Handbook of Critical International Relations
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Handbook of Critical International Relations

Edited by Steven C. Roach

Comprising a plurality of perspectives, this timely Handbook is an essential resource for understanding past and current challenges to democracy, justice, social and gender equality, identity and freedom. It shows how critical international relations (IR) theory functions as a broad-based and diverse critique of society.
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Chapter 16: The politics of emotions in contemporary wars

Mathias Delori


What role do emotions play in contemporary wars? Do soldiers hate the people they kill? And do they fail to recognize their humanness in a colder way like the ideal-typical non-reflexive bureaucrat, as depicted by Hannah Arendt in her famous essay on Eichmann? This chapter addresses these questions by adopting a ‘critical’ perspective to analyze the trajectory of war through the politics of emotion. This approach seeks to take some distance from the literature on emotions that insists on the ahistorical and apolitical nature of the relations between emotions, war and violence. As such, the chapter assumes that the emotional dimensions of war are mediated by what Judith Butler calls ‘frames of war’, i.e. meaning structures which divide populations into two categories: the ‘grievable’ and the ‘ungrievable’ lives. It concludes that three frames drive the politics of emotions in contemporary wars: the frames of racist, bureaucratic and humanitarian violence.

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