Boredom, (in)actions, wars and warriors

Younes Saramifar's picture
August 27, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Humanities, Military History, Social Sciences, Philosophy

Boredom, (In)action, War and Warriors

27 & 28 August 2020, Amsterdam

Confirmed Keynote speaker: Professor Mark Kingwell, University of Toronto 

Boredom has often been defined as idleness, slowness, doing nothing, doing something over and over again, and waiting (Smith 1981, Daren 1999, Mæland & Brunstad 2009, Bergstein 2009, Prozak 2017). These definitions suggest that boredom is an experience that does not generate meanings and ideas by itself about itself. Boredom remains constantly relevant to sociocultural and political spheres only through its opposite. It is portrayed as the empty bubble, or the vacuum of functionality that gains relevance only through what it is not. Nietzsche (1974, 108) explains, “Boredom is that disagreeable ‘windless calm’ of the soul that precedes a happy voyage and cheerful winds.” He highlights boredom only through what it comes after it. However, we would like to suggest boredom encourages and stimulates thoughts, meanings, and ideas, snapping almost ‘magically’ out of itself. In another words, boredom is the way in and out of boredom. These approaches to boredom overlook the affective quality of boredom and its political capacities, because they only locate boredom through lack, absence and nothingness. This lack, absence and nothingness largely refers to inaction and disappearance of action. We identify this implicit dichotomy of ‘action versus inaction,and addressing inaction as the absence of action as a major theoretical and analytical glitch in understanding boredom. The action/inaction dichotomy overlooks how boredom becomes political and affective through the bodies and collectives that choose to do nothing, remain inactive and slip into the split between agency and subjectivity (Protevi 2011).

By acknowledging the action/inaction dichotomy and problematizing its link with boredom, we would like to ask how militarized bodies and weaponized subjectivities actually experience inaction and boredom? How do military personnel or non state-armed actors experience, explain and utter inaction? What is the other side of inaction and boredom for them? Does inaction and boredom influence their worldviews, their combat performances, and the perceptions of violence? Finally, how do boredom and inaction produce a vision of future and post-deployment?

We invite papers that address:

  • • Boredom, inaction and violence
  • • Boredom, inaction and creative aggression
  • • Boredom, inaction and transgressive play
  • • Boredom and inaction as political affect
  • • Boredom and inaction in policing
  • • Boredom and inaction in peace and peacekeeping
  • • Boredom and inaction in combat/battlefield
  • • Post-deployment boredom and inactivity
  • • Moralities of inaction and combat
  • • Temporalities of boredom and inaction
  • • Bored bodies in/actions
  • • Religious experience of boredom and inaction

We are especially interested in papers that are empirically oriented and based in ethnographic study of military, policing, militancy, and militarized bodies. We look forward to those from anthropology, sociology, human geography, cultural studies, history, political science, and related disciplines.

The two-days workshop will open up an interdisciplinary platform to think about boredom and inaction while meeting other like-minded academics. We expect the invited participants to submit their papers (max 5000 words) in advance and the papers will be distributed to others and the discussants in order to foster further debates. 

The organizers intend to publish the accepted papers either as special issue or an edited volume. The accepted papers will be treated as drafts, which participants should revise after feedbacks from others. The revised papers will be peer reviewed. The editors will decide to accept or reject them. Those interested to present and participate should send us an abstract  of maximum 400 words along with 100 words bio note to Dr. Eva van Roekel ( and before March 30, 2020.



Dr. Younes Saramifar, Social & Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Humboldt University of Berlin

Dr. Eva van Roekel, Social & Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Contact Info: 

Dr. Eva van Roekel; Dr. Younes Saramifar

Contact Email: