Marieke de Goede – Networked Danger and Speculative Security


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








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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