Counterinsurgency, Empire and Ignorance

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Counterinsurgency, as the violence of empire, is directed at the subjugation and compliance of a population. At its core, this involves both the generation of knowledge about that population and the cultural production of militarised ignorance of, about and within a subject people, designed to ‘confound the native’, ‘cover the tracks’ and ‘reassure the self’. This chapter explores four aspects of the relationship between counterinsurgency and agnotology. First, links between race, imperialism and agnotology and the roots of counterinsurgency as the theory and practice of empire’s violence. Second, the ‘organised forgetting’ of imperial wars and counterinsurgency’s past crimes as means of preserving its appeal in the present. Third, the production of disinformation in the praxis of the contemporary counterinsurgent. Finally, using the example of the US military’s Human Terrain System (HTS), the role of social science itself in the cultural production of ignorance in and of counterinsurgency as part of the ‘War on Terror’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIgnorance, Power and Harm: Agnotology and the Criminological Imagination
EditorsAlana Barton, Howard Davis
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-97343-2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Mar 2018


  • Counterinsurgency
  • Empire
  • Imperialism
  • Agnotology
  • Ignoranc


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