“Under the banner of martial empiricism, this paper advances a distinctive set of theoretical and methodological commitments for the study of war. Previous efforts to wrestle with this most recalcitrant of phenomena have sought to ground research upon primary definitions or foundational ontologies of war. By contrast, we propose to embrace war's incessant becoming, making its creativity, mutability, and polyvalence central to our enquiry.

Beginning from the position that war’s essence is unknowable, we draw on a tradition of radical empiricism to devise a conceptual and contextual mode of enquiry that can follow the processes and operations of war wherever they lead us. Moving beyond the instrumental appropriations of strategic thought and the normative strictures typical of critical approaches, martial empiricism calls for an unbounded investigation into the emergent and generative character of war. Assembling a corpus germane to the endeavour of exploring war from the inside-out, we outline three domains around which to orient future research: mobilization, design, and experience.

In an age in which war’s activities have become increasingly volatile and promiscuous, martial empiricism is no idle exercise in philosophical speculation. It is the promise of a research agenda apposite to the task of fully contending with the momentous possibilities and dangers of war in our time.”

This is what Antoine Bousquet writes as a background to his paper Becoming War: Towards a Martial Empiricism. Bousquet is Reader in International Relations at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of The Eye of War: Military Perception from the Telescope to the Drone and The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity. He has also contributed an array of peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on subjects that include the revolution in military affairs, Cold War computing, jihadist networks, complexity theory, and the conceptualisation of war.

Research Fellow at NUPI Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud will moderate the seminar.

It will be possible to buy the book from the author for 200 NOK at the seminar.