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Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror

Bruce Holsinger

Far from an unfortunate cliché, medievalism has become a dominant paradigm for comprehending the identity and motivations of America’s perceived enemy in the War on Terror. Yet as Bruce Holsinger argues here, this cloying post-9/11 rhetoric has served to obscure the more intricate ideological machinations of neomedievalism, the global idiom of the non-state actor: NGOs, transnational corporate militias, and terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and al Qaeda. While International Relations theorists promote neomedievalism as a model for understanding emergent modes of global sovereignty, neoconservatives exploit its conceptual slipperiness for tactical ends. Holsinger concludes with a careful parsing of the Bush administration’s Torture Memos, which enlist neomedievalism’s model of feudal sovereignty toward the abrogation of human rights.

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