War on the Body
: Dramatising the Space of the Unknown

  • Laura Aysen Guillaume

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the politics of knowing the body at war. It argues that the exclusion of the body from certain political discourses actually involves the assumption of a great deal of knowledge about the body, and correspondingly, a series of decisions about what the body is. I argue that these judgements about what the body is are entailed in much strategic studies literature, which seeks to emphasise the instrumental utility of war, a project which stands at risk of being undermined by the intrusion of the body. I also argue that the exclusion of the body cannot be remedied by a simple act of inclusion, because this fails to deal with the attendant practices of regulation and control which render the body an excludable/includable component of a system of thought.
The thesis uses the body at war as a catalyst for the development of a particular way of thinking about the body which refuses the distinction between the material and the discursive, or the biological and the political. Rather, it uses the work of Deleuze and Guattari to develop an understanding of the body which is immediately social and political. In the context of shell shock in the First World War, it traces the way in which the disordered body is constructed as such, and the practices which occlude the extent to which the body is political, seeking instead to return it to realm of the personal. Contrary to this tendency, it adumbrates the ways in which the body has the capacity to destabilise social systems and regimes of knowledge. Because it remains ultimately unknown, the body undermines generalising systems of thought and offers a less totalising way of thinking about war and International Relations.
Date of Award04 Nov 2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council
SupervisorJenny Edkins (Supervisor) & Mary Brigid Elisabeth Breen Smyth (Supervisor)

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