EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Bodies of evidence, experts, and intimacy in the anthropology of security (EASA Anthropology of Security Network)

Location A-222
Date and Start Time 01 August, 2014 at 09:00


Nils Zurawski (Universität Hamburg) email
Catarina Frois (Centre for Research in Anthropology) email
Mark Maguire (Maynooth University) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel, organized by the EASA Anthropology of Security Network, aims to explore contemporary (in)securitization by focusing on bodies of evidence, how the human body is used as evidence, the experts who construct evidence and the capacities for compassion and empathy in security settings.

Long Abstract

The contemporary moment is marked by amplified efforts to make the human body visible, readable and intelligible. Security is an important and troubling nexus of innovation. From biometrics to biosensors and forensics to affective computing, today we see many expert-led 'solutions' to security threats in the near future, all found in the shifting ground between police, counter-terrorism, the military, private corporations; internal and external political security; surveillance, bureaucracy, and new ways of knowing and governing individuals and populations. When studying contemporary security-scapes anthropologists, then, confront bodies of evidence, experts and capacities for compassion and empathy.

• Policing - from community-based policing to force, outsourcing and technological transformations

• Security as surveillance - from 'big data' to CCTVs, and from digital bodies to governmental knowledge of populations

• Experts and evidence - how do security experts recognize, manage and make use of bodies of evidence?

• Military knowledge and evidence - in what ways are transformations in the military also transformations in knowledge and evidence

• Health, Welfare and security - from social security to evidence in humanitarian governance and the coupling of medical and security reasoning

• Forensics - the body constituted as evidence

• Tortured Bodies - the body in asylum; truth and the body

• Empathy and compassion - questions of ethics in security; the implications of distance in security apparatuses; the capacities that experts and other have for empathy and compassion; the unruly bodies that refuse to be 'evidence'

• Intimacy - the body, person and self, its ownership; the mediation of the body

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


"We are people; we are parents; we have values": law, ethics, and an undercover police surveillance team

Author: Gregory Feldman (Simon Fraser University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how an undercover surveillance team in a southern EU member state makes measured ethical decisions when violating the law to obtain evidence against suspected human traffickers. Agamben’s “state of exception” and Arendt’s “space of appearance” explain this odd situation.

Long Abstract

When investigating cases of human trafficking, border police teams must gather evidence against suspected criminals. However, the legal means of obtaining that evidence are often restrictive. This places a police team in an ethical quandary. It must decide if and how to break the law in order to uphold it for the sake of trafficking victims. The stakes are high. A decision to do so has them forgo the legal constraints designed to protect a suspect's rights. A decision to stay within the law has them neglect a victim of trafficking who has little, if any, protection in the country. Based on ethnographic research among an undercover police surveillance team in a southern EU member state, this paper examines the conditions encouraging this team to act illegally in order to act ethically for the victim. These conditions include their highly egalitarian organization, their deep familiarity with each other, their position in their larger home bureaucracy, and their capacity to see similarities between themselves and the people they investigate. To make theoretical sense of this situation, I blend Agamben's familiar notion of the "state of exception" with Arendt's notion, less familiar to anthropologists, of the "space of appearance". These theorists can help explain how people operating in the absence of objective legal constraints can still refrain from acting with self-indulgence, brutality, or neglect.

Human trafficking: the pivotal role played by the victims

Author: Desirée Pangerc (CIELS University Campus)  email

Short Abstract

In the trials against human traffickers, the victim plays a fundamental role. The intervention will focus on the approach to the victim, the process of victimization and the assistance and protection programs offered to them, from the rescue phase until the trial against their exploiters.

Long Abstract

Starting from the author's fieldwork experience in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the paper will take into consideration the anthropological answer to this issue, by describing the asymmetrical relationship between the victim and her/his exploiter/s, by analyzing the victims' behavior from their rescue to the accommodation in the shelters [Pangerc, 2012].

The intervention will start with the description of the work done by the anthropologist in an Italian Anti-Violence Center and it will continue with her contribution in the shelters for trafficked victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, explaining the difficulties encountered and faced by the social and judicial operators [IOM, OSCE, 2009].

Finally, the author will take into consideration the delicate international debate regarding the victim status from the psychological aspects to the legal ones [Goodey, 2004], relying on evidence from the victims and the social operators.

In conclusion, it will demonstrate how important crime perception [Bauer, 2011] is in the Eastern Europe civil society to stop this social evil and how it is fundamental in prevention activities, investigations and victim protection and rehabilitation programs.

Suspicious bodies: camouflaged legality and tactics of security on the Argentina-Paraguay border

Author: Ieva Jusionyte (University of Florida)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how the relation between the legal system and the human body becomes recast as a security issue. I focus on the idea of suspicion, which leads to discoveries of falsified identities in cases of illegal adoptions and human trafficking.

Long Abstract

When an elderly nurse, travelling with a 4-month-old baby in her arms, began giving contradictory answers at a security checkpoint, airport police became increasingly suspicious. They discovered that, although the documents belonged to a girl, the baby in the nurse's arms was a boy, allegedly Paraguayan, being taken to Buenos Aires. He was one more victim of venta de bebes, a reportedly widespread practice of the trade in babies flourishing in the peripheral border region. Based on my ethnographic research in the Argentine northeast, this paper examines how the relation between the legal system and the human body becomes recast as a security issue. More specifically, I look into what counts as evidence in situations, when the security apparatus intervenes on the basis of suspicion that the link between the law and the person is falsified. Cases of forged identity, such as illegal adoptions and human trafficking, present a dilemma to the state because the crime lies in the unauthorized appropriation of the law. Camouflaged identities work under the disguise of legal documents, including birth certificates and passports, until something betrays their fictitious nature. In this paper I focus on the performance of authenticity (including personal stories and alibi, clothing and make-up) and counterfeit mediation (primarily via official documents) between the legal system and the human body, and the security measures used to capture such forged claims.

Securitized immigration and the laboring body in the United States

Author: Daniel Goldstein (Rutgers University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the effects that E-Verify technology produces in communities of undocumented Latino workers who, having successfully established themselves and their families in the United States, now face new threats to their livelihoods and new path to deportation.

Long Abstract

The border surrounding the territory of the United States has been interiorized. As efforts have intensified to police immigration in the name of creating "Secure Communities" (a centerpiece of the Obama administration's immigration policy), the locus of securitization has focused on spaces within the international border, including states and local communities. The workplace, too, has been transformed into a site of immigration enforcement through the use of an electronic program called E-Verify, which matches individual identities with federal databases to identify those eligible and ineligible to work legally in the United States. Through E-Verify, immigration enforcement has been invisibilized, screened from public view and disembodied from immigration officials, even as it deputizes private sector employers as immigration police. E-Verify, like other forms of invisibilized securitization, is terrifying to those whom it polices. Which, this paper contends, is precisely the point. Invisible policing of immigrants represents the frontline of enforcement of unjust immigration policies, generating terror intended to penetrate immigrant subjectivities and produce passive enforcement, or "self-deportation," of the undocumented. Having failed to block immigration at the border and faced with increasing agitation for immigration reform, the state deploys technologies like E-Verify to attack immigrant selfhood, identity, and security, and produce an effect that other methods have been unable to achieve.

"How serious is it?" Managing heavy diseases in a French immigration detention center

Author: Nicolas Fischer (Centre d'étude du droit et des institutions pénales)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on fieldwork carried out in a French immigration detention center, this contribution will analyze the management in those places of cases of so-called “serious illnesses”, which detection may eventually enable immigrants to avoid deportation and gain a residence permit.

Long Abstract

This contribution will draw on fieldwork carried out in a French immigration detention center where deported immigrants await their forced removal, to analyse the detection and management of cases of so-called "serious illnesses" in those places. These cases indeed create a tension between police repression and medical protection: on the one hand, detained immigrants are detained bodies, managed by police officers whose main concern is to keep them into constant physical control until they are actually sent back to their country of origin. On the other hand, these same immigrants may ask to be examined by a physician from the Public Health Service, in order to obtain protection from deportation: they may notably be granted a residence permit if they prove to be infected with a disease requiring frequent care, and which may not receive appropriate treatment in their country of origin.

The body is then both a object of control, and evidence for the granting of rights, depending on the "expert frame" (eg, a policing or a medical and legal one) that is used to assess and qualify it.

The contribution will then first describe the ordinary control of bodies inside detention centers, before drawing more precisely on the performing of medical expertise in such places: "serious" diseases first have to be detected through a cooperation between the center's medical team, and Human Rights lawyers also operating inside; sufficient medical evidence of the "seriousness" of the infection also has to be provided to obtain the immigrants' legalization.

Evidence of pain: medico-legal expertise on torture within asylum proceedings

Author: Monika Weissensteiner (University of Kent)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyses how “tortured bodies” of asylum seekers emerge and are constructed as (medico-legal) evidence within textual trajectories and intimate spaces of both compassion and distance. It explores experts' “double alliances” within the contemporary apparatus of security-migration management.

Long Abstract

Medico-legal documentation of torture and the so called "Istanbul Protocol" (IP), initially developed to hold perpetrators accountable, has been proposed by non-state agents in Europe as possible solution to the state's obligation of allocating care and assigning international protection status. The IP as technological instrument promises to render the intimate aftermath of violence intelligible to bureaucratic and judiciary procedures and to enable governance through care and control. Embedded in the security-migration assemblages of power, however, it has acquired new meanings and functions.

This paper examines epistemological and ethical dilemmas encountered by medical experts who read and translate "tortured bodies" into text for the purpose of substantiating asylum applications as well as lawyers' opinions and court decisions regarding the evidentiary weight of these documents.

Drawing on ethnographic research in Ireland (2008), confronted with data from Spain (2009), it will be analysed how the asylum seeker's body emerges and is constructed as evidence, within intimate spaces of both compassion and distance: a) objectified as multiple ent-textualised text, whereby "truthfulness" is produced through correct standardised text-making; b) "re-traumatized"/"re-victimized" as body in pain who re-lives his or her experiences of torture; c) as that what ultimately defies to be captured as epistemological category through the medical gaze and bears polisemic (un)certainties. Bodies as evidence of what, one might ask.

These examples, together with the entanglement of medical knowledge on torture with post 9/11 security debates on "enhanced interrogation" techniques, can serve for developing anthropological perspectives regarding conditions, challenges and implications of "collaborations" within today's security-scapes.

Perpetuating insecurity: coexistence inside a male prison

Author: Catarina Frois (Centre for Research in Anthropology)  email

Short Abstract

In this presentation I debate how the daily aggressions experienced by prisoners within a Portuguese male prison subject them to the kind of fear and insecurity that they themselves recognize as having been responsible for when committing the crimes that got them convicted in the first place.

Long Abstract

In this presentation I debate how the daily aggressions experienced by prisoners within a Portuguese male prison subject them to the kind of fear and insecurity that they themselves recognize as having been responsible for when committing the crimes that got them convicted in the first place.

On the one hand we have the discourse of prisoners on rehabilitation, on their past behaviors' and their expectations after imprisonment, on the other hand we recognize the impact of the prison's physical environment on their own bodies, manifested especially in conditions of acute stress, depression, frustration, anger, continuous presence of unwanted and unchosen others. These feelings in turn are channeled through physical violence directed at fellow inmates, not only as a means to achieve and maintain status and recognition, but especially as one of the few actions where they have the only decision about themselves.

Doing insecurity: how to link anthropology of security and emotions

Author: Alexandra Schwell (Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt/Celovec)  email

Short Abstract

The paper makes a novel contribution by linking the anthropology of security to the study of emotions. It specifically focuses on fear and anxieties as emotional practices and directly connects them to securitizing practices, thus scrutinizing their resilience and proliferation.

Long Abstract

The paper makes a novel contribution by linking the anthropology of security to the study of emotions. It specifically focuses on fear and anxieties as emotional practices and directly connects them to securitizing practices, thus scrutinizing their resilience and proliferation.

Security experts, populist politicians and tabloid media frequently invoke an imaginary population's "subjective feeling of security" as a reference point for action. Research has shown how securitizing actors stoke fears of religious minorities, asylum-seekers, or the opening of borders. Authors such as Didier Bigo scrutinized how knowledge is produced within the security field, how it shapes public discourse, and how it is translated into security measures, policies, and laws.

Yet, the subjective feeling of security itself, and the anxieties that inform it, got surprisingly little scholarly attention so far. While it is generally agreed that these notions are informed by historically transmitted narratives and instrumentalized in struggles over power and resources, their functioning and practice have seldom been subjected to closer scrutiny. Anxieties are implicitly dismissed as something irrational that only befalls the gullible and less educated - and therefore can be refuted by ratio and reason. Yet, emotions are not the opposite of ratio, but they are embodied social practices that acquire and reproduce meaning and effects within a specific context. Drawing upon examples from (in)security discourses, the paper argues that micro practices of fear and anxiety as "doing insecurity" play an important role in the creation, institutionalization and perpetuation of security discourse and practices.

Scripts of security and safety in transition: 'policing' urban working-class communities in Northern Ireland

Author: Nadja Maurer (Hamburg Institute for Social Research)  email

Short Abstract

The highly particularistic social organisation of security /safety during the violent conflict and thereafter has undergone a profound change. Scripts, namely knowledges, clotted narrations and feelings for in/security have subsequently become obsolete, are subject to reconfiguration and conversion.

Long Abstract

The decommissioning of paramilitary groups, the downsizing (and reform) of the police, and the withdrawal of the British Army in the Peace Process have led to a security vacuum. Sustained sectarian views by many, intermittent violence and dissident republicans complicate the security landscape further, particularly in less privileged republican and loyalist communities where a new generation of paramilitary actors fills that gap. The now applied model of community-based policing works best in middle-class areas where police is actually hardly needed. However, the police presence and the quality of their service is considered relatively poor in marginalised areas. Those communities that have experienced the sharp ends of the conflict are, by and large, left to their own resources, namely paramilitarism as a form of community safety. The attitudes towards police or respectively vigilante paramilitary range from legitimacy, cooperation, support, ambivalence, distance, and mistrust.

Exploring safety in the context of the dynamic and transitional security landscape is to investigate specific concepts (schemata), that constitute the virtual property security in its spatial, temporal, referential and factual dimensions. Shared knowledges, narrations, but also embodied emotions like fear or anger - these competing scripts are blended into local meanings of security. The complex "webs of meaning" are based on collectivised experiences and are, as social constructs, subject to change. Consequently, security and safety indicate not a given state, but a subjective assessment of an assumed state, a potential that shapes and forms incertainties and concerns. Peacetime futurity is constituted by feelings about and knowledge of security.

Policing future crimes

Author: Mark Maguire (Maynooth University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the coming together of evolutionary theory, geographical information, so-called 'big data' and policing to target future crimes.

Long Abstract

Over the past number of years, advances in GIS and data analytics have led venturesome scholars, including evolutionary anthropologists, to develop capacities to police future criminal acts. Such systems are already in operation in the United States and the UK and are being rolled out elsewhere. At the same time, police forces already under pressure to privatize and enter partnerships have developed coterminous systems that contradict data-led policing. Tensions and fissures are appearing in the policing security-scape. This paper explores these tensions and fissures by drawing out the voices of the experts and innovators who manage and rebel against contemporary (in)securitization. At stake here are the ways in which the human is problematised and configured in techno-science.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.