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Sabaratnam, Meera (2023) 'Bring Up the Bodies: International Order, Empire, and Re-thinking the Great War (1914-18) from Below.' European Journal of International Relations, 29 (3). pp. 553-575.

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What does international order look like when analysed from its margins? Such a question is the obvious consequence of efforts within International Relations (IR) to take empire, colonialism and hierarchy more seriously. This article addresses this question by examining one of IR’s most important touchstones – the Great War – through the experiences of peoples in southeast Africa. It argues that to do this, we should use the methodological approaches of histories ‘from below’ and contrapuntal analysis. When looking at the Great War from the vantage point of southeast Africa (contemporary Mozambique), the key patterns of interaction organising the international look different to those emphasised in traditional accounts of international order and hierarchy. Notable features are the significant continuities and intersections between structures of war and colonialism, the racialisation of death and suffering, the effects of white imperial prestige as a strategic preoccupation and the deep historical roots of anti-colonial resistance. Reading upwards and contrapuntally from these histories, the paper argues for a redescription of international order as reflecting not predominantly a balance of power or a normative framework for the organisation of authority, but a dynamic matrix of structural violence. Reading order from below in this way helps us better capture how the international is implicated in the production and reproduction of everyday life for many people, as well as in more dramatic political transformations such as those generated by experiences of war and resistance to colonialism.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: War, violence, international order, contrapuntal analysis, histories from below
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
ISSN: 13540661
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2023 11:37

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