Doing and mediating critique: An invitation to practice companionship

Jonathan Luke Austin, Rocco Bellanova & Mareile Kaufmann (2019)

Security Dialogue, 50(1), pp. 3-19

Abstract. “What does it mean to study security from a critical perspective? This question continues to haunt critical security studies. Conversations about normative stances, political engagement, and the role of critique are mainstays of the discipline. This article argues that these conversations tend to revolve around a too disembodied image of research, where the everyday practice of researchers is sidelined. But researchers do do research: they work materially, socially, and cognitively. They mediate between various feedback loops or fields of critique. In doing so, they actively build and exercise critique. Recognizing that fact, this article resists growing suggestions to abandon critique by, first, returning to the practice of critique through the notion of companionship. This permits us to reinvigorate our attention to the objects, persons, and phenomena through which critique gains inspiration and purpose, and that literally accompany our relationship to critique. Second, we explore what happens when our companions disagree, when critique faces controversies and (a) symmetries. Here, we support research designs of tracing credibility and establishing symmetries in order to move away from critique as denouncing positions we disagree with. Third, we discuss the relation between companionship, critique, reflexivity, and style. Here, the rhetorical practices of critical inquiry are laid out, and possibilities for its articulation in different and less silencing voices are proposed.”

Keywords: companionship, critique, practice, reflexivity, style, symmetry

Link to the review