A Plea for a Discursive Approach to Emotions: The Example of the French Airmen’s Relation to Violence

  • Mathias Delori
Part of the Palgrave Studies in International Relations book series (PSIR)


Emotions are often said to be a hard case for empirical analysis because of their ‘intimate’ nature. This chapter argues that this perspective stems from a misleading view of the real nature of emotions. As Butler recently put it, emotions are inseparable from the social ‘frames’ which constitute them. Hence, it is possible to bypass the epistemological problem of the study of emotions by studying these frames. I make this point by elaborating on an inquiry into the ‘frames’ which mediate French airmen’s emotional relation to violence. I analyse their emotional approach to violence in three steps: (1) data collection, (2) an analysis of the language they use when talking about their victims, and (3) an investigation of the routinized procedures which precede their lethal actions.



I am grateful to Maéva Clément and Eric Sangar for their comments on a previous version of this text.


  1. Allinson, J. (2015). The Necropolitics of Drone. International Political Sociology, 9, 113–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arendt, H. (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
  3. Asad, T. (2007). On Suicide Bombing. New York: Colombia University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Audouin-Rouzeau, S. (2002). La violence du champ de bataille. In S. Audouin-Rouzeau, A. Becker, C. Ingrao, & H. Rousso (Eds.), La violence de guerre (pp. 73–97). Paris: Editions Complexe.Google Scholar
  5. Audouin-Rouzeau, S. (2008). Combattre, Une anthropologie historique de la guerre moderne (XIXe-XXIe siècle). Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  6. Ayotte, K. J., & Husain, M. (2005). Securing Afghan Women: Neocolonialism, Epistemic Violence, and the Rhetoric of the Veil. NWSA Journal, 17, 112–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barkawi, T. (2004). Peoples, Homelands, and Wars? Ethnicity, the Military, and Battle Among British Imperial Forces in the War Against Japan. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 46(1), 134–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barkawi, T., & Stanski, K. (2013). Orientalism and War. New York: Columbia University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boudon, R. (1986). L’idéologie ou l’origine des idées reçues. Paris: Fayard.Google Scholar
  10. Browning, C. R. (2002). Des hommes ordinaires: le 101e Bataillon de réserve de la police allemande et la solution finale en Pologne. Paris: Les Belles lettres.Google Scholar
  11. Butler, J. (2004). Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London and Brooklyn: Verso.Google Scholar
  12. Butler, J. (2009). Krieg und Affekt. Berlin: Diaphanes.Google Scholar
  13. Butler, J. (2010). Frames of War. When Is Life Grievable? London, Brooklyn: Verso.Google Scholar
  14. Chamayou, G. (2013). Théorie du drone. Paris: La Fabrique.Google Scholar
  15. Cohn, C. (1987). Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals. Signs, 12(4), 687–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cole, C., Dobbing, M., & Hailwood, A. (2010). Convenient Killing: Armed Drones and the ‘Playstation’ Mentality. Oxford: The Fellowship of Reconciliation.Google Scholar
  17. Delori, M. (2015). La réconciliation franco-allemande par la jeunesse. La généalogie, l’événement, l’histoire. Bruxelles: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  18. Delori, M. (2016a). Brüssel bombardieren! Einige Widersprüche im Krieg gegen den Terrorismus. Berliner Debatte Initial, 27(1), 94–99.Google Scholar
  19. Delori, M. (2016b). La réconciliation franco-allemande par la jeunesse. La généalogie, l’événement, l’histoire (1871–2015). Paris; Berlin; Bruxelles: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  20. Elias, N. (2000 [1939]). The Civilizing Process. Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  21. Fassin, D. (2005). Compassion and Repression: The Moral Economy of Immigration Policies in France. Cultural Anthropology, 20(3), 362–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fassin, D. (2010). La raison humanitaire. Paris: Seuil, 2010.Google Scholar
  23. Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000). Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  24. Fierke, K. M. (2013). Political Self-Sacrifice. Agency, Body and Emotion in International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Foucault, M. (1969). Archéologie du savoir. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  26. Foucault, M. (1971). Nietzsche, la Généalogie, l’Histoire. In S. Bachelard (Ed.), Hommage à Jean Hyppolite (pp. 145–172). Paris: Presses universitares de France.Google Scholar
  27. Foucault, M. (1997 [1976]). Il faut défendre la société Cours au Collège de France. 1975–1976. Seuil: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  28. Foucault, M. (1977). Nietzsche, Genealogy, History. In D. F. Bouchard (Ed.), Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Goffman, E. (1974). Frame Analysis. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Halbwachs, M. (1975 [1925]). Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire. Paris: Mouton.Google Scholar
  31. Herold, M. W. (2012). The Obama/Pentagon War Narrative, the Real War and Where Afghan Civilian Deaths Do Matter, Revista Paz y Conflictos (Granada, Spain) No. 5: 44–64. Retrieved December 5, 2016, from
  32. Holmqvist, C. (2013). Undoing War: War Ontologies and the Materiality of Drone Warfare. Millenium: Journal of International Relations Studies, 41, 535–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kaufman, W. (2009). Justified Killing: The Paradox of Self-Defense. Lanham: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  34. Lavabre, M.-C. (1994). Le fil rouge: sociologie de la mémoire communiste. Paris: Presses de la FNSP.Google Scholar
  35. MacLeish, K. T. (2013). Making War at Fort Hood. Life and Uncertainty in a Military Community. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Mbembe, A. (2003). Necropolitics. Public Culture, 15(1), 11–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mosse, G. (2000). La Brutalisation des sociétés européennes. De la Grande Guerre au totalitarisme. Paris: Hachette littérature.Google Scholar
  38. Olsson, C. (2012). De la pacification coloniale aux opérations extérieures. Retour sur la généalogie “des cœurs et des esprits” dans la pensée militaire contemporaine. CERI, Questions de Recherche/Research in Question, 39.Google Scholar
  39. Ophir, A. (2002). Moral Technologies: The Administration of Disaster and the Forsaking of Lives. Theoria veBikoret, 23.Google Scholar
  40. Richter-Montpetit, M. (2014). Beyond the Erotics of Orientalism: Lawfare, Torture and the Racial-Sexual Grammars of Legitimate Suffering. Security Dialogue, 45(1), 43–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Said, E. W. (1979). Orientalism. New York: Vinage Book.Google Scholar
  42. Shaw, M. (2006). The New Western Way of War: Risk Transfer and Its Crisis in Iraq. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  43. Tocqueville, A. d. (1980 [1835]). On Democracy, Revolution, and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  44. Tocqueville, A. d. (1981 [1835]). De la démocratie en Amérique. Paris: Flammarion.Google Scholar
  45. van Veeren, E. (2014). Materializing US Security: Guantanamo’s Object Lessons and Concrete Messages. International Political Sociology, 8(1), 20–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Weizman, E. (2012). The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence for Arendt to Gaza. London: Verso.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mathias Delori
    • 1
  1. 1.CNRS/Sciences Po BordeauxBordeauxFrance

Personalised recommendations