Short Bio and Research Interests

Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at York University.  My research considers issues of contemporary international security through lenses provided by critical social theory, as well as inquiring into the reproduction of security in and through popular culture.  Much of that work has focused on weapons proliferation as a reconfigured security concern in the post-cold war era, and has tried to open possibilities for alternative means of thinking about the security problems related to arms more generally.  In the past few years this programme of research has concentrated on small arms and light weapons.  More recently I have turned his attention to the politics of the global war on terror, and of the regional wars around the world presently being fought by Canada and its allies.

Present projects include:

The Past, Present, and Future of Arms Export Controls: Embedding and Localising Arms Control Norm (with Neil Cooper, Keith Krause, and Nic Marsh)

Building on four case studies (Canada, the UK, Switzerland, and Norway), this project explores the emergence, transformation, and embedding of arms control norms in the export control systems of states.  It looks to the history of export control to trace the emergence of norms, and then to the future of small arms control in the context of the recently adopted Arms Trade Treaty and the technological transformation of military technology.  This project is supported by a Partnership Development Grant of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Militarisation and Popular Culture in Canada

Canadians seemingly like to think of themselves as belonging to a non‐militarised society. One of the ongoing touchstones of Canadian identity is that we are not 'Americans', by which we tend to mean different from the United States, defined in many eyes by its military power and prerogative. Yet Canada has a significant military history, ending the Second World War, for example, with one of the largest military forces in the world. During the Cold War, Canada was a member of the central Western military alliance, to which we still belong. While Canadians pride themselves on their heritage as UN Peacekeepers, those peacekeepers are overwhelming members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Since the beginning of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan in 2001, the overt signs of Canadian militarism have grown significantly. If you drive between the country's capital and our largest city, you pass along the 'Highway of Heroes', marking the route of the remains of soldiers killed in Afghanistan between their landing at Trenton and the medical examiner’s office in Toronto. What is particularly notable, in terms of the militarism of Canadian  society, is that while the Highway of Heroes was designated by the government, it grew from a popular campaign that began with people standing on overpasses to wave at passing hearses. Canadian sporting events now routinely have games dedicated to soldiers, generally with a good number in uniform in attendance. For all the appearance of growing Canadian militarisation, there has been surprisingly little scholarly attention paid to the representations of the military in Canadian popular culture (Dornan 2010) ‐‐‐ a point made forcefully in a recent attempt to begin to remedy this lack: a special issue of University of Toronto Quarterly dedicated to "Discourses of Security, Peacekeeping Narratives, and the Cultural Imagination in Canada". (Härting and Kamboureli 2009) The proposed project seeks to contribute to filling this gap, and so is concerned with the manner in which the military, particularly the Canadian military, is understood within Canadian popular culture. In doing so, the project joins a small but growing body of International Relations literature concerned with the intersection of world politics and popular culture (Weldes 2003, Weber 2010, 2005a, 2005b, Campbell and Shapiro 2007, Grayson, Davies and Philpott 2010). This body of scholarship has identified popular culture as an important site where power, ideology and identity are constituted, produced and/or materialised. There are a range of signifying and lived practices such as poetry, film, sculpture, music, television, leisure activities and fashion that constitute popular culture. The point is that all of these elements contribute to a terrain of 'exchange', 'negotiation', 'resistance' and 'incorporation' where the construction of the political and the type of politics it engenders are formed (Storey, 2006: 1—12. Moreover, there has been the recognition that this terrain is expanding both vertically ‐‐ along the local/global axis ‐‐ and horizontally in terms of the volume of practices, genres within them and the speed with which they circulate. This project will pose a range of questions within the Canadian context of the constitution of Canada as a militarized society within its popular culture. In answering these questions, the project will contribute to our self‐understanding as a militarised society: how we see the military which is an expression of our democracy, what roles and limits we expect of that military and how well the Canadian Forces fits these expectations, what is the broader cultural impact of our militarised attitudes, and how can and should we respond to the pressures of militarisation?

Drawing Conclusions: Editorial Cartoons and the Response to 9/11

The events of 9/11 challenged almost everyone’s received frameworks for understanding.  Whether it was the person on the street of New York who could not conceive of a commercial airliner flying into a building and so ‘saw’ a small aircraft or the US President sitting as caught in the headlights before declaring a ‘war’ on a tactic, 9/11 challenged in fundamental ways the means in which we understood the world. This paper explores one site in which the popular imaginary sought to be reconstituted in the wake of that day: the editorial cartoon.  Reading the cartoons from major US, Canadian and British newspapers for the month after 9/11, the paper seeks to understand the way in which these texts helped to reconstitute a popular imaginary, and thus make possible the foreign policy violence which followed.

Post-Conflict? Reflecting on Post-s in a Conflict-prone world

The idea and condition of ‘post-conflict’ has become central to scholarship and to the practice of international intervention in the past decade.  Our intuitive understanding of ‘post-conflict’ is that it is the period after conflict has ended, and yet post-conflict spaces remain tremendously conflict-prone.  This article asks, given that violent condition, what we mean when we say post-conflict.  To answer that question, the article examines the meaning of ‘post-‘ in several contexts. It argues that the heuristic of the post-World War II period is misleading, and that reading post-conflict through the ‘post-‘ of postmodern and postcolonial provides important insights for both research and practice in post-conflict spaces.