Theories of Violence from Superhero Blockbusters

My interest here is in what these movies try to say about the world and the place of violence — evil or righteous – in it. As American films in a world where the United States still possesses more military firepower than any other country (as example, in 2016 the US defence budget nearly topped the next fifteen largest national defence budgets combined), it is difficult not to view these films as metaphors for US power, regardless of the various nationalities of the characters. The launching point for these thoughts is Wonder Woman: the first female-led superhero movie, notably directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. One could examine the film, as many have, from a feminist perspective, in which the film appears as a triumph of female power. More interesting to me is, given the amount of violence on display in the genre, what does a film want to say about violence? In this, Wonder Woman is a serious backward step from the emerging trend of more established superhero franchises that have recently projected a sense of unease about the inevitable harms and trade-offs that come with reliance on destructive force.

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Staying safe in armed conflict contexts

In case you missed our program this afternoon, below is a re-cap via storify, with thanks to Roxani Krystalli. The program, Staying safe in armed conflict contexts: What do crisis-affected people prioritize and does it work? Do humanitarian actors and others take note?, focused on self-protection.

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ISIL: Where the “Real (Islamic) Men” Are

ISIL’s message: Where the world “denies” potential recruits their masculinity, the Islamic State is ready to confer. The group promises these young men that by immigrating to the combat zones of Iraq and Syria, they will “reclaim” their masculinity by assuming their idealized gender roles of fighter and protector.

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Why Women and Girls Join ISIL

Why would these girls and women, some of whom bring their own young children, decide to journey to one of the world’s most dangerous warzones under the control of a violent insurgent group? Of course, not all women and girls under ISIL control have had any choice whatsoever in their circumstances, perhaps the most dramatic and well-documented examples stem from ISIL’s treatment of Yazidi women, who have been sold as sex slaves, as discussed below. But for the growing group of older girls and women who have responded to ISIL recruitment efforts, a range of promises draw them towards the group.

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The ICC Also Dodged a Bullet

President Bashir’s narrow escape from South Africa has shown that an executive decision by the African Union’s leaders, including the South African president, to refuse cooperation with the ICC, does not have legal force to override domestic law. It has shown that the ICC has no recourse if a government decides to ignore its obligations under the Rome Statute—only the domestic courts and authorities can enforce its decisions. It has embarrassed the African Union, which looks to be re-inventing itself as, in the words of the late Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere describing its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity, a “trade union of dictators”. Most international sympathies will lie with the ICC: it has scored a moral point. But only the former and current staff of the office of the prosecutor, and others who followed the Bashir case closely, will be aware that the Sudanese president’s unseemly escape from South Africa also saved the ICC itself from what could have been severe embarrassment.

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