The Challenge of Unintelligible Life

Critical Security Studies’ Failure to Account for Violence Against Queer People


  • Alexander Stoffel London School of Economics and Political Science



biopower, critical security studies, disciplinary power, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Queer theory, subjectivity, unintelligibility, violence


This article grapples with the inability of Critical Security Studies (CSS) to see and account for violence against queer people. It locates the absence of theorizing on anti-queer violence within existing critical security approaches in the failure to apprehend them as intelligible subjects or livable lives. It demonstrates these theoretical limitations through an exploration of Foucauldian frameworks within CSS, which inform dominant approaches to understanding violence. It also argues that the inability of CSS to account for anti-queer violence can be traced back to the presumption of an intelligible subject of violence on which any theoretical framework necessarily relies. The impossibility to account for anti-queer violence, due to the very nature of ‘queerness’, provides fruitful avenues for thought within CSS. This article therefore is a call for critical security scholars to take the challenge of unintelligible life seriously.

Author Biography

Alexander Stoffel, London School of Economics and Political Science

Alexander Stoffel, 22, from Zurich (Switzerland), is a postgraduate student who received his Bachelor’s Degree in History and Politics from the University of Oxford in 2017. He is currently enrolled in an Master’s Program in International Relations Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he is working on his dissertation on resistance and radicality in poststructuralist IR theory. His interests include critical war/security studies, continental philosophy, gender and queer theory, and resistance in world politics.




How to Cite

Stoffel, A. (2018). The Challenge of Unintelligible Life: Critical Security Studies’ Failure to Account for Violence Against Queer People. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science, 38, 48–63.



Research articles