Accessibility statement

Posthuman security: an integrated ethical framework

Project overview

The purpose of this project is to develop a framework that will enable security actors to respond to the ethical challenges raised by nonhumans in situations such as wars and disasters. In existing security discourses, human beings are framed as the only relevant actors, in both ethical and pragmatic terms. Yet security situations are shaped by a range of nonhumans that Bruno Latour terms ‘actants’: beings that can collectively affect change in the world without possessing agency, subjectivity, or intentionality. In security contexts, actants can create threats, and they may be owed protection from humans in their own right. For instance, robots are increasingly used to kill combatants and to carry out humanitarian tasks like mine clearing; and animals, artefacts and ecosystems have all been framed as recipients of protection. Yet, although  the dilemmas raised by actants overlap with a number of fields (international relations, posthumanist philosophy and some branches of international law), there is currently no coherent ethical framework to shape how nonhumans are addressed in security practices. This project will examine the ethical dilemmas raised by nonhumans in three key sets of security practices: the analysis of harm, risk and threat; intervention or crisis response; and restorative processes (e.g. peace-building and reconstruction). The project will develop a theory of the role of nonhumans in international security, test this theory against a series of case studies, and broaden the debate through a workshop that will foster collaboration and future research.

Dr Mitchell has been awarded an early career fellowship from the Independent Social Research Foundation to pursue this project.

Research Starts: 01/10/2014

Research Ends: 30/09/2015