Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg

Gabi Schlag

Dr. phil. Gabi Schlag

Institut für Politikwissenschaft (IPW)

Gebäude 40, Zschokkestr. 32, 39104, Magdeburg, G40-311

Research projects

My general research profile covers two major projects with the following priorities: 1) the politics of visual security and 2) securitizing communities and the transformation of foreign policy.

1) The politics of visual security

The main focus of my research in the last two years has been the relation between (critical) security studies and visual culture. In essence, it is an interdisciplinary research project where I combine insights from Media and Communication studies, Art History, Political Sociology and Theory as well as International Relations. I currently work on three intersected topics:

a) Violence, bodies and emotions

Showing and seeing images of human suffering - does it make a difference? This question has been central to political and ethical debates about war and conflict for many decades. The collection “Krieg dem Kriege! Guerre à la Guerre! War against War! Oorlog aan den Oorlog!” edited by Ernst Friedrich and first published in 1924 showed the horrors of World War I: disfigured faces, inflamed wounds and disabled bodies of former soldiers and civilians. Today, the distribution of images from war zones is even more prevalent and accelerated due to citizen journalists and social media. Recently, this phenomenon became of growing interest in International Relations Theory (IR) emphasizing the importance of human bodies and emotions. Depicting (ontological) insecurity presumes a violated body as an evidence of an unspeakable truth and its visual documentation bears public witness to the pain of others. How does the (gendered) body become the site of visualizing in-/security? How do pictures of atrocities relate to emotions? What are the political and ethical consequences of such an "affective securitization"? I intend to publish the results of this project in a second book.

b) Cultures of democratic war-making

The project on cultures of democratic war-making, developed together with Anna Geis (University Magdeburg), seeks to address the relationship between media, the use of military force and its legitimation by liberal democracies. It intends to systematically theorize and analyze this relationship and contribute not only to the growing research on "democratic war-making" but also develop an innovative approach to the (trans-)formation of visual cultures and legitimacy in international relations/ IR. By cultures of democratic war-making we understand the contested textual and visual narratives mobilized by actors in order to (re-) produce the legitimacy of military interventions waged in the name of democratic norms. When how, and why do democracies use military force? How are these decisions made possible by textual and visual narratives of justification? How is legitimacy produced and contested? A project proposal will be submitted to the German Science Foundation (DFG) for funding. A special issue (edited by Anna Geis and myself) on these issues is under construction based on a joint workshop held in August 2014 at the University of Magdeburg which was sponsored by the Fritz-Thyssen Foundation.

c) Images of disaster in the risk society

Insecurities come in different forms, including hunger, exploitation, depression and natural catastrophes. Coping with unexpected events as Tsunamis and earthquakes often facilitates awesome support by the international community and legitimizes policies of resilience as a response to the manifold insecurities risk societies are expected to handle. In a globalized world, these threats, dangers and risks become visible through images of disaster, which travel easily from one place to the next via transnational media networks. The question how such culturally-shaped images of disaster shape and affect the practices and discourses of a global solidary community is of growing relevance. How do images of disaster provoke support by the international community? Who is held accountable for the human catastrophe? How are disasters remembered? This future project will direct more attention to the relation between security studies and the growing literature on risk society in IR and is of future interest for me.


2) Securitizing communities and the transformation of foreign policy

a) The evolution of security communities - a comparative perspective on NATO and the EU

My research on Securitization Theory and NATO has been part of a completed joint research project on the "Transformation of the West" together with Gunther Hellmann (University of Frankfurt), Benjamin Herborth (University of Groningen) and Christian Weber (University of Hagen). While my research was mainly focused on NATO and its security discourse since 1950, I'm interested in comparing my results with EU's evolving security discourse (something I have done in the early phase of my PhD-project).

Securitization Theory has been one of the most successful research programs in the last decades. Classical security alliances as NATO or genuine security actors as the EU have been of growing, yet partial interest in securitization studies. The EU and NATO obviously represent two quite distinct forms of community where questions of security play an important role. How do processes of de-/ securitization shape communities? How is security institutionalized differently within NATO and the EU? What evolving patterns of de-/ securitization can we describe in Europe and the transatlantic area (a joint/fragmented regional security complex)? How is the formation of these communities perceived and evaluated by 'others', for example Russia? Based on former academic projects, this rather policy-oriented project is related to the recent conflict with Russia arguing that a peace-order in Europe is based on inclusive institutions with a high potential of de-securitization (instead of securitization).

b) The transformation of foreign policy

In my PhD I argued that European Foreign Policy Analysis can profit to a large extent from discourse and practice theory in order to understand what kind of actor the EU forms and how this formation is contingent and in flux, ie. dependent on the discourses and practices agents mobilize. While I have compared the early period of European security and defense cooperation in the 1950s (European Defence Community, EDC) and the establishment of ESDP in the late 1990s, in my further research I intend to use practice theory more systematically for reconstructing the daily transformation of foreign policy and diplomacy. Who does foreign policy? Where are the spaces and sites diplomacy is practiced? How does it change as a profession and institution between "Berlin" and "Brussels"? Theorizing foreign policy, in particular in relation to the constitutionalization of the EU, remains one of my research interest although to a lesser extent.


Letzte Änderung: 19.05.2014 - Contact Person: Webmaster