What wars and ‘war bodies’ know about international relations

What happens when the ‘international’ as a distinct social space is approached from the perspective of war rather than war from the perspective of the ‘international’? Tarak Barkawi’s question (Millennium, 39:3, 2011, 701–706) is best answered by attempts to understand war not as part of inter/intra-state relations but as a socio­ cultural, trans-historical institution that impacts on the ‘everyday’ lives of men, women and children. In this article I argue that war is not a disruption of the ‘everyday’, an abstraction that has a definite beginning and end, something we enter into and exit. Instead, it can be captured in daily and mundane lived experiences of people and in powerful emotions that constitute ‘self’, community and the ‘other.’ Drawing upon my research on wars in South Asia, I particularly reflect on how war shapes the banal and the fervent and how cultural and political narratives of ‘war bodies’ perform the ‘international’ in a variety of ways. Most significantly I want to draw attention to how international relations as a scholarly discipline is so deeply engaged with war and yet seems to have an estranged relationship with it.