Imperial War: Organized Violence in the European Expansion

(Last modified August 2012)

The globalized world of our times is the outcome of a 500-year process of expansion of the Western political, social, economic, and legal system, and of Western culture. This process is deeply rooted in violence: threatened and real, state and sub-state, organized and individual.

The violence involved in the European expansion is hard to pin down using the categories of modern Western thinking on war. It was temporally, spatially, and legally boundless. As a confrontation between global empires and non-state adversaries it was highly asymmetrical. It was intricately transcultural, the actors of violence on both sides frequently being non-Europeans. It was heavily shaped by the peripheral situation: vast spaces, power projection over enormous distances, uncontrollability from the center. And it was essentially political, with no clear distinction between war and peace.

The project analyzes the conditions of violence involved in the European expansion with reference to numerous examples and excurses in current conflicts, dedicating particular attention to the conflict patterns, the reasons behind the special brutality of imperial wars, and the role of knowledge and transcultural learning.

The writing phase has begun.