Ecologies of Violence and Genealogies of Terror: Assembling the Biosocial and its Histories in the GCC

A one-day symposium sponsored by the Centre for Gulf Studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter

18 May 2015

Following on from its symposium on ‘Transgressing the Gulf’ in September 2013, the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies is soliciting papers for a one-day event on ‘Ecologies of Violence and Genealogies of Terror: Assembling the Biosocial and its Histories in the GCC’. It is likely that a selection of papers from these two symposia will be published in a high-profile edited collection of articles which explore the gains which come from applying theoretical and new conceptual approaches to the Gulf.


With the increased visibility and mapping of the global financial positionality of the GCC and its distinct patterns of capitalist accumulation, this symposium asks how we might go beyond fixed notions of power, history and the body in order to probe violence in the context of re-generation and hyper-capitalism? How can moving beyond Foucaultian models which delimit or obfuscate the historical and historicising allow us to address the violence of capitalism? Deleuzian notions around the shifting qualities and the multiplicity of power have increasingly been employed by multi/interdisciplinary research, but the strength of the meta-narratives which define how the Gulf is perceived persist largely undisturbed. How can we read power as always shifting and not pre-ordained or circumscribed in the Gulf context? How can we extend the reading of power to contextualise, historicise and move beyond the meta-narratives of oil, security and Islamic ideologies, towards new perspectives on the frameworks which dominate this region?

Readings of the body, power and subjectivity as totally imprinted by history continue to dominate, but violence and terror demand we look at this history as one which has been enacted and engaged with rather than simply imposed. Taussig (1984) delivers an intersection between Marxist and affective readings of the tropes of violence and terror which, while arresting in its immediacy, offers a way of addressing the scales and ecologies of the dialogical play between social processes and the re-negotiation of history.

The re-framing of biopolitics, as characterised by the notions of legitimacy attached to life and the production of inequalities, as opposed to the power over life, contributes to readings of the Gulf and its socio-political arenas’.  Foucaultian inspired concepts such as those of ‘biolegitimacy’ and ‘biocitizenship’, as delivered by Fassin (2009), are manifest in the Gulf context by labour camps, amongst other spacializations of terror and violence, which have drawn extensive attention in the public and academic imagination. How do we approach the intersections of labour, neo-colonial processes and the market with reference to the imposition of power? and how do we understand their links in relation to hyper-capitalist and neoliberal formations and the terms that commodity fetishism engenders?

Alongside the Gulf’s global visibility as the hallmark of consumerist capitalism it operates humanitarian enterprises linking the Gulf into global flows of financial aid as significant donors. How are processes of and the inter-play between testimony and ethics enfolded within the Gulf’s emergence as players in the construction of aid and care paradigms? How does the Gulf’s subject position within such humanitarian enterprises resonate with and encourage the reproduction of colonial narratives? These Gulfian care paradigms and humanitarian enterprises can be seen as part of re-signified colonial narratives where new sites and spaces of refusal and resistance emerge. What specific trajectories open up in this enfolding? In what ways do reterritorializations and their concomitant deterritorializations challenge the terms of reified politics?

Those interested in presenting a paper at this symposium are asked to submit abstracts of 250-300 words and biographical information of 100-150 words by 7 March 2015 to nooralqasimi@mac.com and  w.gallois@exeter.ac.uk.