Bruce Buchan

Chaire : Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.
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Buchan's research in political theory focuses on the historical articulation of concepts of war, security, corruption, civility and savagery in Western history in the Early Modern period (c.1500-1800). These and other concepts were decisively shaped by the experiences of European empire-building, state-formation, war-making, and colonialism throughout this period. In tracing the significant shifts in the meaning and use of these concepts in Western political thought, his work helps us to identify the problems, limitations and the possibilities in their re-current usage in contemporary thought and practice.


The ‘Science of Security’ (c.1600-1700)

Dans le cadre du séminaire « Savoirs et productions du monde au XVIe siècle. Lieux, acteurs, échelles », animé par Antonella Romano, Jean-Marc Besse, Rafael Mandressi

This seminar will reflect on the meaning of security and the existing state of historical and conceptual scholarship which, in Anglo-American scholarship, tends to focus on the ideas and legacy of Thomas Hobbes. I will make a case for broadening this focus by taking natural history seriously as a contributing factor in the articulation of Early Modern security - both in terms of the increasing interest in mapping risk (and devising schemes of insurance) in the period, but also in the effort develop a systematic knowledge of nature, natural resources, and human populations (as Foucault long ago suggested), as sources of both state power and threat. A significant role was played in this respect by John Locke, who is not typically regarded as a central thinker in the history of security. Locke helped to conceptualise natural historical and ethnographic knowledge as central endeavours in Britain’s imperial and colonial projects. I'm especially interested here to make connections between Locke's thought, and the work of colonial ‘travellers’, including the first Englishman to set foot on Australia, William Dampier. The next two seminars will then amplify this focus on the relationship between natural history and security through two case studies. The final seminar will conclude with a closer examination of Australia’s colonization and its legacies today.

  • Mercredi 1 mars 2017, 17h-20h, EHESS (Salle 2, RdC), 190-198 av de France 75013 Paris

Civilising war colonial enterprises and scientific warfare (1680-1770)

Dans le cadre du séminaire Historiographie des Lumières, animé par Antoine Lilti e Silvia Sebastiani

In this seminar, I will explore how the conceptualization of warfare as a scientific endeavour in which Europeans typically display not only their superior firepower, but their civilisation. This becomes apparent in the increasing regard given to artillery by Voltaire, Hume, and others as a kind of machine of civilisation that delivers shattering power, but also an incentive to tightly regulate its use. This argument has a contemporary implication in relation to nuclear weapons and Mutually Assured Destruction. This idea of war as a technical or scientific domain was tied to colonial enterprises and to the development of ethnography, and can be charted in a variety of texts by both intellectuals (such as Adam Smith), military professionals (such as Henry Lloyd), and by those who were both (such as Adam Ferguson).

  •  Vendredi 3 mars 2017, 11h-13h, EHESS (Salle 3, RdC), 190-198 av de France 75013 Paris

Educating colonial ethnographers at the University of Edinburgh, between Linnaeus' natural history and Scottish moral philosophy’

Dans le cadre de la journée d’études “The Borders of Humanity” organisée par Bruce Buchan (Griffth University, Brisbane) et Linda Andersson Burnett (Linnaeus University, Växjö) en collaboration avec le séminaire « La race à l'âge moderne : expériences, classifications, idéologies d'exclusion », animé par Pietro Corsi, Jean-Frédéric Schaub e Silvia Sebastiani

Within this workshop, I will present, with Linda Andresson, some preliminary findings from our new three year research project funded by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond 2016-2018. This research project focuses on how natural historical and moral philosophical knowledge of human diversity was entwined in the work of a wide range of colonial ethnographers trained in Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. What makes this group of ethnographers important is that their studies at the University took place in an intellectual powerhouse of the Scottish Enlightenment, and in the Medical school whose leading scholars integrated both Linnaean natural history with Scottish moral philosophy. The writings of the former students, who became colonial ethnographers in a surprising range of colonial contexts across the globe, testify to the significance of natural historical knowledge in the activity of colonization. Their work also exemplifies a close interest in questions of security, focused in particular in identifying exploitable resources, landscapes and human populations. Our presentation will review the teaching of moral philosophy and natural history at the University, as well as examining a selection of former students who became colonial ethnographers. A key focus will be our attempt to place these ethnographers within the wider networks through which knowledge circulated between Britain, Europe and colonial settings.

  • Mardi 14 mars 2017, 9h-16h, EHESS (Salle 3, RdC), 190-198 av de France 75013 Paris

Everything that one sees or hears in this place is perfectly romantick': The Sensory Spectacle of Pacific Colonisation, c.1690-1790

Dans le cadre de la journée d'études Journée d’étude organisé par Elizabeth Claire (CRH/CNRS), Felicia McCarren (IEA/Tulane Univ.), et Silvia Sebastiani (CRH/EHESS)

On the 4th of June 1788, the infant British colony in Sydney Cove celebrated His majesty’s birthday with a 21-gun salute. As the gunfire reverberated around the harbour, colonists reflected on how differently this mighty noise and the spectacle of celebration was seen and heard by European newcomers and by Australia’s Indigenous inhabitants. What they heard is not in dispute, but the disparity in how they heard it encapsulates a deeper anxiety about the audible register of civility in British cross-cultural encounters between ‘Europeans’ and ‘Islanders’ in the Pacific.[1] The visual and audible contexts of early cross-cultural encounters in the Pacific and Australia demonstrate the centrality of the sensory communication of colonial intent in spectacular sights and sounds: the raising of flags, toasting the King, the staccato of gunfire. Early cross-cultural encounters were shadowed by a creeping anxiety that these spectacular colonial performances were being misheard and misread in exactly the same way that colonists sensed their own misunderstanding of the Indigenous spectacles performed for them. In this paper, I will explore the visual and audible implications of colonial anxieties expressed in a selection of British accounts of such encounters from the late seventeenth to the late eighteenth century. I will argue that these anxieties were regularly assuaged not simply by recourse to the modulated civility of polite sound, but to the spectacularly intrusive and terrifying recourse to discordant noise. 

  •  Mercredi 22 mars 2017, 9h.30-18h,  IEA-Paris - Institut d’études avancées, 17 Quai d'Anjou, 75004 Paris