EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Responses to insecurity: securitisation and its discontents

Location Victoria LT
Date and Start Time 19 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Oscar Salemink (University of Copenhagen) email
Thomas Hylland Eriksen (University of Oslo) email
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Short Abstract

The workshop explores questions of agency in connection with the notion of (human) security, by looking at tensions between security, risk, freedom and stability against the backdrop of securitisation.

Long Abstract

In today's globalising world, one common political reaction to fragmentation and insecurity, as theorised by the Copenhagen School, is the so-called securitisation of threats to referent objects, which politicises conflict while stifling political debate. While the object of securitisation is often the political security of state institutions and the physical safety of its citizens, the subject (or agent) of security in such cases is the state. Citizens might experience the effects of state policies as a threat to their personal, family or community security. Hence, citizens do not always have the interest of the state in mind when they try to construe (discursively) and construct (in practice) forms of security in their own lives. In anthropology, this is reflected in the emergent scholarship on human security as multidimensional and vested in people and their forms of civil organisation. As the subject of security shifts from the state to people, the referent object may shift as well. While the notion of agency (understood by Sherry Ortner as the individual or collective use of resources for the pursuit of culturally constituted projects) helps us determine the subject of security, it is simultaneously complicating the picture, as security is by no means the only possible pursuit. Other projects might involve the exercise of freedom to choose, freedom from the shackles of family, community or tradition, and the taking of risks. In this workshop we wish to explore such questions of agency in connection with the notion of (human) security, by looking at the tensions between security and risk, between security and freedom, and security and stability against the backdrop of securitisation. We welcome papers that address either the tensions between security from above and from below, and/or tensions between security and its opposites (risk, insecurity, freedom).


Contesting legitimacy: media publics and security policy in multi-ethnic Britain

Author: Marie Gillespie (Open University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper examines how multi-ethnic publics debate questions of legitimacy. It explains the deep public scepticism surrounding the Iraq War (2003) and subsequent security policy, not just in terms of declining trust in the PM Tony Blair, but as a corrosive "legitimacy deficit" with significant implications for the prospects of participatory democracy and multicultural citizenship. The arguments are grounded in a collaborative ethnography of news audiences across the UK, including multilingual and multi-ethnic audiences. Using a Weberian framework, the article analyses the patterning of interviewees' responses to the justifications given for going to war, and it assesses the implications of the "legitimacy deficit" for the UK and its international security policy.

Vanishing trust: the story of the Bijlmer housing estate

Author: Marion den Uyl (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper deals with the interventions of policy makers in the built environment in order to create a stable and prosperous community. The researched neighbourhood, the Amsterdam Bijlmer, was built in the 1970s, ran into trouble in the 1980s, was partly demolished in the 1990s and is presently under construction. It will be argued that different conceptions of harmonious communities played a role in the different plans for building and rebuilding. The successive interventions are analysed with the use of concepts of social cohesion, Putnam's notions of bridging and bonding social capital and Fukyama's notion of trust - and its disappearance in modern times.

The building and rebuilding plans are focused on the Bijlmer, a neighbourhood with around 50,000 people, which was constructed in the 1970s, inspired by ideas of Le Corbusier's La Ville Radieuse, The City of the Future. Although the neighbourhood was built for the white middle classes - in a time that Amsterdam was still a predominantly white city - these original residents soon started leaving the neighbourhood, while their places were taken by different groups of migrants from non-western societies, especially from former Dutch colony Suriname, the Antilles and West-African countries. These different migration flows have resulted in a population which presently consists of more than eighty per cent migrants from poor non-industrialised countries. These processes of migration mean that the story of the Bijlmer not only tells a story of building and rebuilding, but also one about the problems and possibilities of an increasingly multicultural neighbourhood.

It is argued that the renewal plans, which involve the large-scale demolishment of the original high-rises (of what once was promised to be a modern city with light and spacious apartments within a vast green landscape) can be seen as a reaction on increasing problems of insecurity and criminality, as well as on vanishing trust. New conceptions of the built environment not only reflect changes in time, but they can also show the ways in which planners, architects and policy makers try to control the perceived lack of social cohesion and trust in parts of present society.

Responses to insecurity: cultural identity as a key dimension of human security

Author: Edien Bartels (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam)  email
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Long Abstract

Co-authors: Kim Knibbe, Martijn de Koning, and Oscar Salemink

This paper explores questions of operationalizing concepts as human security, securitisation in connection with the notion of cultural identity.

The new ethno-religious beliefs and practices rising in Western Europe, can be interpreted as attempts to reinvent community against the backdrop of the fragmentation and atomisation on the one side and the process of extensive immigration of the last forty years on the other side. Those processes are threatening social cohesion in western European. This is not to say that West European society now is necessarily more insecure than before, but that the process of creation of 'modern life' in a globalizing world with extensive immigration, create necessarily more insecurity than earlier life forms in the past. This can be said for native habitants as well as immigrants. It is in such conditions of flux and mobility, of settling new cultural groups, that attempts to create new collective forms of 'community security' can produce ethnic or religious conflicts. The central question in this paper is: how to operationalize the concept of security in relation to cultural identity.

Insecure state, insecure citizens: the case of Turkey

Author: Sinan Gokcen (Sheffield University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper examines the historical background and current legal, political and social practices of Turkish state's 'sensitivity' for security concerns against the "threats directed towards 'national unity' and insults against the pride/dignity of Turkishness". This chronic apprehension causes the state establishment to regard its citizens as perilous, ready to be engaged in secessionist, treacherous activities. While under international law and in global practice there is common consensus among states that territorial integrity must be guarded and secured, 'national unity' does not seem to be universally recognized concern. Nonetheless, Turkish Constitution and laws are full of clauses referring to the 'protection of national unity', and this rigid attitude causes no minorities other than those recognized under the Lausanne Treaty of 1924 (only three 'non-Muslim minorities of Turkey'; namely, Armenians, Jews, Greeks). As recognizing minorities or a claim to minority status would crack wide open the 'national unity'. It is well-known fact that as a rump state of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey has dozens of minority groups. Thus, the country still has a tremendous multicultural richness, despite rigid state policies that have been implemented since almost a century. But, the multicultural opulence cannot last for long as languages are disappearing, the people are emigrating, the cultures are dying. The even more alarming development than the 'traditionalized' state intolerance towards 'others' is the 'informal nationalism' (T.H. Eriksen, 1993, "Formal and Informal Nationalism", Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1, p. 1-25.) that is taking root among the Turkish public in general. Consequently, there are extremely ironic 'initiatives' taken spontaneously by the 'citizens' themselves; for example the court case filed against the Turkish translator and publisher of Little Prince of Saint-Exupéry (because there is an allusion to 'Turkish Dictator' in the book) or the detention of a small local restaurant owner that has salt and pepper shakers "that look like the Kurdish insurgent leader" upon reports brought to the police. The 'national skepticism' would hypothetically worsen with the symbiosis of state and public sense of insecurity growing, because of the surging armed clashes in the Kurdish dominated regions of Turkey, alongside general instability in the Middle East. Currently, new legislations are pending for broadening the scope of 'terrorist acts'. A new law called the 'Anti-terrorism Act' has been approved by the parliament, but is challanged by the President of Turkey, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court for the amendment of a number of its articles. Even if these articles of the new law that concern the media institutions are changed, the rest of the legislation might endanger freedoms and rights of the public in general in Turkey to a very serious extent. Soon, even wearing certain colors and listening to a music cassette might be deemed as a 'terrorist activity'.

Risk, security and the outsider: debating the limits of loyalty and belonging

Author: Alexandra Hall (University of York)  email
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Long Abstract

The idea that the world is somehow becoming a riskier place in new and unmanageable ways is often invoked in debates about the treatment of people who enter and remain in European countries illegally, especially following recent terrorist attacks. European state responses to ambiguous 'outsiders' include widespread administrative detention of those who cannot prove legal belonging. Governments gain political capital by proving mastery over national borders; political heads must roll when loss of control is revealed in periodic immigration scandals. In Britain, as elsewhere, the justification for restricting the freedom of 'threatening' outsiders is framed in terms of 'protection', 'security' and 'risk', but of whom, of what, and why? This paper draws on ethnographic data from a secure detention establishment in Britain to demonstrate that, for people on the ground, state detention strategies roundly fail to achieve security for citizens or state institutions. Rather than consider the undeniable existential insecurity experienced by the detainees, the paper focuses on ordinary Britons working at the centre. Local groups compete in moral wrangling about 'the truth' of the risk posed by unknown outsiders, and what is due to them. In everyday assertions of agency, competing ideas of risk and security are manifested, with the detainees as pawns. Local arguments about the failings of the state and 'other people' to take seriously the risks that Britain faces are revealed as articulations of uncertainty about the future of Britain and the English nation, and reformulations of deep-rooted class antagonisms. These issues cannot be downplayed; recent reports in the British press show that a fifth of those polled would consider voting for the right-wing British National Party. The paper argues that practices of detention crystallise tensions between security and risk, and discussions about securitisation at the grassroots are arguments about loyalty and belonging in a changing world.

Socio-cultural security concerns and mate selection in an agrarian community

Author: Muhammad Zaman (Leipzig University)  email
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Long Abstract

State and the family are core agencies to provide social security to the individuals. Hence, family has been a source to combat the security risk at micro level. The role of family networks as sources of security and mutual assistance has been significant in terms of social and financial provision along with the emotional therapy management. Thus, family has been a source of the minimization of security risks from the cultural context, while state tries to overcome the issue with boarder scope. However, family influences (keeps authority) over choices, for example in terms of career and marriage, in return. Present paper will address the behavior of the clan in terms of mate selection, where strong concerns of security have been observed in agrarian society, which may be sometimes contradictory to the state legislation. There are cultural centered approaches to address the issue in the clan, where people try to maximize the security in exchanging the mate relations. Current field work of a remote community in Pakistan indicates the feelings of insecurity among humans over the spouse selection. People prefer to marry their daughters/ sons on the basis of exchange of women or took money for the security concerns of the daughter/ sister and/ or vice versa. The findings indicate serious concerns of human security in their marital choices and alleged apprehensions.

Healing, risk and justice in northern Uganda

Author: Tim Allen (LSE)  email
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Long Abstract

Over 1.5 million people in northern Uganda live in displacement camps in appalling conditions. They are kept there ostensibly for their own protection by the Uganda army, and are fed by humanitarian aid agencies. The atrocities that have been perpetrated by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the region have been the focus of investigations by the newly created International Criminal Court (ICC). At the end of 2005, the court issued its first ever warrants for the arrest of five LRA commanders. However, there has been intense hostility towards the ICC's efforts to hold to account those individuals alleged to be most responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Local non-governmental organisations, human rights groups and Christian activists have argued that there can be no justice if it is only the LRA commanders who are prosecuted. The Ugandan government must be held to account for the way it has managed anti-insurgency policies and has used security as a violent mechanism of social control. Local groups have been joined by a host of international researchers and journalists in arguing that the issuing of warrants for the LRA prevents negotiations and undermines amnesty procedures. It thereby places the population at greater risk of attack. In addition they maintain that there are African forms of justice which are better than the flawed procedures of international law. Anthropological literature has been linked to the assertion that traditional reconciliation and healing procedures are a viable alternative. This lecture reviews the issues and presents a case for the ICC. In so doing, it counters the co-option of anthropological relativism by the transitional justice lobby, and asserts the value of imposing internationally agreed moral values as a means of forging peace.

Immunisation: consent and dissent

Author: Manuela Cunha (Universidade do Minho, CRIA-UMinho)  email
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Long Abstract

Co-author: Jean-Yves Durand, Universidade do Minho, Portugal

Extremely few people worldwide, if any, are not confronted, at some point in their life, with state-imposed (or at least sponsored) vaccination of themselves or of their children against a seemingly ever-growing range of vectors of medical insecurity. In western societies, the dominant views on immunisation are refused only by small groups of proponents of alternative immunological theories and therapeutic systems or by adepts of specific religious views. In recent African events, vaccination was seen as a potential instrument of imperialism.

Immunological theory constantly activates basic dichotomies such as inside / outside, native / alien, us / them. It epitomizes the tension between individual freedom and collective security (with limits extending well beyond that of the state), having thus provided the subjectmatter of numerous ethical debates and of some cultural critique. The actual social life of vaccination has nonetheless motivated surprinsigly few ethnographic and even less comparatist approaches, especially in so far as western societies are concerned. Preliminary findings from an ongoing project set up in various countries will aim at showing how individuals negotiate between more or less educated consent, deliberate dissent, or the passive acceptance of the norm.