Publications of Kurowska, X.

Politics as Realitätsprinzip in the debate on constitutions and fragmented orders

The promise of constitutionalisation is, according to Kratochwil, the existential comfort that comes from having a coherent framework for judgment and action. This apparent epistemological confidence comes at the price of parting with a realistic assessment of the concrete situation, and it conceals that politics operate across all levels all the time. This article critiques this vision and points beyond the idea of exhaustive frameworks. Figuring out contextually appropriate configurations of constitutionalisation and fragmentation allows for greater agency and pluralism. A more fundamental tension in Kratochwil’s work remains, however: his falling back on the abstract to articulate the experiential.

Trickstery: Pluralising stigma in international society

International politics is often imagined via a binary opposition between oppressor and oppressed. Attention to entrenched hierarchies of power is essential in the study of international politics. However, taking this division too rigidly can obfuscate the very mechanisms of power that must be understood in order to grasp these hierarchies. We identify one such mechanism in the practice of trickstery, particularly as practiced in the context of Russia’s ambivalent and conflicted place in international society. Through the dynamics of trickstery, we show the workings of stigmatisation to be a plural phenomenon, giving rise to various normative challenges. The trickster is both conformist and deviant, hero and anti-hero—a “plural figure” both reflecting the rich cultural texture of international society and contesting its hierarchies. The trickster particularly unsettles the ideal liberal (global) public sphere through its simultaneous performance of emancipatory and anti-emancipatory logics. In this, trickstery produces normatively undecidable situations that exceed the analytical capacities of, for example, the strategic use of norms, norm contestation, and stigma management literatures. We find trickstery to be encapsulated in the contemporary international situation of Russia, while recognising that its practices are potentially available to other actors with similarly liminal status and cultural repertoires. We particularly analyse the trickster practice of “overidentification” with norms, which apparently endorses but indirectly subverts the normative frameworks within which it is performed. Such overidentification is a form of satire, contemporaneously appropriated by state actors, which has indeterminate yet significant effects.

Kurowska X, Bliesemann de Guevara B. Interpretive approaches in Political Science and International Relations. In: Curini L, Franzese R, editors. The SAGE Handbook of Research Methods in Political Science & International Relations. Sage; 2020.
Kurowska X. What Does Russia Want in Cyber Diplomacy? In: Broeders D, van den Berg B, editors. Governing Cyberspace: Behavior, Power and Diplomacy. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers/Rowman & Littlefield International; 2020. p. 105-26.

What Does Russia Want in Cyber Diplomacy?

The standard analytical narratives regarding Russia’s behavior in global diplomacy, today, revolve around great power aspirations, revisionist power games, and a threat to liberal democracy as we know it. The Russian discourse can also, however, be parsed with reference to resentment, resulting from the sense of “being betrayed” by the West (Kurowska 2014), or to anger over apparent disrespect received from other international actors (Larson and Shevchenko 2014). Demand for status recognition is a key factor in Russia’s international conduct (Krickovic and Weber 2018; Schmitt forthcoming; Neumann 2016, 1996), which finds its expression in Russia’s regular insistence on acknowledging its indispensability to the international order (Lo 2015, 47). Despite declarations of pragmatism in foreign policy (Omelicheva 2016; Casier 2006), this status-related rationale often overshadows what would appear more rational courses of action. Demands for recognition may also result in embarrassment. One vivid example of the latter involved the emotional outburst by the acting Russian representative to the UN, Vladimir Safronkov, towards the UK representative during a Security Council session in April 2017: famously, “Look at me!” and “Don’t you dare insult Russia again!” (RFE 2017). Many looked away mortified, but Safronkov’s superiors in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs commended his behavior, as part of resistance towards Western attempts at hegemonic imposition (Schreck 2017).

The secondary gains of neoliberal pain: the limits of consolation as a response to academic anguish

The contemporary global academic is an exemplary neoliberal subject. This condition is, of course, not unreflected upon, even if those communities of scholars dubbed ‘critical’ and ‘problem-solving’ might address it in different ways. The critical crowd is, however, caught in a particular predicament: We enact and embody neoliberal discourse in our daily practice, all the while raging about the psychosocial harm it inflicts. Indeed, though working within an industry ever more industrialised in conformity with the violent economic technologies of precarity, competition, quantification, standardisation, and individualism, considerable professional rewards remain on offer for those who master ‘the game.’ We become academic subjects in and by ‘making deals’ at the juncture of productive and coercive power—that is, by reproducing hierarchies. The discourse of personal triumph against neoliberal adversity—performed, if in different ways, by critical and mainstream scholars alike—is part and parcel of becoming a good player, of generating affective and socio-economic payoffs, and, ultimately, of re-entrenching the neoliberal condition. This essay does not argue for a second-order responsibilisation of this already tormented subject—to radicalise not-yet-brutal-enough self-appraisals. Rather, it is concerned with a certain disavowal of responsibility which derives from the implication in our own and each other’s suffering, as formulated in Lynne Layton’s work. Instead of offering consolation in response to the neoliberal suffering, and thus deepen the collusion, I suggest a re-thinking of responsibility in response to the concreteness of the neoliberal pain. Expressed and theorised from within the lived experienced of academic anguish, this is as much an autobiographical as a sociological tale.

Interpreting the uninterpretable: the ethics of opaqueness as an approach to moments of inscrutability in fieldwork

This paper develops what I call ‘the ethics of opaqueness’ as a response to conceptual impasses concerning the uninterpretability of intersubjective knowledge production in narrative practice. The ethics of opaqueness sees the other as inscrutable and radically heterogenous, and confronts interpretations of the other by the self as suspicious projections. Thus, such an ethics addresses the self, not the other, as the object of the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion.’ In order to conceptualise the ethics of opaqueness, I look to relational psychoanalysis, which understands the unconscious as being inherently intersubjective. From this results a reformulation of the process of recognition, and deeper acknowledgment of countertransference—that is, the partly unconscious conflicts activated in the researcher through the research encounter, which may lead to imposing meaning on the other. The apparatus of relational psychoanalysis concretises the limits of knowing either the other or the self and supplies a vocabulary to crystallise the double quality of ‘uninterpretable moments’ in narrative practice: They may trigger an imposition of a frame and therefore an interpretive closure; however, they also supply a potentially transformative space for the contentious co-construction of meaning, often in the form of metaphors, which subverts any claim to interpretive mastery.

Rituals of World Politics: On (Visual) Practices Disordering Things

Rituals are customarily muted into predictable and boring routines aimed to stabilise social orders and limit conflict. As a result, their magic lure recedes into the background, and the unexpected, disruptive and disordered elements are downplayed. Our collaborative contribution counters this move by foregrounding rituals of world politics as social practices with notable disordering effects. The collective discussion recovers the disruptive work of a range of rituals designed to sustain the sovereign exercise of violence and war. We do so through engaging a series of ‘world pictures’ (Mitchell 2007). We show the worlding enacted in rituals such as colonial treatymaking, state commemoration, military/service dog training, cyber-security podcasts, algorithmically generated maps, the visit of Prince Harry to a joint NATO exercise and border ceremonies in India, respectively. We do so highlighting rituals’ immanent potential for disruption of existing orders, the fissures, failures and unforeseen repercussions. Reappraising the disordering role of ritual practices sheds light on the place of rituals in rearticulating the boundaries of the political. It emphasises the role of rituals in generating dissensus and re-divisions of the sensible rather than in imposing a consensus by policing the boundaries of the political, as Rancière might phrase it. Our images are essential to the account. They help disinterring the fundamentals and ambiguities of the current worldings of security, capturing the affective atmosphere of rituals.

Kurowska X. EU Foreign Policy. In: Heinelt H, Münch S, editors. Handbook of European Policies. Interpretive Approaches to the EU. Edward Elgar Publishing ; 2018.
Kurowska X, Reshetnikov A. Russia’s trolling complex at home and abroad. In: Popescu N, Secrieru S, editors. Hacks, leaks and disruptions. Russian cyber strategies. Paris: EU Institute for Security Studies ; 2018.

Neutrollization: Industrialized trolling as a pro-Kremlin strategy of desecuritization

This article considers the significance of trolling for security processes through a contextual analysis of industrialized pro-Kremlin trolling in the Russian blogosphere. The publicity surrounding Russia’s hacking activities in international politics conceals the significance of the domestic trolling culture in Russia and its role in the ‘trolling turn’ in Russia’s foreign policy. We contextually identify the practice of ‘neutrollization’ – a type of localized desecuritization where the regime adopts trolling to prevent being cast as a societal security threat by civil society. Neutrollization relies on counterfeit internet activism, ostensibly originating from the citizenry, that produces political disengagement by breeding radical doubt in a manner that is non-securitizing. Rather than advocating a distinct political agenda, and in contrast to conventional understandings of the operations of propaganda, neutrollization precludes the very possibility of meaning, obviating the need to block the internet in an openly authoritarian manner. It operates by preventing perlocution – that is, the social consequences of the security speech act. This prevention is achieved through the breaking or disrupting of the context in which acts of securitization could possibly materialize, and is made possible by a condition of ‘politics without telos’ that is different from the varieties of depoliticization more familiar in Western societies.

Chiasmatic crossings: A reflexive revisit of a research encounter in European security

This article makes an argument about chiasmatic knowledge production that seeks to cut across the entrenched division between the subject and object of inquiry, on the one hand, and the narrative and normative authority of the scholar, on the other, that is inherent in most writing in international relations. We revisit our own research encounter in the field of European security to explore the premises and implications of fieldwork relationships between researchers and practitioners and show their potentially transformative effects. Classifying such engagements as acts of professional transgression by both sets of parties overlooks their promise to facilitate the understanding of security practice ‘from within’ and to provide for tangible scholarly and political criticality. It is argued that, in the restricted realm of security, extensive interaction with practitioners could be a proxy for participant observation. Yet, we look further than that. We develop a concept of ‘chiasmatic crossings’ that reflects and helps theorize the ideational give-and-take and conceptual ruptures in the process of co-authorship that are indicative of distinct trajectories in European security research. This challenges the knowledge claims and static positions of both ‘problem-solving’ and ‘critical’ scholars in the field.

Kurowska X, Pawlak P. The Fog of Border. The Fragmentation of EU's Border Policies. In: Kaunert C, Léonard S, Pawlak P, editors. European Homeland Security: A European Strategy in the Making? Abingdon: Routledge; 2012. p. 126-44. (Contemporary security studies).
Kurowska X, Kratochwill F. The Social Constructivist Sensibility and Research on Common Security and Defence Policy. In: Kurowska X, Breuer F, editors. Explaining the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy. Theory in Action. Palgrave Macmillan; 2012. p. 86-110.
Kurowska X, Seitz T. The role of EU in international crisis management – innovative model or emulated script? In: Gross E, Juncos AE, editors. EU Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management : Institutions, Policies and Roles. London: Routledge; 2010.
Kurowska X. EUJUST Themis : The rule-of-law mission in Georgia. In: Grevi G, Helly D, Keohane D, editors. European Security and Defence Policy : The first 10 years (1999-2009). Paris: European Union Institute for Security Studies; 2009. p. 201-9.

'Solana Milieu' : Framing Security Policy

The aim of this article is to contribute to a better understanding of the process of security policy production at the Brussels level. Two points are made. First, it is shown that in order to grasp the logic of policy outcomes it is crucial to analyse the major actors in the field, the patterns of the interaction they forge and the notions that inform their political action. I single out an entity, which I call the Solana milieu, and illustrate how this environment has become a significant policy entrepreneur in the realm of EU's security policy. I propose that a dynamic approach to frame analysis is useful to unravel the modus operandi of this ambience. In particular, it offers a way beyond the oft-repeated criticism of policy incoherence whose elimination would allegedly bring a remedy to the under-performance in the EU's security policy. It argues instead that policy controversies are inevitable due to the institutional identities that are at play. Secondly, the investigation into one security-making field illustrates the inherent politicisation of the process, which nuances the argument about the inevitable shift away from 'normal politics' when security questions arise.

Introduction : The Politics of European Security Policies

This article sketches the theoretical framework that informs the analyses in the Special Issue. Two issues drive the inquiries. First, the bottom-up approach to EU security that tracks contingent security practices and their performers. Various EU actors engage in intense political struggles which bring out the contentious character of security policy and nuance the claim of its extraordinary and thus apolitical nature. Analytically, this shows that the meaning of EU security needs to be empirically investigated rather than solved by definitions which may have a limited heuristic value against the EU's multifaceted security field. Secondly, the analyses bring to bear the blurring of the divide between the external and internal security in EU policy, both in the sense of the consolidation of the EU project as such and regarding the EU's policy towards its neighbours. The externalisation of security concerns and the EU's state-building activities in its neighbourhood are examples thereof.