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Utile forms: power and knowledge in small war

Ansorge, Josef Teboho and Barkawi, Tarak ORCID: 0000-0001-5526-5055 (2014) Utile forms: power and knowledge in small war. Review of International Studies, 40 (01). pp. 3-24. ISSN 0260-2105

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0260210513000016


This article introduces the concept of ‘utile forms’ and analyses the effects of these forms in imperial rule and contemporary counterinsurgency. Utile forms are media that enable bureaucracies to disseminate specialised knowledges to officials operating in the field. Examples include smart cards, field manuals, and handheld biometric devices. We argue that utile forms have significant social and political effects irrespective of the ‘truth value’ of the knowledge they contain. We analyse these effects in terms of world-ordering and world-making properties: utile forms both embody a particular worldview or ideology (world-ordering) and they facilitate official attempts to remake the world in accordance with this vision (world-making). We draw on examples of utile forms from British India and more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The article concludes by reflecting on the relations between truth, knowledge, and power in times of war and imperialism.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2013 British International Studies Association
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2013 08:42
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:08

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