The global harm narrative in nuclear-weapon-free zones
This four-year doctoral study beginning in 2011 seeks to introduce the concept of cosmopolitan environmental harm conventions – social practices that do not privilege insiders over outsiders – to the study of Arms Control and Disarmament. The central research question of the thesis is: What do nuclear-weapon-free zones tell us about the existence of a “global harm principle” for the protection of the biosphere? This line of questioning has three interrelated objectives. First, to contribute to those normatively driven investigations in International Relations that seek to assert the emancipatory potential of cosmopolitan harm conventions. The second objective is to challenge the binaries that are enacted within the emerging harm literature in cosmopolitan international theory between concrete harms (e.g. nuclear war) and abstract harms (e.g. transboundary environmental damage). And third, to begin to hypothesise what viewing nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ) as a cosmopolitan environmental harm convention might mean for the uniquely complex and failed negotiations on the establishment of a Middle East zone.
** Sponsored by: Australian Commonwealth Government and the University of Queensland. Project period: 2011-14.
Works-in-preparation: N.A.J. Taylor, ‘Weapons of mass destruction and the harm principle: possible contributions of the world’s ethical traditions’, (journal article in preparation).
Dialogue on Middle East biological, nuclear and chemical weapons disarmament
This major project includes the facilitation of various dialogues on the matter of biological, nuclear and chemical weapons in the Middle East. The first dialogue was held in Athens, Greece in November 2012 and brought together 37 regional participants from government and civil society to discuss the “WMD-free zone” proposal. Participants were drawn primarily from the Middle East, in particular Israel, Iran and Arab countries. The second dialogue is tentatively scheduled for late-2013, and will bring together the world’s major ethical traditions in Florence. The benefits of this kind of dialogue are twofold. First, there has been very little prior engagement of a dialogical kind, based on the principles of mutual respect, readiness to listen to the other’s point of view, and a capacity to explore new ways of thinking and communicating despite the presence of radical differences. Second, lessons drawn from initiatives in other areas suggest that such engagement which involves academia, other sectors of civil society and a range of practitioners from governments and agencies can perform an important confidence-building role and can generate the favourable conditions for useful coalition building, a strategy which proved vital to the success of other international initiatives such as the Landmines Convention and International Criminal Court.
** Sponsored by: La Trobe University’s Centre for Dialogue and the European Public Law Organization (EPLO), in association with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and the University of Queensland. Collaborators have included: Joseph A. Camilleri [La Trobe University], Spyridon Flogaitis [European Public Law Organisation and University of Athens], Michael Hamel-Green [Victoria University], Marianne Hanson [University of Queensland], and Michalis S. Michael [La Trobe University]. Project period: 2011-
Works-in-preparation: N.A.J. Taylor and Joseph A. Camilleri, ‘Ethics and WMD in the Middle East: A dialogue of secular and religious perspectives’, (special issue in preparation).
Remnants of War
Images of human suffering are known to induce an emotional response for distant strangers. Visuality, in effect, expands our circle of moral obligations beyond those we can see, touch, and hear, thereby overcoming the boundaries of distance and difference. And yet through repetition and myopic formulation, “the humanitarian image” – of missing limbs, misery and death – is arguably losing its emotional effect. In Remnants of War, Louis Porter and NAJ Taylor seek to reappraise and reconfigure the humanitarian image in order to explore how the harm caused by explosive and toxic remnants of war unfolds over time – not just to humans, but also to the biosphere, animal species and built environment. For example in Egypt, more than 28 million landmines and other unexploded ordnance from the Second World War has rendered more than 25,000 km2 of land uninhabitable, and continues to dictate the path of roads and walkways. In all sites, there remains an overriding puzzle to be examined: to what extent, and in what ways, are the ecological and temporal effects of the remnants of war able to be visualised?
** Sponsored by: Monash University. Collaborating artist: Louis Porter [Monash University]. Project period: 2010-
Works-in-preparation: Louis Porter and N.A.J. Taylor, ‘Remnants of War’, (book in preparation).
Biospheric Harm Aesthetics
Biospheric Harm Aesthetics is an exploratory project in visual and aesthetic politics with twin objectives. First, to gain new insights and understandings of damage to the zones of life on Earth from aesthetic sources such as photographs, music, paintings, ﬁlm, literature, architecture, and poetry. Second, to experiment with both the use of virtual spaces and aesthetic representations of harm as ways in which to improve learning experiences and engage new audiences. In response to this engagement with aesthetic sources, a collection of essays and reviews will be published as a book, with a particular emphasis on the weaponisation of the biosphere (e.g. tear gas, nuclear weapons).
** Sponsored by: TBC. Project period: 2012-. Visit the archive: biosphericharmaesthetics.tumblr.com
Works-in-preparation: N.A.J. Taylor, Aesthetics and Biospheric Harm, (book in preparation).
Dishevelled Come Winter
The following is a working abstract for an incomplete manuscript of counterfactual history concerning the world’s nuclear arsenal, an intoxicated Boris Yelstin, and a florist in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia:
The florist is a sort of gatekeeper – of other people’s love, of regret, of gratitude, of hope, and of grief. But this is wartime. People now loathe the other, symbolism has given way to savagery, and soldiers enforce social order on the streets. Removed from these unforgiving games, one florist quietly tends to greying fields in the belief some flowers will survive the winter.
** Sponsored by: incomplete and unpublished manuscript. Project period: 2005-