University of Sussex

File(s) not publicly available

Small arms control and the reproduction of imperial relations

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 17:27 authored by Anna StavrianakisAnna Stavrianakis
Small arms feature prominently on the post-Cold War international security agenda as the common factor in a range of forms of organized violence. The dominant mode of understanding is focused on human security and the links between conflict, security and development. Yet small arms control efforts are failing to live up to their promise. In attempting to remedy this, scholars argue that small arms control requires better conceptualization and operationalization. This article engages with the conceptualization of small arms control, arguing that small arms control serves to reproduce imperial relations in a number of ways. It is characterized by four key analytical themes – the blurring of the distinction between state, non-state and civilian actors; the increasingly fuzzy line between conflict and crime; the pacific nature of development; and the desirability of a Weberian monopoly on violence – that are derived from an idealized reading of the European historical experience and applied to the contemporary South. This conceptual Eurocentrism is furthered by the exclusion of wider questions of the world military order and militarism through a geographical and technological selectivity and the absence of a single analytical frame, as well as North—South hierarchies in the institutional formation of policymaking. Overall, small arms control serves to reproduce the South as a site of benevolent Northern intervention, contributing to the mutual constitution of both.


Publication status

  • Published


Contemporary Security Policy




Taylor & Francis





Page range


Department affiliated with

  • International Relations Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Publications)


    No categories selected