In the second semester 2017 I taught the course ‘International Security’ at undergraduate level. Instead of walking the students through a textbook approach on ‘what is international security’ I wanted them to understand the intimate connection of statehood, sovereignty and understandings of international security. With my new positioning in a settler colony country I was particularly keen to make students understand that sovereignty as territorial control is unthinkable without understanding the cultural and historical specificity of the concept of land ownership — which, in turns, has been underlying the colonisation of Australia (and other places) and the elimination of the native (as Patrick Wolfe has called it).
So the class went back into the history of modern statehood; as James C. Scott writes in his new book ‘Against the Grain’ (which deals with early states): “History at its best, in my view, is the most subversive discipline, inasmuch as it can tell us how things that we are likely to take for granted came to be” (page 3).
The lectures presented here reflect this historical approach, redrawing the emergence of the European state system and sketching how ‘security’ became associated with the security of the territorial state and of land ownership.
The slides of the lectures can be found here.