion dollars, Reiner Braun urged his audience to find common points of understanding to avoid conflict. Braun cited the expansion of NATO alongside European national armies, and the increasing connections between these military […]

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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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