Capturing Humanitarian War

The Collusion of Violence and Care in US-Managed Military Detention

Forthcoming in Environment & Planning A

In this paper I explore the complex economies of violence that circulate through the US military’s enactments of battlefield capture and military detainment. I highlight the ways in which these practices relate to the humanitarian objective of carrying out warfare both for and with humanity. I first outline the emergence of an explicitly protective custody within the landscape of war, describing the broad historical contours of war prisoner treatment. I then detail the ways in which humanitarian law’s call to care for detained enemy bodies has itself become linked with highly specific forms of political and bodily violence. Next, I argue that this copractice of care and violence in the camps is underpinned by a relational understanding of humanitarianism. Finally, I turn my attention to the ways in which the battlefield encounter has become an increasingly technical enterprise, one in which questions surrounding the ethical treatment of prisoners are subsumed into an evolving assemblage of spaces, means of data collection, and discursive performances that reframe the limits of military violence and generate new vulnerabilities.