The category of "punitive expedition" has attracted surprisingly little analysis, possibly reflecting widespread consensus on its content and application. But how does "punishment," and especially the invariably collective punishment of a military operation, become naturalized as a colonial or imperial action? Under what conditions does that punishment take the form of an expedition and what specific events or qualities render an expedition punitive? What are punitive expeditions for? This article interrogates both the label and the idea of the punitive expedition, sketching a genealogy of usage and describing the broad outlines of the moral economy and strategic contexts for the deployment of a form of imperial violence that is fundamentally spectacular, exemplary and tutelary.
|Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
|Published - 2017