Settling failure, waging success: police collaboration and the international encounter

Authors: Rhys Machold*, University of Glasgow
Topics: Political Geography, Indigenous Peoples, Military Geography
Keywords: settler colonialism, failure, success, legitimation, policing, security
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 4:30 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Truman, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This article examines the relationship between international police collaboration and the production of settler-colonial projects’ claims to inevitability and coherence. While settler-colonial formations often appear as unidirectional, instrumental and unhindered, their material unfoldings are riddled with failures and disruptions often hidden from view. Indeed, their self-declared prowess and inevitability are waged as active battles to obscure and settle the challenges and controversies surrounding practices of accumulation through violent dispossession. Through its empirical focus on policing collaboration across borders, the article analyzes how ideological processes of settler-colonial rationalization take place, foregrounding the contingency of knowledge production in global politics. In doing so, it highlights the importance of understanding local dynamics in situ with the international. I shift the focus away from how international police collaboration circulates ideational and material resources toward its roles in the “discursive manufacture” (Mitchell 2002: 210) of settler-colonial formations’ claims to permanence and desirability. The notion of waging success situates this process as an ongoing public relations war, challenging the idea that settler-colonial projects succeed (or fail) merely on the basis of the degrees or types of violence they employ (cf. Dunbar-Ortiz 2018: 42). Rather than looking at the material and ideational as separate and distinct, I approach them as necessarily linked and (re)productive. While the notions of waging “success” and settling “failure” draw attention to how these categories are policed, this article explores how these renderings might be politicized (Lisle 2017) as a means of actively unsettling settler-colonialism’s grip on the contemporary (geo)political imagination.

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