‘We don’t do that’

My latest paper in Cooperation and Conflict came out as online first yesterday!

‘We don’t do that’: A constructivist perspective on the use and non-use of private military contractors by Denmark
 In this article I put forward a social constructivist perspective on state use of Private Military and Security Contractors (PMSCs). I will argue that state outsourcing decisions are, to a large extent, shaped by nationally shared values, understandings and dispositions. Concretely, I first provide a detailed overview of the extent of domestic and deployed contracting by the Danish Defence and, thereafter, based on a number of semi-structured interviews, I expose the dominant understandings that shaped how PMSCs have come to be understood in Denmark. By so doing I can show that the employment of PMSCs by the Danish Defence remains comparatively limited because it is largely perceived as inappropriate and as incompatible with what it means to be ‘Danish’. Although Denmark too has to balance its international engagements with the limited resources allocated to defence (the typical functional pressures) Danish particular ‘soft’ neoliberalism and ‘hard’ commitments to IHL speak against using private actors to make that possible. This means I take in the more abstract, macro-level discussions on the end of the Cold War and the advent of neoliberalism but go beyond by asking whether, and if so how, these and other collective experiences and understandings actually (co-)shape(d) outsourcing decisions.

van Meegdenburg, H. (2018). ‘We don’t do that’: A constructivist perspective on the use and non-use of private military contractors by Denmark. Cooperation and Conflict.

See also my list of publications.

ECPR Winter School in Methods and Techniques 2018

Process Tracing Methodology – WB104 – Introduction to Process Tracing

I’ll be offering an introductory course on Process Tracing Methodology at the upcoming ECPR Winter School for Methods and Techniques March 2-9 at the University of Bamberg.

Introduction to process tracing
Process Tracing (PT) is a within-case method that focuses on tracing causal mechanisms—the actual ‘link’ between a trigger (X) and an outcome (Y). This course will introduce you to the essentials of this method, its main underlying assumptions, and its applicability. We will discuss what causal mechanisms are, how we can ‘trace’ them, and what kind of causal inferences we can draw on the bases of a process-tracing study. Moreover, to position PT in the broader methodological field we will look at how PT relates to, but differs from, other (larger- and small-N) case study methods and discuss what understanding of causality underlies process-tracing

This introduction to PT will take a hands-on approach applying the new insights to concrete examples and, when possible, to the participants’ research projects. Most benefit is to be expected if participants are able to use parts of their own research in the exercises during the course. All participants are expected to have read the indicated literature, and to have familiarised themselves with case study methods more broadly and process tracing in particular.

For more information and a full course outline: ECPR website.

Nachfrage aus dem »Westen« trifft Arbeit aus dem »Süden«

New publication in Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung (English below).

Nachfrage aus dem »Westen« trifft Arbeit aus dem »Süden«. PMSCs und der Einsatz von internationalen labour supply chains in der westlichen Kriegsführung
Private Militär- und Sicherheitsunternehmen (PMSCs) haben in den letzten Jahren viel Aufmerksamkeit erregt. Allerdings wurden sie bislang meist als Sicherheitsdienstleister angesehen und hinsichtlich ihrer Verantwortlichkeitsproblematik diskutiert. In diesem Essay beleuchte ich einen anderen, jedoch sehr wichtigen, Aspekt von PMSCs: Ihre Funktion als Arbeitsvermittler und die Bildung von internationalen Zuliefererketten von Arbeitskräften. Da die Nachfrage nach militärischen und unterstützenden Dienstleistungen größtenteils durch Arbeitskraft aus dem Globalen Süden sichergestellt wird, konzentriere ich mich auf zwei Aspekte: (1) die Rekrutierungspraktiken von PMSCs und die Nutzung des globalen Reservoirs von Arbeitskräften; sowie (2) die Beschäftigung und Arbeitsbedingungen von Drittstaatenangehörigen in Afghanistan und dem Irak. Um die Beschäftigung von Drittstaatenangehörigen durch PMSCs in einen breiteren Kontext zu stellen, gehe ich kurz auf die Globalisierung von Produktion und Arbeit im Allgemeinen ein und folgere anschließend, dass diese Entwicklungen die Verteilung der sozialen, physischen und wirtschaftlichen Kosten und Nutzen von Kriegen verändert.
When demand from the ‘West’ meets labour from the ‘South’. PMSCs and the introduction of labour supply chains in support of Western warfare
Over the years Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) have attracted much attention. So far, however, they have been regarded mainly as security providers and the debate on PMSCs mostly centred on accountability and responsibility questions. In this essay I want to highlight a different but very important function PMSCs fulfil: their function as labour suppliers and the establishment of international labour supply chains in support of Western warfare. Considering the demand for military and support services is largely met by labour from the Global South I will focus on two aspects of this development: (1) The recruitment practices of PMSCs and their exploitation of the global pool of labour; and (2) the employment of Third Country Nationals (TCNs) and the labour conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, to put the employment of TCNs in conflict zones in a broader context I briefly reflect on the globalisation of labour and production in general and conclude that this development changes the distribution of the social, physical, and economic costs and benefits of the production of warfare.

van Meegdenburg, H. (2017). Nachfrage aus dem »Westen« trifft Arbeit aus dem »Süden«. PMSCs und der Einsatz von internationalen labour supply chains in der westlichen Kriegsführung. Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, 6(2), p.289-308.

Offene Sektionstagung der IB-Sektion der DVPW

This week I will present my latest research project on Social distance in IR for the first time to, hopefully, a critical audience at the conference of the International Relations section of the German Political Science Association (DVPW) in Bremen.

You can find me, Thursday morning, Oct. 5, room SFG 2030.

Far away and Unknown: On Social Distance in Security Governance
In this paper I introduce the concept of ‘social distance’ to the study of security governance. As a concept, social distance derives from social psychology and denotes that ‘distance’ – temporal, cultural, spatial, and hypothetical – influences subjective experiences. Known as construal level theory, studies have shown that mental representations of distal events are more abstract, thereby moderating emotional stimuli and thus affect, preferences, and action. Bringing this concept into the field of security governance I explore the following question: How does social distance influence and shape security discourses and practices in relation to the organisation of humanitarian interventions?

EISA Pan-European Conference 2017

Join me for a panel part of the section on critical military studies addressing Critical Approaches to the Study of Private Military and Security Companies first thing Thursday morning, 09:00-10:45 (room 20,021) at the EISA Pan-European Conference in Barcelona.

PMSCs and Global Recruitment: When demand from the ‘West’ meets labour from the ‘South’
Whether working for the UN, NATO, states or NGOs, Private Military and Security Contractors (PMSCs) are becoming more visible and invaluable in (post-)conflict zones. Although frequently discussed in relation to state control and legal accountability these companies, especially for more menial and feminised tasks, employ many Third Country Nationals (TCNs). Mainly coming from under-privileged regions and developing states thousands of ‘labour migrants’ have found their way into conflict zones. Different from the dominant image of contractors—as employing former British and US-American elite special forces—PMSC-practices are largely constituted and made possible by labour from the Global South. This paper reflects critically on the way international military engagements have come to rely on global recruitment practices and places this in the broader context of the globalisation of production and labour in general. Exploring the parallels between the use of TCNs by PMSCs and the establishment of Global Production Networks (GPNs) in other industries this paper observes that the establishment of labour supply chains in support of Western warfare changed the distribution of the social, physical, and economic costs and benefits of the production of warfare.

Here is a pdf of the original paper. A later version of this paper was published in ZeFKo (in German).