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Title: Beyond a politics of recrimination: Scandal, ethics and the rehabilitation of violence
Authors: Johnson, Jamie M.
First Published: 28-Sep-2016
Publisher: SAGE Publications (UK and US), ECPR, Standing Group on International Relations
Citation: European Journal of International Relations, 2016, 23 (3), pp. 703-726
Abstract: The practice of contemporary warfare seems to be plagued by scandal. It is often assumed that the act of bearing witness to these moments of ethical failure, in which the relationship between the martial and the ethical breaks down, plays an important role in holding powerful actors to account for their conduct. Considerable faith has been placed in the role of transparency and truth-telling as foundations for normative engagements with war. This article argues that we must be cautious about this investment. Drawing on the work of Jean Baudrillard, this article offers a method for critically reading scandals as a series of line-drawing manoeuvres. Taken together, these manoeuvres demonstrate how scandals function to enable, excuse and obscure the complex landscapes of violence that define the spectacular and mundane sites of contemporary war. Reducing critical engagements with violent practices to a logic of recrimination, scandals often function to revitalise the very principles they appear to contest. Focusing upon the socio-political implications of wartime scandals, this article demonstrates that the performative force of scandals is therefore the reproduction of a violent status quo rather than opening up new spaces for imagining less violent futures. Offering a critical reading of controversies relating to the provision of humanitarian assistance and education in Afghanistan, this article reflects on the ambiguities and anxieties of critiquing violence.
DOI Link: 10.1177/1354066116669569
ISSN: 1354-0661
eISSN: 1460-3713
Version: Publisher Version
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © the authors, 2016. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Politics and International Relations

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