Faculty of Arts


From Dresden to Drones: The Ethics of War

Please note: this is archived course information from 2020 for POLITICS 773.


The aim of this course is to examine the ethico-political debates about the violence inflicted in war, focusing particular attention on how the changing nature of contemporary conflict compels us to rethink the ways in which violence is justified.

The course will begin with an analysis of the existing ethical and legal frameworks and the ways in which they continue to circumscribe the ways in which we tend to think about the violence inflicted in war. Drawing on the work of thinkers like Talal Asad, Giorgio Agamben, Judith Butler and Jacques Derrida, students will be encouraged to consider the limitations of these frameworks when it comes to thinking about the violence inflicted on others.

In the second part of the course, we will turn our attention to some of the problems animating current debates about the ethics of contemporary conflict, including targeted killing, civilian casualties and the use of torture against suspected terrorists. These broad themes will enable students to explore some of the main areas of tension concerning the problem of killing in war, including the use of remotely-piloted drones in Pakistan and beyond, counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and the growth of private military companies. In addition to the case-studies listed above, students will be expected to draw on examples from conflicts in Libya, Syria and Vietnam, as well as the First and Second World Wars.

Class limits for 2020: Enrolment is limited to 30 students. Students in the Master of Conflict and Terrorism Studies will be guaranteed a place. If places remain, other students will be enrolled in the following priority order.

  1. Postgraduate students in Politics and International Relations, ranked by GPA.
  2.  All other students, identified by the Discipline Convenor as having sufficient background to enrol in the course, enrolled on a first-in, first-enrolled basis.

View the course syllabus

Availability 2020

Semester 2


Lecturer(s) Dr Thomas Gregory


Recommended Reading


POLITICS 773: 15.0 points




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