Security is a powerful yet elusive concept. For generations of political thinkers, security has been understood as the supreme concept: the most vital of interests, the precondition for liberty, and the foundation stone of government, society and civilization itself. Especially in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, powerful (in)securitization processes have emerged, spurred on by the multi-billion dollar global security industry. Applied and academic security studies have mushroomed, often extending out from a Cold War lineage and often drawing explicit connections to a western intellectual ‘heritage’. In short, we must analyse the rise of (in)securitization processes and technologies together with the conditions for their possibility; we must also look not just at process and interventions but also to the political and ideological ways through which security is naturalized.
Today, security is everywhere – it is the leitmotif of the contemporary moment. Anthropology has much to say. This network of scholars will advance Social Anthropology’s contribution to the study of security by focussing especially on anthropological and ethnographic contributions to topics such as those listed below.
- Asylum seekers, refugees, undocumented and other migrants as objects of (in)securitization
- Surveillance, CCTV, policing, identification
- Borders, international relations, human security
- Security policy making and expertise
- Governmentality, biopower, the ban-opticon
- Security industry and new technologies
- Uncertainty, risk, insecurity, and new threats such as bio-security and environmental displacement
- Critical anthropological, forensic and evolutionary discussions of security
- Crime and terrorism, policing and counter-terrorism
Concept work and research practices
We are interested inunderstanding the uncertain dangers that are problematized today, the risks, precautions, calculations and preparations that are embedded in today’s processes of (in)securitization, and the actual interventions and diverse modes of subjectification that arise.
These days, ethnography is an increasingly popular ‘methodology’ in the world of security. Ethnography is often configured as a ‘ride-along’ method, a new boots-on-the-ground form of research. However, anthropological perspectives are still lacking, especially perspectives that call critical attention to ethics, processes of subjectification, transnational assemblages, (non)local experiences, and the styles of reasoning that are characteristic of transversal forms of ‘expertise’. Anthropological perspectives are important, but we must also seek to understand the form and situatedness of those perspectives and the available horizons on which they are levelled. Beyond narrow-gauge discussions of methodology, we must begin to consider the range of conceptual tools that are necessary and the range of conceptual work that should be undertaken.
Maguire, M., Frois, C. And Zurawski, N. (eds). 2014. The Anthropology of Security: Perspectives from the Frontline of Policing, Counter-terrorism and Border Control. London: Pluto Books.
Catarina Frois (Institute of Social Sciences – University of Lisbon, Portugal)
Nils Zurawski (Institute of Cultural Anthropology, University of Hamburg, Germany)
Mark Maguire (National University of Ireland Maynooth, Ireland)
For further information or to join the network please contact catarina.frois(at)netcabo.pt.