ISRF EARLY CAREER FELLOW 2014-15
The purpose of this project is to develop a framework that will enable security actors to respond to the ethical challenges raised by nonhumans in situations such as wars and disasters. In existing security discourses, human beings are framed as the only relevant actors, in both ethical and pragmatic terms. Yet security situations are shaped by a range of nonhumans that Bruno Latour terms ‘actants’: beings that can collectively affect change in the world without possessing agency, subjectivity, or intentionality.
In security contexts, actants can create threats, and they may be owed protection from humans in their own right. For instance, robots are increasingly used to kill combatants and to carry out humanitarian tasks like mine clearing; and animals, artefacts and ecosystems have all been framed as recipients of protection. Yet, although the dilemmas raised by actants overlap with a number of fields (international relations, posthumanist philosophy and some branches of international law), there is currently no coherent ethical framework to shape how nonhumans are addressed in security practices. This project will examine the ethical dilemmas raised by nonhumans in three key sets of security practices: the analysis of harm, risk and threat; intervention or crisis response; and restorative processes (e.g. peace-building and reconstruction). To this end, I will critically review and integrate literatures from security studies, posthumanism and its sub-disciplines to develop a theory of the role of nonhumans in international security, test this theory against a series of case studies, and broaden the debate through a workshop that will foster collaboration and future research. The project will produce a series of publications that will be relevant to a range of academic audiences and actors within the field of security policy.
Prior to joining the Politics department at York, Audra Mitchell completed a PhD at the Queen’s University of Belfast and a research fellowship at the University of St. Andrews.
She is interested in three major themes: the concept of ‘humanity’; agency (in particular the idea of ‘intervention’); and large-scale harm. Her previous research has explored the linkages of these themes in several contexts: international programmes of conflict transformation, global patterns of hybridity and resistance to peace-building, and the cosmological basis of norms and practices of international intervention.
Audra’s ISRF project aims to develop a framework that will enable security actors to respond to the ethical challenges raised by nonhumans in situations such as wars and disasters, examining the ethical dilemmas raised by nonhumans in three key sets of security practices: the analysis of harm, risk and threat; intervention or crisis response; and restorative processes (e.g. peace-building and reconstruction).