15 Dec

BMBF Funds Project on “Knowledge Production in German Peace and Security Policy”

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has announced that it will fund the collaborative project “Knowledge Production in German Peace and Security Policy (KNOWPRO)” as part of its funding initiative to strengthen peace and conflict research, with ca. 1.5 million EUR.

Focussing on Afghanistan and Somalia as case studies, the project examines the knowledge that forms the basis for decisions (not) to intervene in armed conflicts. More specifically, the project is interested in what becomes accepted as objective knowledge about a given conflict in a certain context (e.g. a ministry or academic discipline) and how. Taking a sociological understanding of knowledge formation as its starting point, we expect that what counts as factual knowledge about a given issue will vary with context and depend not just on its objective truth but on different factors, including power, (lack of) expertise, bureaucratic politics, sedimented discursive practices, etc. To examine this proposition, the project compares knowledge production in three relevant areas: basic science, scientific policy advice, and government ministries and agencies. The project (a) explores to what extent knowledge differs between these three spheres, (b) develops a theoretical framework integrating discourse theoretical and sociological factors that explain which knowledge becomes accepted as the truth in a certain context, and (c) develops practical guidelines to improve knowledge transfer and decision making. The project combines quantitative corpus linguistic and interpretive methods of discourse analysis with qualitative interviews and ethnography in a mixed-methods design.

Co-PIs: Sophia Hoffmann, Dirk Nabers, Klaus Schlichte, Frank A. Stengel

Funding period: April 2022-March 2026

11 Sep

“The Politics of Military Force” reviewed in Perspectives on Politics

“The Politics of Military Force” has been reviewed as part of a Critical Dialogue with Professor Wolfgang Wagner (VU Amsterdam), in which we discuss our respective books. Here’s (the positive part of) what he had to say:

“Stengel argues convincingly that the changes in German security discourse and practice are not inevitable adjustments to any functional requirements of a changing security environment. … Stengel’s book contributes to a growing body of literature that—correctly in my view—treats security policy change not as inevitable adjustments to a country’s changing environment, but as the result of political decisions that reflect value commitments, worldviews, and the expectations of the domestic public as well as allied states. Stengel’s contribution is theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich.

Wolfgang Wagner

Doi: 10.1017/S1537592721001808

04 Jun

Article ““Militarizing Antimilitarism” accepted for publication

My newest co-authored article (with David Shim, University of Groningen) “Militarizing Antimilitarism? Exploring the Gendered Representation of Military Service in German Recruitment Videos on Social Media” has been accepted for publication in the International Feminist Journal of Politics.

Abstract: This article analyzes the gendered representation of military service in the German YouTube series Die Rekruten (DR), a popular web series produced on behalf of the German armed forces (Bundeswehr) for recruitment  purposes, which accompanies 12 navy recruits during their basic training. The article is situated within research on masculinity and the military, in particular military recruitment. It supplements current scholarship by studying a previously neglected case that is of particular interest given Germany’s antimilitarist culture, which should make military recruitment and military public relations more difficult. The article asks how military service is represented in DR, what its discursive effects are, and what role (if any) masculinity plays in this process. We find support for recent feminist research on military masculinities (including in military recruitment) that emphasizes ambiguity and contradiction. What distinguishes the construction of military masculinity in DR from, for example, recruitment advertisements in the United States or the United Kingdom is its markedly civil character. This not only broadens the military’s appeal for a more diverse audience but also increases the legitimacy of the military and its activities. It does so by concealing the violence that has for the past two decades also been a very real part of what the Bundeswehr does.

Kewyords: gender, social media, German foreign policy, YouTube, military recruitment, militarization, military masculinity, hegemonic masculinity, antimilitarism Bundeswehr

The article will be published open access and will be available soon here: 10.1080/14616742.2021.1935289

05 Apr

“The Politics of Military Force” is available for pre-order

My forthcoming book The Politics of Military Force: Antimilitarism, Ideational Change, and Postwar German Security Discourse is available for pre-order.

The book examines the dynamics of discursive change that made participation in military operations possible against the background of German antimilitarist culture. Once considered a strict taboo, so-called out-of-area operations have now become widely considered by German policymakers to be without alternative. The book argues that an understanding of how certain policies are made possible (in this case, military operations abroad and force transformation), one needs to focus on processes of discursive change that result in different policy options appearing rational, appropriate, feasible, or even self-evident. Drawing on Essex School discourse theory, the book develops a theoretical framework to understand how discursive change works, and elaborates on how discursive change makes once unthinkable policy options not only acceptable but even without alternative. Based on a detailed discourse analysis of more than 25 years of German parliamentary debates, The Politics of Military Force provides an explanation for: (1) the emergence of a new hegemonic discourse in German security policy after the end of the Cold War (discursive change), (2) the rearticulation of German antimilitarism in the process (ideational change/norm erosion) and (3) the resulting making-possible of military operations and force transformation (policy change). In doing so, the book also demonstrates the added value of a poststructuralist approach compared to the naive realism and linear conceptions of norm change so prominent in the study of German foreign policy and International Relations more generally.

Pre-order at The University of Michigan Press
(30% off with promo code UMSTENGEL)

Pre-order on Amazon UK

14 Nov

“The political production of ethical war” published in Critical Studies on Security

My newest article “The political production of ethical war: rethinking the ethics/politics nexus with Laclau” has been published in Critical Studies on Security as part of a special issue of Maja Zehfuss’s War and the Politics of Ethics.

Abstract: Taking Maja Zehfuss’s War & the Politics of Ethics as a starting point, this paper thinks through the ethics/politics nexus from the perspective of ‘Essex School’ poststructuralist discourse theory. Specifically, it asks how ethics – or, rather, morality, the temporary, contingent and context-dependent normative framework that regulates what is commonly seen as good or bad within a given society – is produced. From a discourse theoretical perspective, notions of the moral good are the result of political struggles over meaning. Here Laclau and Mouffe’s conception of hegemony can provide significant insight into how this process works, that is, how some claims about what is morally right become widely accepted as the (only) right thing to do while others fail to do so. The paper illustrates the theoretical argument with a brief case study of the changing articulation of the threat and use of military force in the German security discourse after unification. This case is of particular interest because Germany’s allegedly deeply engrained antimilitarist culture should, from a conventional constructivist perspective at least, stand in the way of any arguments about ethical war ever becoming accepted. Nevertheless, this is precisely what happened.

Keywords: ethics, morality, war, politics, the political, discourse, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Critical Security Studies, German foreign policy, out-of-area debate

The article is available here: https://doi.org/10.1080/21624887.2019.1690861

Free author copies are available here: https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/DEJB4IYRYYKZRUSJNIGN/full?target=10.1080/21624887.2019.1690861

A pre-print is available here.

14 May

Symposium on Laclau and IR/IPE published online in New Political Science

The symposium “The contribution of Laclau’s discourse theory to International Relations and International Political Economy,” which I co-edited with Dirk Nabers, has been published online as part of issue 2/2019 of New Political Science.

Further information and some pre-prints are available here.

A free eprint for the introduction is available here, one for my contribution on securitization here. Please contact me directly if you cannot get access (stengel@ips.uni-kiel.de).

15 Apr

Article on Securitization as Discursive (Re)Articulation published online

I am happy to say that my article “Securitization as Discursive (Re)Articulation: Explaining the Relative Effectiveness of Threat Construction,” part of our symposium on Laclau and IR/IPE in New Political Science, has been published online.

It is available here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07393148.2019.1596682

A pre-print is available here.