Coffee Hour: (Self) Defense and the Killing of Others: Army ROTC and the Laws of War

Friday, November 6, 2015 - 3:30pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.


About the talk

A century ago, nine out of ten casualties of war were armed combatants. Today, however, 90 percent of the casualties of war are civilians. This paper investigates how US service personnel are trained to distinguish between civilians and combatants in today's complex conflicts. For centuries, ethical and political theorists have debated the appropriate means of waging war. Identification of the enemies deemed the legitimate targets of warfare is central to the concept of “just war.” Over time, the idea took hold that some persons should be spared the violence of war. For a war to be considered “just,” combatants must follow rules of engagement designed to reduce the capacity of enemies, while protecting innocents. Ideas of “innocence” and “enemy” have changed, of course, with significant stakes for civilians and soldiers. This project draws from fieldwork in "The Bulldog Battalion," the University of Georgia's Reserve Officers' Training Corp (ROTC) program, as well as critical readings of the laws of war and scholarship on human rights. ROTC curriculum teaches just war theory, the laws of war, and the “warrior's honor.” As young soldiers face complex threats, the possibility for responding in “self-defense” against perceived dangers is expansive. The observational data collected in the study of the US Army's contemporary training informs the analysis of the historical and epistemological foundations of the laws of war, and particularly the role of “self-defense” in the killing of others.

About the speaker

Amy RossAmy Ross is an associate professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia, and an affiliate of UGA's Institute for Women's Studies and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research centers on the crimes of international concern (genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes) and the movements and institutions that address these crimes. She has conducted research on truth commissions and international tribunals in order to investigate how certain acts of violence are deemed criminal, while other acts of violence are celebrated as heroic. Her current book project, The Impunity Machine: Genocide and Justice in Guatemala (with Elizabeth Oglesby) is forthcoming in the Antipode Book Series.


Circuits of Justice

This talk is the keynote address for the Circuits of Justice workshop.

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Angela Rogers   office: 814-863-4562  email: