International Intervention in a Secular Age: Re-Enchanting Humanity?, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

International Intervention in a Secular Age

Re-Enchanting Humanity?, 1st Edition

By Audra Mitchell


206 pages

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International intervention is not just about ‘saving’ human lives: it is also an attempt to secure humanity’s place in the universe.

This book explores the Western secular beliefs that underpin contemporary practices of intervention—most importantly, beliefs about life, death and the dominance of humanity. These beliefs shape a wide range of practices: the idea that human beings should intervene when human lives are at stake; analyses of violence and harm; practices of intervention and peace-building; and logics of killing and letting die. Ironically, however, the Western secular desire to ensure the meaningfulness of human life at all costs contributes to processes of dehumanization, undercutting the basic goals of intervention. To explore this paradox, International Intervention in a Secular Age engages with examples from around the world, and draws on interdisciplinary sources: anthropologies of secularity and IR, posthumanist political philosophy, ontology and the sociology of death.

This book offers new insight into perennial problems, such as the reluctance of intervenors to incur fatalities, and international inaction in the face of escalating violence. It also exposes new dilemmas, such as the dehumanizing effects of quantifying casualties, Western secular logics of killing, and the appropriation of lives and deaths through peace-building processes. It will be of great interest to students and scholars of international relations, political philosophy, international ethics and social anthropology.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction, Chapter 2: Beyond Belief – Telling a New Story About Secularity in IR, Chapter 3: A Matter of Life and Death, Chapter 4: Is Nothing Sacred? Disenchantment and Dehumanization, Chapter 5: Re-enchanting Humanity? Disenchantment, Re-enchantment and Intervention, Chapter 6: Angels of Death: Logics of Killing and Letting Die in Military Intervention, Chapter 7: Life After Death: Intervention, Immortality and Rituals of Re-enchantment, Chapter 8: Conclusions

About the Author

Audra Mitchell is a lecturer in the Politics department at the University of York, UK

About the Series


The Series provides a forum for innovative and interdisciplinary work that engages with alternative critical, post-structural, feminist, postcolonial, psychoanalytic and cultural approaches to international relations and global politics. In our first 5 years we have published 60 volumes.

We aim to advance understanding of the key areas in which scholars working within broad critical post-structural traditions have chosen to make their interventions, and to present innovative analyses of important topics. Titles in the series engage with critical thinkers in philosophy, sociology, politics and other disciplines and provide situated historical, empirical and textual studies in international politics.


We are very happy to discuss your ideas at any stage of the project: just contact us for advice or proposal guidelines. Proposals should be submitted directly to the Series Editors:

‘As Michel Foucault has famously stated, "knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting" In this spirit The Edkins - Vaughan-Williams Interventions series solicits cutting edge, critical works that challenge mainstream understandings in international relations. It is the best place to contribute post disciplinary works that think rather than merely recognize and affirm the world recycled in IR's traditional geopolitical imaginary.’

Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General