Spectres of War: Spectacle, Arms Fairs and the Martial Sublime

Authors: Andrew Merrill*, University of Toronto
Topics: Social Theory, Military Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Martial Politics, War, Security, Critical Military Studies, Spectacle, Violence
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Cleveland 2, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I argue that the “Arms Fair” as a material and conceptual space operates on the basis of a “martial sublime”. Invoking this notion of a “martial sublime” highlights the ways that the political economic, human and discursive circulations that produce these events, the pleasure and spectacle of these events, are underwritten by the knowledge that these technologies and commodities of tremendous violent and destructive force will not be used upon the event’s participants. I argue that in viewing the martial sublime of the Arms Fair in the context of Howell’s (2018) intervention, it emerges as an important inflection point for understanding how “war-like relations”, even in their more theatrical and spectacular forms, are not exceptional, but are always, already haunting the processes of daily life. Drawing on participant observation, discourse analysis and artefact analysis, this work maintains that the spectacle which defines the Arms Fair not only operates on this register of sublimity, but as a way of imagining and narrating future violence. Further, these spectacles and material circulations make clear the need for an analysis where the martial always, already pervades everyday life.

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