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The Individualisation of War: Reconfiguring the Morality, Law and Politics of Armed Conflict

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This path-breaking interdisciplinary project critically analyses the impact of the increased prominence of the individual in the theory and practice of armed conflict. The ‘individualisation of war’, while based on powerful normative and technological developments, places enormous strain on the actors most actively engaged in contexts of conflict: the governments and armed forces of states, international security organisations, and humanitarian agencies.

Individualisation has generated new kinds of ‘humanitarian’ wars and peacekeeping missions, as well as precision weapons which enable both the targeted killing of those individuals deemed most liable for acts of war or terror, and the protection of innocent civilians caught up in armed conflict or acts of state suppression. It has also facilitated the injection of human rights law into the law of armed conflict, and a new class of international crimes for which individuals can be held accountable. We hypothesise that efforts to operationalise protection, liability, and accountability are all underpinned by a tension between the newly privileged moral and legal claims of individuals and the more traditional ones of sovereign states. The ethical, legal, and political dilemmas raised by these efforts demonstrate just how contested the process of individualisation remains, and how uncertain is its eventual endpoint.


European Research Council (ERC)


ERC Advanced Grant

Project Start / End

May 2014 - Apr 2019

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