Theorizing the Funnel

Authors: Kali Rubaii*, Rice University
Topics: Military Geography, Middle East, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: War on Terror, Peace, Iraq, Liberal Democracies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8211, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Funnel is a material and political instrument of the Peace Paradigm. An operational concept that enables so-called "less than lethal" counterinsurgency, the funnel is both discursive instrument and a material landscaping structure. Exploring openings in the US-Mexico border wall, checkpoints in Northern Iraq, and framing of public discourse in the US about both, I theorize the funnel in order to think about the modalities by which liberal democracies exact global control. Much of this work is based on ethnographic research in Anbar, Iraq between 2014 and 2015, and on subsequence transnational solidarity work among activists in the United States. At a material level, I ask: how does the funnel as a spatial configuration aggregate lethal power and cluster it in ways that evade legal and popular accountability? How do funnels relocate the political implications of death in the context of bodily comportment? At a discursive level, I ask: how do funnels aggregate and cluster meaning in ways that limit the scope of political dissent? By theorizing the funnel at two registers, I aim to engage the work of both anthropologists and geographers who track and critique the Peace Paradigm. By introducing the funnel as a geopolitical concept, this paper welcomes a discussion among scholars interested in robust theory that is strategically oriented toward confronting global militarism in its various iterations, with particular attention the War on Terror.

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