chapter  6
17 Pages

Civilisation, dialogue, in/security

Chapter 6 offers an illustration of what I consider to be at stake in reflecting on others’ conceptions of the international as we ponder the question of security in a world characterised by a multiplicity of inequalities and differences. The challenge is not only Huntingtonian (1993, 1996) clash of civilisations scenarios that have their followers and detractors in IR and world politics. The challenge is also those approaches that seek to counter Huntingtonian axioms while building on similar conceptions of (civilisational) ‘difference’ and ‘security’. While the proponents of civilisational dialogue strive to replace clash with dialogue, they still view differences as unchanging pre-givens and as yielding insecurities. What is more, neither civilisational clash scenarios nor civilisational dialogue projects reflect on others’ conceptions of the international, presuming that ‘we already know’. As discussed in Chapters 1 and 2, a particular approach to ‘difference’ has

shaped mainstream theorising about IR and security, whereby ‘inside’ the state is assumed to be characterised by ‘sameness’ and security, and outside by ‘difference’ and insecurity (Walker, 1993, Inayatullah and Blaney, 2004). In offering his ‘Clash of Civilisations?’ scenario, Huntington comes across as having adopted mainstream IR’s approach to difference and taken it one step further by the ‘remapping of IR into larger units of similarity and difference – civilisations’ (Weber, 2010: 161). Subsequently, noted Cynthia Weber (2010: 161), ‘both IR and Huntington conclude that sameness reduces instability whereas difference perpetuates instability and that the best way to manage difference is either to assimilate it within the state or expel it from the state’. In the early twentieth-century practices of states, one prevalent way of dealing

with actual or potential conflict was the redrawing of borders and relocation of peoples as practised in the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923 (McGarry, 1998). Similar solutions were proposed to address insecurities in Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 war (Cooper, 2007). Prevalent understandings of and proposed solutions to both instances of conflict were shaped by a particular understanding of difference/s as pre-given and unchanging, and as yielding insecurities. Huntingtonian scenarios of civilisational clash and their dialogue-oriented critics constitute present-day instances of this understanding. What follows focuses on the Dialogue of Civilisations (DoC) initiatives to illustrate the book’s argument regarding the need for drawing upon the insights of both critical security studies

and postcolonial studies when thinking about security in a world characterised by a multiplicity of inequalities and differences. Amidst all the war and violent conflict in the world, why be critical of a

project for world security? In the search for dialogue, proponents of DoC initiatives have established grounds for communication where none existed; nurtured inter-faith conversations where possible; and, perhaps most importantly, showed that inter-state interaction could aim for more than diplomacy and/or the use of force (Dallmayr, 2002, Esposito and Voll, 2003, Lynch, 2000, Petito, 2007, 2009). Be that as it may, I will suggest that DoC initiatives suffer from the same limits as Huntingtonian scenarios by virtue of resting upon a similar notion of (civilisational) difference as an unchanging pre-given and as yielding insecurities. Indeed, while the proponents of civilisational dialogue strive to replace clash with dialogue, they do not always reflect on how insecurities are (re)produced through attempts at civilisational dialogue that are shaped by particular notions of dialogue (that is not always dialogical in ethics and/or epistemology), civilisation (which is not conceptualised dialogically or studied contrapuntally) and security (undeniably statist and military-focused, devoid of reflections on others’ conceptions of the international). I will conclude by outlining how addressing these limits requires fresh approaches to thinking about world security by reflecting on others’ conceptions of the international. Before I begin discussing the limits of the DoC initiatives, a caveat is in

order. Critiquing DoC as a project of world security and identifying those insecurities that it is likely to (re)produce is not meant to suggest that it is possible to find another approach that would produce only security and no insecurity! As Didier Bigo argued,

security is never unlimited, contrary to the claims of politicians and academics seeing security as a public good for all…The definition of what is security in relation to what is insecurity is a political struggle between the actors who have the capacity to declare with some authority whose security is important, whose security can be sacrificed, and why their own violence may be read as a form of protection when the violence of the others is seen as a form of aggression and sign of insecurity.