Narratives of Intervention: Reflections from North and South

Wednesday 22 July 2015, 09:00 to Thursday 23 July 2015
Open to:
Public, Staff, Students
Admission price:
Registration fee: £50, Dinner: £35, Campus accommodation (B&B): £40 per night


Dibyesh Anand, University of Westminster
Michael Cox, LSE
Mark Duffield, University of Bristol
Talat Farooq, Meliksah University
Caroline Kennedy-Pipe, University of Hull
Justin Morris, University of Hull
Annick Wibben, University of San Francisco


ESRC-funded Conference hosted by cii - Centre for International Intervention, University of Surrey


The phenomenon of international intervention generates a wide range of reactions from both interveners and those who experience the effects of such interventions. Defined loosely as attempts by outsiders to influence the course of events in other people’s societies, this phenomenon is positioned at the interface of the personal and the international. Narratives are constructed or emerge to make sense of these perceptions and feelings, and to justify the actions taken and the responses to them.

This conference will ask to what extent narratives of intervention in the Global North reflect those in the Global South, and what tensions are revealed by holding the one up as a mirror to the other. It will also recognise ‘intervention’ as a phenomenon increasingly experienced in both North and South, as traditional ‘intervention’ may provoke violent responses, and it will consider the emerging consequences of this phenomenon for perceptions of power and powerlessness in all societies.

From the outside, interventions have to be justified to domestic as well as international constituencies and the narrative of justification therefore reflects a complex mixture of different ethical, legal, and political considerations. In societies at the receiving end of intervention – which may or may not be welcomed – a sense of powerlessness, alienation, and frustration together with people’s need to make sense of what is happening in their lives may find its most authentic expression in visual art, drama, poetry, music, and other art forms. As the reality of international intervention becomes more commonplace in people’s everyday lives – in both Southern and increasingly also in Northern societies – these adaptive mechanisms may assume increasing significance.

This conference will draw on a range of disciplines and also seek the active participation of practitioners from both North and South. We are looking for contributions (e.g. papers, readings, live performances) that illustrate the differing rationales for ‘intervention’, the varying frames of reference and conceptions of what it really means to ‘intervene’ and to be ‘intervened upon’, as well as the consequences of not understanding these differences.

We welcome papers and panel proposals from a wide range of theoretical and experiential approaches that will help explain how intervention is justified, how it acquires meaning in the lives of interveners and those ‘intervened upon’, and how this is given expression in different narrative forms. We are particularly interested in papers covering the following themes:

  • “Colonialist” interventionist practices of post-colonial states;
  • Intervention and the urban landscape;
  • Gendering narratives of intervention;
  • Intervention and displaced identities;
  • Justificatory narratives of intervention.


The submission deadline for the conference is 14th May 2015.

Individual paper proposals and fully formed panels are welcomed. Titles and abstracts (300 words) should be uploaded via our online form.



This conference, to be held from 22nd to 23rd July at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK, is the second in a 3-year, ESRC-funded, seminar series entitled: “Explaining the Intervention Matrix: Theory and Practice from Northern and Southern Perspectives”. The Principal Investigator is Professor Sir Michael Aaronson, Executive Director of cii – the Centre for International Intervention – at the University of Surrey. Co-Investigators are:

  • Professor Roger Mac Ginty, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Manchester;
  • Professor Peter Walker, Director of the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University;
  • Professor Jennifer Welsh, Professor in International Relations, University of Oxford and Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect to the UN Secretary general;
  • Professor Nicholas Wheeler, Director of the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security, University of Birmingham.
  • Dr Roberta Guerrina and Dr Ipshita Basu at the University of Surrey, who will support the delivery of the project and take the lead in organising key events relating to their specific research expertise.

The project as a whole rests on the claim that the study of international intervention has been under-theorised and that a more nuanced understanding of processes supporting it requires a multidisciplinary approach. Behind this argument is a judgement that the model of international intervention that has dominated the thinking of Western governments since the end of the Cold War is overly narrow and that as a consequence much intervention has been inappropriate and ineffective. The organising principle is a two-dimensional matrix. One axis is theory versus practice; the other North versus South. Thus the different seminars will be considered on the one hand in terms of what the theory indicates and what the practice delivers, and on the other the extent to which perspectives of intervention differ depending on whether one is intervening or is the target of intervention.

Please contact Katharine A. M. Wright ( for queries about the conference or the call for papers.


Registration is now open, book your place online via the Surrey Store. Registration closes on Monday 6 July 2015.

Conference programme

Narratives of Intervention July 2015 Programme (483.97KB - Requires Adobe Reader)

Related blog

Narratives of Intervention: Perspectives from North and South.

Wednesday 22 July 2015


to Thursday 23 July 2015

Open to:
Public, Staff, Students
Admission price:
Registration fee: £50, Dinner: £35, Campus accommodation (B&B): £40 per night

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