Accepted paper:

Security is socially constructed, but what does this mean?


Julian Genner (University of Basel)

Paper short abstract:

Security is socially constructed, but how and by whom? My paper seeks to understand the role of the nation state in a globalised world and the conditions of possibility of contemporary imagineries of security.

Paper long abstract:

Security is socially constructed. Admittedly the phrase "socially constructed" is a worn out phrase in the social sciences. Still, I consider it to be useful as long as one is explicit about who actually constructs reality and how this is done. In the case of security it is the nation state that has the monopoly to construct a reality for a population on a well-defined territory. This is Boltanki's argument echoing Foucault's work on governmentality and parrallels Andersons classic concept of "imagined communities". According to Anderson the nationstate has the capacity to create and manage a collective imaginary that binds a community together. At first glance this appealing to the nation-state doesn't seem to apply to our globalised world. However, globalisation cannot be described just as the decay of nation states as some anthropologists in the 1990ies such as Appadurai suggest. Rather, globalisation ought to be understood as the reorganisation of the nation-state in the first place, as Sassen shows. It is because of "the retreat of the state" (Strange) as an economic player that states see security as their first and most important task. Security serves as a legitimation for state action and for state-building. This is why the EU has been trying to establish a common security policy (European Security Strategy) for the last 15 years and has been struggling due to resistance of its member states. My aim is to outline these developments and to offer a perspective which has been useful for my ethnographic fieldwork.

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