Jerry White – Vengeance and the Crowd in Eighteenth-Century London

in Academic Service - Archive by on February 21st, 2011

Event Date: 21 February 2011 18:30 – 20:00
B04 Birkbeck College, Malet St
LONDON WC1E 7XH

 

Importance of Being Human

A series of lectures from the School of Social Science, History and Philosophy

SSHP Spring Public Lecture series

 

Professor Jerry White (Department of History, Classics and Archaeology) – Vengeance and the Crowd in Eighteenth-Century London

In this lecture Jerry White focuses on the eighteenth-century crowd as an agent of popular justice in opposition to the institutions of a corrupted rule of law. And he explores how, at its worst, that same crowd could be as savage and merciless as the system it sought to oppose.

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Marieke de Goede – Networked Danger and Speculative Security

in Academic Service - Archive by on February 21st, 2011

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Event Date: 21 February 2011
The River Room
King’s College London, Strand Campus
London WC2R 2LS

Problematising Danger

ESRC Seminar Series- Contemporary Biopolitical Security

 

Co-sponsored by the Biopolitics of Security Network,
and the Emerging Securities Research Unit @ Keele University


Marieke de Goede
University of Amsterdam

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Abstract

The network has arguably become the main metaphor for imagining contemporary danger. From the dispersed global terrorism threat, to the spread of (computer) viruses, to the identification of organized crime ‘hubs,’ the network is thought to pose a severe security threat because of its diffusion, unpredictability, and global reach.

This talk examines critically the discourse of networked danger and its concomitant security practices. A genealogical reading shows the network metaphor to be rooted in critical sociological theory, meaning that it now constitutes a shared vocabulary between security experts and security critics. I offer a close reading of a few exemplary critical thinkers to tease out the unlikely affinities between their conceptualisations and the vocabulary of the contemporary security apparatus.

The talk subsequently traces the appropriation of the network metaphor in contemporary security discourses, and analyses the way in which it rationalizes and underpins particular contemporary security interventions in Europe. As Martin Coward has argued, the network trope effects a substantial expansion of the battlespace and a securitization of everyday urban environments. Novel security practices premised on the network imagination include social network analysis with financial data, the continuous generation of investigative leads, and cycles of preemptive arrest. The logic of networked security interventions is a targeting of undesired social associations – simultaneously, it valuates and professes to safeguard the modern, connected, (way of) life. However, it is argued these interventions amount to a practice of speculative security – both because they are premised on the deployment of imagination and speculative investigation, and because they lead to a particularly vulnerable state of ‘security.’

The final part of the talk entertains the problem of critique: because the network has no ‘outside’ – neither spatially nor discursively – it poses a special challenge to critical scholarship. There is no external point from which to critique the network; the binary language of being ‘with us’ or ‘against us’ seems obsolete. New avenues of critique have to be entertained, that include critical reflection on our own discourses of networked danger, including the language of hubs, nodes, links and associations. They may also include a revaluation of risky association and a critical attachment to the disruption of moral order.

 

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Sam Okoth Opondo – Fearscapes / Securescapes : Urban Anxieties, Securities and the Domestic Scene

in Academic Service - Archive by on February 21st, 2011

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Event Date: 21 February 2011
The River Room
King’s College London, Strand Campus
London WC2R 2LS

Problematising Danger

ESRC Seminar Series- Contemporary Biopolitical Security

 

Co-sponsored by the Biopolitics of Security Network,
and the Emerging Securities Research Unit @ Keele University


Sam Okoth Opondo
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
opondo@hawaii.edu

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In this essay, I examine how modern politics is related to everyday cultural practices concerned with ‘dangers’ and a desire to account for what can and cannot happen within the space of the postcolonial African city. Among other things, I engage the conceptions of risk emanating from a desire to manage the contingencies that modern science and the state have failed to address. Such a treatment of urban cultures raises fundamental questions that enable us to problematize the relationship between the management of contingency and a politics of security that is attentive to domestic anxieties and their manifestation in various spheres of public life. It also foregrounds a vernacular micropolitics and the minute texture of everyday life and suggests a treatment of security that is concerned with more the official macropolitics of the postcolonial city. For example, rumours and banal profiling practices that implicitly figure the immigrant or the diseased body as a threat acquire new meaning as they are presented as part of a postcolonial fearscape/securescape. Similarly, the turn to ‘occult economies’ and healing processes aimed at enhancing lives, acquiring and securing property and relations present some useful sites for thinking about the production and management of threats to urban sociality.

In order to supply a critical perspective on the aforementioned postcolonial securescape, I summon a number of fictional, ethnographic and historical accounts of urban life that illustrate how relational techniques of the self and new subjectivities are produced as a response to these threats. As such, much of my engagement with Nairobi’s domestic spaces seeks to illustrate how discourses on danger are deployed to actively organize perceptual experience, consolidate habits and compose ethical dispositions that are central to the idea of proper urban and civic life. What is at stake here is the recognition that in an attempt to secure certain forms of urban domesticity, a variety of bodies, spaces, identities and functions are marked as a threat to ‘peaceful and developed’ city lifestyles and livelihoods and therefore subjected to policing practices and modes of surveillance that limit their circulation or the forms of ambiguity that they articulate.

Attentiveness to these vernacular aspects of urban security reveals the multiple ways in which conceptions of danger and risk in the postcolonial city exceed official security discourses. It also illustrates how statist, secular and techno-scientific modes of abstraction and standardization of threats translate or transform the constantly changing social reality into something that more closely resembles the administrative and epistemological grid familiar to official observation, calculation and policing. Generally, a more open conception of urban anxieties and threats reveals the complex network of actors concerned with the administration of ‘life’ and the multiple ways in which a ‘general problematic of improvement’ and a concern with bodies, health, subsistence and habitation operates in the city

Consider the following snapshots:

Snapshot One: The ‘war on HIV/AIDS’ has led to various interpretations of the meaning of ‘evil’, the healing or infecting potential of ‘blood’ and the resource draining capacities of the disease. In response to the threats posed by HIV/AIDS, local idioms have emerged and inserted themselves into larger global circuits and concerns suggesting forms of conversion geared towards providing moral agency and erasing the ambiguity and contingency that HIV/AIDS brings into the city life. Key among these is the salvation and healing promised through Pentecostal churches and the access to Anti-retroviral medication and material support which accrues from ‘coming out’ with ones status. Outside official sanction, we also witness a turn to occult beliefs – phenomena often associated with tradition and bucolic life – as part of the ‘organization of circulation’ of bodies [and body parts] geared towards securing health, wealth, procreation, lovers and general well being in a world that HIV/AIDS makes uncertain.

On the whole, the spread of HIV/AIDS in cities like Nairobi has been productive of significant forms of sociality, signification, enterprise and activism, both negative and positive.[] Doubtless, HIV/AIDS has redrawn the parameters of circulation, calculation and existence in the city. It has contributed to the need for a self awareness and sometimes demanded openness about ones HIV status with the announcement of CD4 T-cell counts and viral loads, the histories and networks of sexual liaisons and more recently ones sexual orientation. HIV/AIDS has been presented as a threat to intimacy as it turns ‘intimate pleasures’, forms of labour and cultural expression into ‘mortal risks’ and contributes to the profiling of high risk groups ; prostitutes, refugees, the sexualized domestic worker, long-distance truck drivers, polygamists or those trapped in ‘anachronistic’ traditional practices like wife inheritance or the lack of male circumcision. It is for these reasons that trust, fidelity, faith, conversion and knowledge of the body’s makeup, risky relations and behaviour change are presented as part of the solution to the pandemic. For, with HIV/AIDS, there is a need for care and vigilance based on the knowledge that things/people are not always what they seem to be.

Snapshot Two: Nairobi, Kenya 2008-10, the clamour for a new constitution, the desire to re-imagine the nation anew following the ethnocidal character of the 2008 post election violence. A return to ‘normalcy’ is marked by the shift of empathic concerns from a focus of encampment of refugees fleeing neighbouring states due to ‘well founded fears’ to sympathetic identification with fellow Kenyans –the Internally Displaced Persons – now living in IDP camps.

A nationwide population census shows that the Somali population in the country has increased thus illustrating the failure of the state to effectively make distinctions between citizen and refugee populations.A distinction that is predicated more on the policing of circulation of the Somali body [through encampment in designated areas and provision of movement passes] rather than through the calculation of births, mortality and the level of health or life expectancy.

The Indian Ocean piracy and the capital flows it enables emerge as a form of Somali ‘bio-piracy’. A cover that enables ‘Somali money’ and bodies to surreptitiously make their way into Eastleigh Nairobi where they are laundered and authenticated through the purchase of real estate and national identification cards thus changing the demographic, proprietary and racial-spatial character of the city.

These anxieties about Kenyaness, about an Islamic threat to city and family space is inter-articulated with other anxieties about the politics of life itself. On one hand, aspirational Nairobians express an anxiety about the prospect of home ownership in a city with ever increasing property prices.On the other hand, Pentecostal Christians provide a reading of city and national space that discerns a Muslim [read Somali,Gulf states and Libyans] plot to buy up the city and create an Islamic space that will pave the way for a legal order that is more sympathetic to their concerns. A further desire to determine the politics of life itself, is articulated through the clamour for unambiguous sexualities and a ‘pro-life’ abortion debate that focuses on when life begins and under what conditions it can be terminated and by who.

From the above, it is evident that security is always directed towards the securing of a referent object that is problematised through different discourses on danger-through the formation of fearscapes and securecapes. Whether it is a health concern ,an existential anxiety or the question of foreign bodies, we cannot merely focus our analysis of these dangers as problematic in the given society , but must examine how the formation and articulation of the ‘body politic’ is also implicated in how we understand danger. That is, any treatment of the explosion of discursive interest in the politics of life itself must engage the ontological predicates and epistemologies associated with the securing of life that do not fall within the register of rational surveillance, calculative practices, secular profiling of individuals and collectivities. Thus, a concern with the problematization of danger in the postcolonal city indexes a more complex concern with how one cares for the self as a means of averting risks and threats emerging from lifestyles and forms of ‘circulation’ that exceed neo-liberal normative trends and contemporary biopolitical practices. It invites us to take seriously the numerous modes of meaning making and disambiguation that seek to render the future knowable through the management of circulation, calculation and optimization of life both within and outside of western rationality.

 

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Debbie Lisle – Danger’s Other: Pleasure, Leisure & Travel

in Academic Service - Archive by on February 21st, 2011

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Event Date: 21 February 2011
The River Room
King’s College London, Strand Campus
London WC2R 2LS

Problematising Danger

ESRC Seminar Series- Contemporary Biopolitical Security

 

Co-sponsored by the Biopolitics of Security Network,
and the Emerging Securities Research Unit @ Keele University


Debbie Lisle
D.Lisle@qub.ac.uk

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Is it possible to think security by referring ideas of danger to understandings of life, livelihoods and lifestyles, instead of ready-made ‘objects’ of security such as sovereignty, territory, the nation-state, citizens, borders, and sociological categories such as class and gender?

When security is framed through constituent objects, the first critical move is to work out how danger constitutes itself, and is constituted, over and against its opposite. For me, some of the key forces that danger constructs itself against are not ‘safety’ or even ‘security’, but rather the ‘life, livelihoods and lifestyles’ that emerge around pleasure, leisure and travel. One way to work out this oppositional logic is to trace how, since the events of 9/11 (and more specifically the bombings of hotels, bars, and nightclubs in Bali and Mombasa in October / November 2002), the tourism and leisure industry as a whole has become a strategic ‘object’ of security that needs to be protected from the dangers of terrorism. Governments, policy-makers, media commentators and scholars in Tourism and Hospitality Studies have used the emerging rhetoric of ‘soft targets’ to make sense of how seemingly benign places like hotels and tourist attractions are now on the front line of the War on Terror. Tourism and leisure’s vast labour force, its wealth generation, its cultural capital, its advertising and marketing campaigns, its increasingly comprehensive insurance arrangements, its ever-regenerating fantasy landscapes, and most importantly, its material infrastructure, have all become objects of utility that can be calculated. These objects are accorded monetary value in terms of how much it will cost to protect the tourism and leisure industries from terrorist attacks (e.g. the hastily arranged flights home for tourists in Egypt January 2011), and how much potential revenue will be lost if the industry is attacked (e.g. American airline reservations and hotel occupancy dropped 50% after 9/11). Such calculations opened up the tourism industry to all kinds of invasive techniques and practices of security, surveillance and monitoring all in the name of protecting holiday makers and valuable tourism infrastructure from terrorism. The notion here is that if the securitizing process is successful, it will restore more robust and protected circuits of travel, cultural exchange and commerce all over the world, allow tourists to start travelling again, and allow the tourism industry – the world’s biggest – to start generating revenue again. What this suggests is that the rhetoric of soft targets helped, in part, to resolve the security / freedom contradiction that emerged after 9/11: it allowed people to keep travelling for business and pleasure, but it ensured that those travellers and their hosts were safe within the security envelope of the Coalition of the Willing.

There are, of course, further implications of an approach that traces the oppositional framing of danger / pleasure and reveals the manner in which travel, tourism, and leisure come to be taken as objects of security. For example, there is a powerful geopolitical imaginary at work here which positions those who value travel and cultural exchange squarely within the liberal moment – they are members of a diverse, global, cosmopolitan community that is committed to fighting radical Islamic terrorists who, apparently, do not value travel and cultural exchange in the same way. After the events of Bali and Mombasa especially, governments, media commentators and scholars in Tourism and Media Studies reproduced this geopolitical imaginary uncritically, which led to claims that (a) terrorists have a ‘Medieval’ mindset whereas we are ‘Modern’ (ignoring the clear Orientalist and racist implications of such a logic) and (b) Western tourists are entirely innocent victims of terrorism (ignoring that tourism is complicit in many forms of cultural imperialism and exploitation)

This kind of genealogical tracing of the opposition between danger / pleasure is a necessary move, but it is not sufficient. Too often it remains a static framing (both in space and in time) that lifts practices of tourism and leisure out of the realm of the political. I want to argue that danger’s relationship with pleasure, leisure and travel is, and has always been, a much more complex and entangled affair. Indeed, to think about danger outside of dominant discourses of security and risk requires us to move on from tracing static oppositional logics as if the assemblage of hierarchies and asymmetries never moves. What we need to think about is how oppositional logics such as danger / pleasure operate relationally; that is, how danger has always been juxtaposed with pleasure, leisure and travel in ways that do not necessarily or always privilege the urgency and drama of danger.

Thinking relationally requires an additional and rather difficult re-imagination: it requires us to think of oppositional logics such as danger / pleasure in terms of their constant mobility, circulation, adaptability and transformation. This suggests that the juxtaposition of danger with pleasure, leisure and travel is constantly mutating and reforming. Certainly there are times when it coalesces into a recognizable asymmetry that must be revealed and resisted (e.g. the War on Terror’s securitization of the leisure and tourism industry). But there are many other moments in which these two forces circulate, mutate, reverse and infect one another such that their constituent subjectivities and power relations are reassembled. To start thinking about how these mutations occur, we need to start not with oppositions, but rather with the juxtapositions of danger / pleasure, leisure, travel:

Experiences of pleasure, leisure and travel in martial contexts (e.g. a soldier’s thrill at killing enemies; the voyeurism of watching war and playing war games; the leisure infrastructures accompanying force deployment; the travel opportunities afforded by active service and R&R)

War’s mobilization of existing leisure and travel infrastructure (e.g. troop requisitioning of hotels; soccer stadia used for mass killings; hotels used for detention and deportation)

Leisure and tourism experiences that seek out danger (e.g. journeys to war zones immediately post-conflict by journalists, artists, amateur war reporters) or take conflict and war as their object (e.g. battlefield tourism; War tours; museum commemorations of war; war re-enactments).

 

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Jonas Hagmann – Risk registers and the measurement of everything: Security scientism and the reassertion of modernism

in Academic Service - Archive by on February 21st, 2011

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Event Date: 21 February 2011
The River Room
King’s College London, Strand Campus
London WC2R 2LS

Problematising Danger

ESRC Seminar Series- Contemporary Biopolitical Security

 

Co-sponsored by the Biopolitics of Security Network,
and the Emerging Securities Research Unit @ Keele University


Jonas Hagmann
ETH Zurich

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1. In the early 2000s, the production of national risk registers emerged as a novel element of Western security practice. National risk registers aim to assess, locate, compare, and rank all kinds of possible public dangers, ranging from natural hazards to industrial risks and political contingencies. With their thematic breadth and systematic approach, risk registers are unparalleled attempts at comprehensive and secure construction of danger knowledge.

2. Risk registers are directly linked to national security strategies, for which they formally set out central knowledge bases. The assembly of risk registers is also popular: Risk registers have already been produced in Germany, in the Netherlands, in Norway, in Switzerland (twice), and in the United Kingdom, while other countries, but also the European Commission and the US Department of Homeland Defense plan on constructing danger inventories.

3. Risk registers are coming to occupy central places in the production of danger knowledge in Western countries. By laying out comprehensive maps of public dangers, risk registers define national danger realities, and in doing so instruct Western security practice both directly and indirectly. Nevertheless, the actual rationales and methodologies guiding risk register production remain largely intransparent: How do risk registers determine dangers? How do they define dangerousness, and which endangered objects are identified?

4. The assembly of national risk registers follows a peculiar syllogism. First, it is asserted that the national security dispositif must be made more efficient and effective as a whole. Second, it is argued that for such reform to be successful, full danger/situation awareness is necessary. Third, it is suggested that danger awareness can be achieved through comprehensive risk assessments, i.e., calculations of the likelihood and impact of danger.

5. This syllogism is politically efficacious. At a higher level, it moves security politics away from grand political determinations of danger towards technical assessments of object vulnerabilities. Effectively, the focus no longer rests on the actual sources of danger, but on the ‘endangered’ status of objects as it is conditioned by that object itself. Rather than focusing on the causes of danger, the primary focus of security policy comes to rest on the inherent strength and resilience of objects, whether they be technical infrastructures, elements crucial for the functioning of the economy, or political structures. This larger shift affects how security policy is organised more practically: a. First, the shift entails a bureaucratization of security policy. The determination as to what is a danger is made not so much by presidents or prime ministers in grand statements, but by civil servants or specialists working for public administrations. In risk registers, engineers determine the vulnerability of infrastructures to flooding and rockslides, physicists determine the technical redundancy of power grids, and doctors assess and determine how dangerous a pathogen is. b. Second, the formulation of dangerousness becomes object-centric. It is not the subject of danger, but the potentially endangered object that lies at the heart of political action. The focus is not on the terrorist, but on mitigating the blast effects of a potential bomb. The focus is not on the polluting company, but on the mitigation of environmentally adverse effects on the human body. Such a focus on objects dispenses with an analysis of the actors responsible in creating dangers. c. Third, risk registers empower a managerial security agenda, and they project a state of permanent public insecurity: Risks are not evaluated in terms of whether they exist or not – they are assumed to exist and merely differentiated according to likelihood and impact. With this, security politics becomes a matter of simply managing an existing situation. Everything is aimed at prevention and object-hardening in what is considered to be a perpetually insecure risk context that constantly remains in a state of potentiality. d. Fourth, the focus on vulnerabilities, and the absence of grand identifications of enemies, empowers administrative decisions about the referent object. What is held to be vulnerable – and thus also judged to have legitimate claims to protection – follows from the risk maps drawn by engineers and civil protection experts. There is no conscious political agenda that posits, for instance, that the general population or individual human beings should be the primary referent objects of security – a decision that has obvious disempowering consequences for such actors. e. Fifth, the mapping of dangers as established by risk registers relies on, and also projects, scientist sources of danger knowledge. By employing scientific and scientist assessment methodologies – from engineering in particular, but also by drawing on expert validation systems more generally -, risk registers draw their authority from ‘science’, i.e., the notion of science as objective arbiter of truth. In doing so, risk registers effectively advance science as an authoritative and supreme source of knowledge about danger, rivalling both grand political and democratic, participatory sources of danger determination.

6. The emergence of risk registers is a remarkable novel element of Western security practice. Risk registers not only provide comprehensive systematizations of public danger. They also advance a managerial, vulnerability- and object-centred security agenda that draws its legitimacy from efficiency concerns and scientist inquiry.

7. This shift not only challenges more subject-centred and reflexive security agendas. It also challenges established research foci and critical security scholarship: Risk registers suggest that the production of danger knowledge largely resides within public administrations rather than with the declarations of presidents and prime ministers. Also, risk registers direct attention towards the mobilization of science as source of truth in security affairs, as opposed to other forms of influence and/or capital and processes of convincing. Last, but not least – whether we like it or not -, the popularity of managerial risk registers also challenges the political impact of reflexive security studies on government practice.

 

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Christopher Zebrowski – Falling-out: Examining the problematising capacities of danger

in Academic Service - Archive by on February 21st, 2011

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Event Date: 21 February 2011
The River Room
King’s College London, Strand Campus
London WC2R 2LS

Problematising Danger

ESRC Seminar Series- Contemporary Biopolitical Security

 

Co-sponsored by the Biopolitics of Security Network,
and the Emerging Securities Research Unit @ Keele University


Chris Zebrowski
Keele University

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The contamination of the crew of the Japanese fishing vessel the Lucky Dragon brought worldwide media attention to what were intended to be secret American H-bomb tests conducted in the Bikini Atoll in March 1954. It also announced, in spectacular fashion, the emergence of the threat of fallout: radioactive dust kicked up by the blast of thermonuclear weaponry and spread by the vicissitudes of the wind. Historians have located the advent of thermonuclear weaponry as a turning point in British logics of Civil Defence (Cf. Grant, 2010, Hennessy, 2010), which had until then maintained a common trajectory from the Second World War. While historians have centred attention on the massive amplification in blast power offered by the H-bomb (no doubt because the blast itself would be directly and indirectly responsible for the majority of casualties), my research into this area has focused on the ‘discovery’ of fallout in problematising British civil defence thinking. In my intervention I would like to move beyond the distinction between risks and threats and focus specifically on the event of fallout’s ‘discovery’ and, specifically, its capacity to problematise sufficiently stabilized and technologized logics of civil defence.

From the Second World War British Civil Defence was guided by the allied priorities of protecting the British population and maintaining UK war-fighting capabilities. Over the course of the war, a Civil Defence apparatus originally designed for strike-breaking purposes was ameliorated through application of the emerging science of Operational Research (OR) within the Civil Defence and Research Committee. Research focused on the effects of high explosives on both the body and the material infrastructures of the city. Research was particularly influenced by the controlled experiments of Solly Zuckerman, a primatologist, on direct and indirect effects of ‘blast’ on lab animals (Cf. Zuckerman, 1978, Zuckerman, 1941, Zuckerman, 1940) which would be used to inform both Civil Defence and, in later years, Allied strategic bombing campaigns. Adey (2010: 155-61) suggests these studies “had important consequences for understanding the process of aerial bombing, scientifically perpetuating the analogic and affective amplifications of morale and panic through the trope of the explosion and the body’s susceptibility to indirect environmental effects” (Adey, 2010: 159). A strong understanding of the material and affective effects of blast were reflected in the bunker logic of Civil Defence: the prophylactic securitization of material bodies which underpinned the broader objective of protecting the collective national psyche from fear.

This bunker logic would continue to inform Civil Defence thinking from the Second World War until 1955 despite the advance of weaponry including the advent of the atomic bomb. This can be explained, I believe, by the extent to which each of these advances could be conceptualized by operational researchers as simply representing an amplification in blast-power: something which was already well-understood, and could be responded to by simply by ‘scaling-up’ existing metrics (Cf. Smith, 2009). Fallout however could not be sufficiently absorbed into these metrics. This was made clear within the 1955 ‘Strath Report’, officially titled The Defence Implications of Fall-out from a Hydrogen Bomb. In contrast to the direct blow to the materiality of the body perpetrated by blast, fallout threatened to poison the environmental milieu in which biological life subsists. It was a threat which integrated with the multiple flows comprising the atmosphere to spread its deadly effects over a wide geographic area—an instance of what Peter Sloterdijk (2009) would term ‘atmoterrorism’. Contaminated agriculture and livestock would be unusable for a minimum of two months whilst contamination would ‘immobilize considerable areas of the country and force inhabitants to cover for some days and in certain areas for a week or more.’  Rather than attempting to target the circulatory infrastructures directly as in doctrines of strategic bombing, fallout would arrest these circulations through the poisoning of the environmental milieu itself. Strategic studies suggested that the condensed geography of the UK meant that as few as 10 ten-megaton bombs, strategically placed on the Western seaboard and ground-detonated to maximize fallout, would ensure “no part of the country would be free from the risk of radio-active contamination.”[ Ibid.]

While blast and fire were expected to claim many more lives—estimated at 3 deaths to every 1 caused by radiation—it is the advent of fallout which appears to have initiated a fundamental reorganization of British Civil Defence. Focusing specifically on the ‘problematic potential’ of fallout, I’ve been tempted to place a greater emphasis on the epistemological insecurity—or uncertainty—related to fallout, than its capacity to highlight vulnerabilities within a civil defence apparatus designed to protect against blast. Specifically, I’m interested in the way in which the danger of fallout was amplified to the extent that it exceeded a stabilized framework of intelligibility for understanding, and thus controlling, threat based on calculative metrics of assessing blast. In thinking about this issue, I’ve been influenced by Foucault’s thinking on problematisation as an event which inspires (reflective) thought on a practice which has been technologized (reduced to instrumental knowledge, know-how, or savoir-faire). I’d also be interested in exploring with the audience similarities between Foucault’s notion of panic, and contemporary thinking on trauma within discourses of PTSD, which similarly stress the significance of an event which exceeds the subjects framework of intelligibility.

 

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Lisa Stampnitzky – Constituting terrorism: three attempts at rational governance

in Academic Service - Archive by on February 21st, 2011

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Event Date: 21 February 2011
The River Room
King’s College London, Strand Campus
London WC2R 2LS

Problematising Danger

ESRC Seminar Series- Contemporary Biopolitical Security

 

Co-sponsored by the Biopolitics of Security Network,
and the Emerging Securities Research Unit @ Keele University


Lisa Stampnitzky
Institute for Science, Innovation, and Society, University of Oxford
Lisa.stampnitzky@sbs.ox.ac.uk

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This intervention identifies three rationalities through which early terrorism experts attempted to constitute terrorism as a particular sort of governable problem, each of these not only implied a different understanding of terrorism as a problem, but also enabled to a different mode of governmentality, or set of practices through which the problem might be managed. The earliest U.S. response to terrorism envisioned international law as one of the primary methods forgoverning terrorism, reflecting the State Department’s primary role, which saw this as an issue tobe handled through diplomatic channels, and indeed, to a certain extent a problem aimed primarily at diplomats. A second approach focused upon developing practical strategies for managing and responding to terrorist events (particularly hijackings, kidnappings, and hostage situations) through routinized event management responses developed through fantasy scenarios.

By developing planned, routine, responses for various potentialities, experts and policymakers sought to tame the frightening and seemingly unpredictable terrorist event. Where the legal approach sought to manage terrorism at the level of the international world-system through legal regulations and treaties, the operational approach focused upon managing terrorism at the level of the incident. A third approach sought to rationalize terrorism and make it subject to techniques of risk management, largely through the creation of terrorism event databases. The production of such chronologies, in which counts of terrorist events and deaths/casualties are plotted over time, and databases, in which events are correlated with characteristics of perpetrators, victims, and methods of attack, aimed to make terrorism subject to calculable technologies of risk management such as insurance. However, as the problem of “terrorism” took shape over the course of the 1970s, however, it resisted such rationalizing logics, and no one of these approaches was able to successfully “capture” the management of the terrorism problem.

Terrorism thus remained a difficult problem, unable to be subsumed under prevailing logics of risk management.

 

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Cerelia Athanassiou- Changing the Global War on Terror: Who is the ‘Ready’ Citizen Arming Against?

in Academic Service - Archive by on February 21st, 2011

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Event Date: 21 February 2011
The River Room
King’s College London, Strand Campus
London WC2R 2LS

Problematising Danger

ESRC Seminar Series- Contemporary Biopolitical Security

 

Co-sponsored by the Biopolitics of Security Network,
and the Emerging Securities Research Unit @ Keele University


Cerelia Athanassiou
University of Bristol
cerelia.athanassiou@bristol.ac.uk

Obama’s US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has declared a determined move against the Global War on Terror’s (GWOT) ‘culture of fear’ towards a more reasoned, and ‘ready’, ‘culture of preparedness’ (Napolitano 2009). Yet, despite this commitment by the Obama administration to ‘de-securitise’ (Waever 1995) US responses to terrorism, understandings of threat and security remain similar to those articulated by Bush’s GWOT. Obama’s efforts to privilege calm over constant heightened security, and to equate the category of ‘terrorist’ with that of ‘criminal’ (rather than ‘war criminal’), are happening while a fearful population is being trained within a framework of war. Among the instruments of the DHS’s ‘Ready’ campaign is a newly mobilised citizenry, trained to detect, report and, if necessary, tackle individuals suspected of ‘terrorism’. These model citizens are supported in their efforts by resources such as the DHS website, which is becoming increasingly userfriendly and contains multiple sections dedicated to informing, and training, concerned citizens about the terrorist threat.1 These are all resources very much embedded in the tabloid framework of US politics (Debrix 2008), and are part of the Obama strategy of ‘change’. In this paper, I look at the DHS’s ‘Preparedness’ website section and the online resources it makes available for concerned citizens, like the YouTube video ad ‘The 8 Signs of Terrorism’2 and webinars on ‘preparedness’. The aim is to understand how the subject position of the American ‘us’ versus the terrorist ‘other’ is changing, if at all, from its previous articulations, by looking at the intertextualities with previous definitions and understandings of security, threat and danger.

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Andrew Neal – The Entropy of Dangerousness

in Academic Service - Archive by on February 21st, 2011

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Event Date: 21 February 2011
The River Room
King’s College London, Strand Campus
London WC2R 2LS

Problematising Danger

ESRC Seminar Series- Contemporary Biopolitical Security

 

Co-sponsored by the Biopolitics of Security Network,
and the Emerging Securities Research Unit @ Keele University


Andrew Neal
University of Edinburgh

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My current work:

  • analysing counter-terrorism lawmaking in Parliament
  • from publication of Lord Lloyd’s ‘Inquiry into terrorism legislation’ in 1996 to present day.
  • by taking a longer view, trying to look beyond the core themes of security debates in the last decade:
    1. Temporal moment/rupture
    2. Sovereign exceptionalism/executive decisionism
    3. Binaries (e.g. norm/exception, before/after)
  • Questions: 
    • What happens to exceptionalism and emergencies over time?
    • What is their lifespan?
    • What does security look like from a lawmaking perspective, rather than an ‘exception to law’ perspective?
    • What does security look like from a parliamentary perspective, rather than a sovereign/executive perspective only?
    • What does security look like from a parliamentary perspective, rather than a governmentality perspective?
    • What does normalisation look like and how does it work?

Parliament occupies a very interesting position

  • in some ways an arcane power
  • very limited/weak in policy terms
  • very limited/weak in relation to ever expanding executive
  • very limited/weak in relation to ever expanding technologies of governmentality beyond the traditional institutions of government
  • following Ben Golder and Peter Fitzpatrick’s recent rereading of Foucault in relation to law
    • ‘expulsion thesis’ of established interpretations: 
      • governmentality supplants sovereign and juridical powers of law
      • the power of the law is repressive, limited, negative, monotonous, the pure statement of power (History of Sexuality)
      • corresponds to experience of parliamentary counter-terrorism lawmaking
      • repetitive, symbolic, monotonous, repressive, written
    • but, law presents an excess, it opens up unexpected possibilities, it is constitutive of powers of governmentality, it exceeds the intentions of the those who use it, it is ‘dangerous’ 
      • corresponds to problem of CT law for parliamentarians
      • immense political and social pressure to make new laws in response to security events
      • but the big problem for parliamentarians is that they don’t know the consequences of their actions
      • how will the laws be used?
      • Will new police powers be misused?
      • Will new definitions of terrorism bring protestors or liberation movements into their remit?
      • Will the mistakes of the past be repeated?
      • The history of CT legislation shows that despite executive assurances, all the fears of parliamentarians have come to pass.

Danger’

  • Not a commonly found term in the parliamentary debates
  • Actually not a great discussion of the nature of the threat, dangerous individuals, dangerous forms of life 
    • Much of this is assumed as obvious in the wake of events like 9/11 and 7/7
    • Much of this discussion depends on expert knowledge from the security establishment, since parliamentarians have little of way of contesting this 
      • (lack of symbolic capital on security due to lack of access to intelligence and constitutional convention of deference to executive on security)
    • What are the ‘dangers’ for parliamentarians?
      • The dangers of the laws they are being asked to give assent to: 
        • What will their effect be?
        • Danger of negative/counter-productive consequences of certain powers: 
          1. recruiting sergeant argument
          2. alienates community that is most important source of intelligence
          • E.g. extending pre-charge detention presents the danger of making Britain less safe in two ways (David Davis as shadow home secretary in 2008):
      • Dangers of repeating the mistakes of the past: 
        • Some Northern Ireland MPs and MPs with constituents who were ‘suspect’ communities 
          • Counter-terrorism laws used to terrorise communities
          • Some argue that they were needed, others argue that they were not effective
          • Peace came from political solution and de-escalation of these powers
      • Future dangers of threats
        • But once away from the immediate focus in the wake of terrorist attacks, these future dangers become hypothetical
        • Entropy of dangerousness – when time passes from spectacular event, political effect of emergency becomes much weaker
        • Hypothetical discourse of danger very divisive and highly contested in parliament, not persuasive
          • Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008
          • E.g. discussion of powers needed for three 9/11s in future – not credible
          • Impossible to quantify what powers might be needed, impossible to quantify any lack in current powers
          • Some security professionals asking for more powers (some police), others happy with current powers (Crown Prosecution Service)
      • Danger to constitution of Britain itself 
        • Threat to magna carter, British liberties, relationship of individual to the state, of ‘giving the terrorists a victory’

Interesting findings:

  • in the wake of terrorist attacks, parliament has a long history of legislating in a knee-jerk way (rushed, reactive, repetitious)
  • laws often proved to be problematic/unworkable
    • e.g. 1998 post-Omagh legislation (Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Security) Act 1998)
    • widely recognised in reflexive discourses of parliamentarians and commentators
      • ‘this is what we do, let’s not do it this time’
    • exceptional events promp exceptional response (almost unfailingly)
      • consensus to act, consensus on threat
    • but also, strong parliamentary principle
      • ‘exceptional laws require exceptional scrutiny’ 
        • as soon as exceptionality enters the legislative discourse, parliament demands special scrutiny, limits, restrictions 
          • e.g. sunset clauses
          • annual review
          • special independent reviewer (Lord Carlile until recently, but a long tradition)
          • annual debate/parliamentary renewal
        • can be very critical of these 
          • 1974 Prevention of Terrorism Act meant to be temporary for six months, but was debated and renewed every year for 25 years.
          • One MP – ‘a sham’
        • special scrutiny/oversight measures didn’t stop legislative excess, but did win significant concessions.
        • Clive Walker – given weakness of parliament in British constitution, least we can hope for.
    • But, when the exception/emergency has faded, there are also periods/acts of normalisation 
      • Terrorism Act 2000 
        • In context of peace in N. Ireland
        • Consolidating/modernising previous laws
      • Interesting parallels with current review of CT laws/powers by new government
      • When the new laws are not introduced as exceptional/emergency laws, the parliamentary response is much weaker. 
        • When the aim is normalisation, not exceptionalism, parliament does not dig its heels in for exceptional scrutiny.
        • Allows what was previously exceptional to become normalized
          • Some reductions in powers, but also making permanent of others.
          • Removal of scrutiny mechanisms.
          • True in 2000 and 2011.
          • Terrorism Act 2000 broad and sweeping, still causing problems today (e.g. stop and search)
      • Arguably, normalisation is more ‘dangerous’ than exceptionalism, in terms of civil liberties, change to constitution of UK, in terms of normalizing assumptions of dangerousness of ‘suspect’ groups (including protestors, e.g.)

 

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David Chandler – The Ontology of Danger:Recasting the Human Subject in Discourses of Vulnerability and Resilience

in Academic Service - Archive by on February 21st, 2011

__________________________________

Event Date: 21 February 2011
The River Room
King’s College London, Strand Campus
London WC2R 2LS

Problematising Danger

ESRC Seminar Series- Contemporary Biopolitical Security

 

Co-sponsored by the Biopolitics of Security Network,
and the Emerging Securities Research Unit @ Keele University


David Chandler
University of Westminster

This paper explores how danger has acquired an ontological status taken as a starting assumption in discourses of global insecurity, particularly at the interventionist nexus of policy-making in relation to state failure, conflict and underdevelopment. The key point it makes is that framings of human rationality are held to make us dangerous subjects – permanently subjected to danger – with the solution to vulnerability being the universalising of preventive intervention with the goal of the empowerment and capacity- or capability-building of the subject to enable resilience to, in and through danger. Modern liberal rationality is constructed as making us vulnerable through the hubris of universalizing, linear, teleological views of progress – and the policy interventions reflective of this. Equally, pre-modern frameworks of rationality, reproduced through the path-dependencies of social orders, are held to make us vulnerable through their role in the reproduction of power relations in states making the transition to liberal modernity. In both cases the rationalities of power and knowledge are held to perpetuate danger reproducing both the frailties and vulnerabilities of peoples and ecosystems. The dominant policy-solution of the empowerment, voice and capability-building of those marginalised from power is held to enable social resilience and the management of vulnerabilities. This perspective which accords danger with grounding ontological status is critically engaged with here, through the work of AmartyaSen, new-institutionalist economics and Foucault’s birth of biopolitics, suggesting that the discourse of vulnerability, empowerment and resilience can easily rationalise the status quo and reinterpret social, economic and political problems in therapeutic frameworks, problematically suggesting that work on the self can resolve problems in the absence of any transformation of social relations.

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