Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Rhetorical Theory – On War and Revolution: Legal and Political Histories
240G- 002 | CCN: 26496
Instructor: Samera Esmeir
M 3:00 – 6:00 PM, Dwinelle 7415 ///
In her introduction to On Revolution, Hannah Arendt notes the interrelationship between war and revolution with regards to questions of freedom and violence, and adds: “whatever the outcome of our present predicaments may be, if we don’t perish together, it seems more than likely that revolution, in distinction to war, will stay with us into the foreseeable future. Even if we should succeed in changing the physiognomy of this century to the point where it would no longer be a century of wars, it most certainly will remain a century of revolutions.” Meanwhile, in the second half of the twentieth century, national liberation movements successfully argued that their anti-colonial revolutions should be classified as international armed conflicts (that is, inter-state wars). How national liberation movements understood the distinction between international and non-international armed conflicts differed from how Arendt understood the relationship between war and revolution. Still, the two itineraries of the relationship between war and revolution, in the legal and the political fields, demand inquiry. This seminar explores these relationships and their modern histories. We will read early modern writings about rebellion and war in the natural legal tradition. We will also investigate the uniquely modern meanings of revolution and its relationship to war from the nineteenth century through decolonization. Our readings will primarily consist of political and legal theoretical texts, with a few additions from intellectual history and anthropology. Our objective is to better appreciate the vexed relationship between two concepts—war and revolution—so that to think through what remains of political struggle in the present.