Book review in International Affairs

A book review I wrote for International Affairs was published in their September issue. You can find the final version here (paywall) and a pre-print version here (open access).

Researching non-state actors in international security: theory and practice; Andreas Kruck and Andrea Schneiker (eds.); Abingdon; Routledge; 2017; Hardcover, £84; ISBN: 978 1 138 94782 5; e-book available.
Research, across the board, is becoming more formalised. Whether an ethnographic study, comparative case study or experiment, the list of prescriptions that comes with our methodological choices is growing. This is not necessarily a negative development: transparent descriptions of methodological choices give the reader handles to assess the intent and quality of a study. But method should not suffocate. Where our messy social reality meets a researcher’s practical limitations, trade-offs have to be made – especially in (post-)conflict settings where access may be dangerous, difficult or nearly impossible.

This edited volume balances that fine line between stylized method which allows scholars to make inferences and the messy social reality of security studies forcing trade-offs. Andreas Kruck and Andrea Schneiker brought together scholars from different backgrounds to reflect upon methods ‘in use’. Focusing, albeit not exclusively, on non-state actors in international security the chapters cover a range of approaches – from narrative and sentiment analysis, case study methods and interviewing, to field-experiments and immersion – with a particular eye on the implementation and (dis-)advantages of these methods. The book therewith offers an overview of what is methodologically possible but is also honest about what is difficult… (continue reading).

 

‘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.

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.