Rethinking security through sound

Security has become an increasingly prominent part of everyday life, impacting us as we travel, interact in community spaces, or consider options for communication.  While physical barriers, passports, and technologies such as X-ray machines and metal detectors are commonly accepted as integral parts of the evolving security sector, ambient sound is rarely imagined as salient to security practices today.  In my Security Dialogue article, ‘Audializing the Migrant Body’, I make a case for thinking about sound- and the sensory body more broadly- in research on bordering, mobility, biometrics, migration, and security.  I suggest that the aural body represents a site of geopolitics that deserves consideration on moral and ethical grounds.

Photo credit: Author

In tracing transnational sonic flows and their interaction with local, regional, and international actors, I conducted fieldwork in Morocco in 2015 and 2016, interviewing (in French and English) undocumented sub-Saharan African migrants who arrived in Morocco via the Western Mediterranean migration route.  Migrants passed through the Malian cities of Bamako and Gao, or Arlit in Niger, coalescing and regrouping in Tamanrasset, Algeria, after the difficult Saharan traverse.  From Tamanrasset, migrants continued north to Algiers or Oran, after which they tried their luck at entering Morocco via the heavily guarded border crossing at Maghnia.  Depending on their country of origin and route, migrants I spoke with crossed as many as nine international borders in the course of their journey.  Some of these border crossings presented few difficulties; others risked being fatal and left my interlocutors with physical and psychological scars.  All the individuals in my data pool were trying to reach Europe via port cities along the Mediterranean—either by boat or by scaling the treacherous and highly guarded fences separating the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla from Morocco.

Photo credit: Author

Many of my interviews took place in migrants’ temporary living quarters in Takadoum, a slum on the outskirts of Morocco’s capital city of Rabat.  Initial contact was mediated through migrant-run aid organizations where I volunteered during my time in the field.  I also interviewed migrants in unofficial forest encampments outside of Nador, along Morocco’s northern coast, and organized extended focus groups where migrants gathered, on a voluntary basis, to talk on the interrelated topics of their phones and communication practices, their journeys, strategies for scaling the border fence, and their onward plans.  In the course of the conversations, I paid heed to the ways that migrants’ engagement with sound and communication infrastructures impacted their behavioral strategies, route choices, and understandings of positionality within a globalized security apparatus.

One of the occasionally frustrating aspects about academic fora is the way that personal human stories are often written out to make room for more generalizable findings or theoretical implications.  While my article in Security Dialogue could not capture the pathos, suffering, hope, and occasional humor that migrants shared, it is my aim that its sustained attention to the phenomenological, embodied politics of sound reminds readers of the commonalities all humans share at the biological level, connecting macro-political questions on important topics such as immigration and human rights with micro-processes that make up the fabric of everyday lives.


Secular risk governance? A look into the recent history of the Turkish military

The Turkish political landscape has been volatile for a while now and, especially in the past few years, we have witnessed dramatic transformations of Turkish state structures and institutions. The attempted coup of July 15th 2016 reinforced the significance and ongoing power of the Turkish military regardless of which political interests they are aligned with and it showed, once and again, the dangerous centrality of corrupt elite alliances in Erdogan’s ‘new Turkey’. More importantly, the 2016 coup attempt became a convenient pretext for massive crack-downs on heterogenous opposition to the government and it further instigated regime change through an emergency status referendum in 2017.

Turkish Military Parade By Pivox [CC BY-SA 4.0] Wikimedia Commons

On the second anniversary of the coup attempt on July 15th 2018, the military itself became the target of radical structural reforms with an emergency decree placing the chief of General Staff and all force commanders under the Ministry of Defense. The decree also officially ended the de facto autonomy of the Turkish military, enjoyed by them since the early days of the republic. Regardless of their official status of autonomy however, the Turkish military has always been an extension and enabler of republican state ideology. This took different forms based on historically specific and fluid political dynamics. From the transition to parliamentary democracy in the 1950s and onwards, the military has loomed over civilian politics through a variety of coups and memorandums. At times the Turkish Military has been aligned with anti-Islamist, anti-leftist and anti-Kurdish political agendas, but has consistently espoused a Sunni Turkish nationalism in the shape of secularism.

The question is: how did Turkey’s hawkish pashas now end up bowing to civilian authority in the shape of the AKP; and more importantly, what is the socio-cultural backdrop to this political shift? The answer can be found in the relatively recent history of Turkish civil-military relations- from the 1980s to the end of the 2000s- when the military defined the rise of political Islam as the top national security threat. During this era, a secularist military mobilized against Islamization by using not only the power of arms and tanks, but also through its institutional reach into the state apparatus to exert control over issues ranging from education, TV broadcasting, and business. In effect, the military securitized religion through large-scale threats of coups and memoranda, while at the same time micro-managing cultural symbols of Islamization in its security discourse and within its own ranks and bases.

In its security discourse during this period, the Turkish military engaged in practices of identifying, expelling, or recuperating ‘Islamist infiltrators’ within the officers’ cadre; most of whom were identified through the headscarves of their wives and daughters. Based on an ethnographic study on military bases and in-depth interviews with the wives of military officers, my article in Security Dialogue examines the lived experience of the unique intertwinement of secularism with security through the concept of secular risk governance. Drawing on risk-based security studies that discuss risk as a form of social governance, I demonstrate the ways that a vaguely defined concept like ‘secularity’ ultimately determined the content and extent of Turkish security and political agendas, and gave meaning to notions of security and risk across a secular/religious epistemic divide. I further show how secular risk governance monitored the social life, daily conduct, and private realms of individuals by measuring ‘excess’ and ‘deviance’ against the backdrop of a normative modern and secular Sunni Muslim identity, where public representation of women’s bodies was key.

My analysis also contributes to our understanding of how the populist secular/religious divide that looms over Turkish politics came into being as a self-fulfilling prophecy through the security framework enforced by the Turkish military. It throws light on a particularly crucial era of the authoritarian secularist security paradigm, which sowed the seeds of the AKP’s revanchist agenda and the increasingly sharpening ‘authoritarian turn’ after 2011 that began with a massive swing of authoritarian power from the Turkish military to the AKP. My analysis also considers civil-military relations since 2011 to make sense of how the military’s anti-Islamist security discourse paved the way for informal and illegal alliances and their subsequent disastrous collapse through the 2016 coup attempt.

This case also offers important lessons in understanding the securitization of Muslims in Western security politics since 9/11. In the article, I point out how safety is practiced as secularity, parallel to the securitization of risky individuals who practice religion publicly in Western countries. This brings attention to future research on the security practices that govern our understanding of what being a ‘safe Muslim’ might mean according to secular norms. Approaching the securitization of Islam in Turkey through the concept of secular risk governance, my analysis bridges institutional and cultural mechanisms involved in security discourses and reveal how security happens through social relations and identities rather than solely through state-led military agendas.

Beyond the Police: Jerusalem’s Modular Security Provision

When we think about public security, we often think about the police, the military, or perhaps about border guards or the criminal courts. But security is often pursued in cooperation with a variety of public and private actors, enlisted by state security actors to reinforce their legal and operational capacities, while providing them with enhanced maneuverability and reduced accountability. I suggest asking – how are these relations formed, and to what end?

East Jerusalem, an urban territory occupied and annexed by Israel in 1967, provides a fertile ground to answer these questions. In attempts to reconcile the strong-arm governance of the Occupied Palestinian territories- only one part of the city- with a claim of a ‘united’ Jerusalem under the democratic rule of law, Israeli authorities augment their security interventions by drawing together – or assembling – a plurality of state and non-state civil actors. Meir Eliahu, one of Jerusalem’s regional border police commanders, illustrated these ties in a discussion on his unit’s police work in East Jerusalem:

‘What we have here is a widespread joint policing activity of all different authorities’ […] ‘including enforcement agencies which are totally not related to the police: the Tax Authority, the Municipal Water Authority, all those things. We want to create leverage that would ultimately make things quiet. We will enter from this alley, we will enter from that alley, climb from above, descend from below, we will come through several dimensions and deal as much as possible with these outlaws’.

Shuafat enclave in East Jerusalem. Photo: Author


In a recent article published in Security Dialogue, I examine the relations formed between state security actors and the public or private actors they enlist, through several examples of security pluralization in East Jerusalem. In the article, I delve into the relations between the police and other social, regulatory or public utility bodies such as the Jerusalem municipality, the National Parks Authority, the local water corporation and the National Insurance Institute. I look at how, through the legal, financial and labor capacities offered by these actors, Israeli state security actors were able to pursue controversial policies such as blacklisting, collective punitive measures and placing restrictions on urban development in a manner that distinguishes between residents worthy of enhanced protection, and those designated as security threats. I propose to think of these emerging relations as modular security: when state security actors can enlist, deploy, instruct entwine, detach and withdraw public and private actors, performances, and technologies if and when the need arises. I continue to identify three features of urban modular security provisions: the heterogeneity of its public and private components, the development of reserved security capacities, and differential performances and practices towards the residents of the city.

The pluralization and privatization of security in East Jerusalem resembles other cases worldwide. From European pluralized anti-radicalisation programmes, through to privately-run prisons in the US and public-private policing partnerships in South Africa, state security provision is increasingly pursued outside the usual institutions of the police, the military or the criminal justice system. I suggest that we turn our attention to the relations formed between these bodies and an extended family of other state and non-state institutions – relations that are often marked by ad-hoc flexible and modular arrangement. Through the assembly of a modular security provision, state security actors seek to reinforce their legal and operational capacities, enhance their maneuverability, and pursue controversial security policies with reduced legal and public accountability.

‘Security, Economy, Population’- A comment to Jacqueline Best

Jacqueline Best’s article ‘Security, Economy, Population’ is a welcome addition to the evolving discussion of ‘exceptionalism’ in the critical social sciences. As Best suggests, over the past fifteen years much discussion of emergency governance and exceptionalism has been shaped by post-9/11 security measures. I fully endorse her call to bring other forms of emergency government—particularly emergency economic government—into this discussion, and to see what they tell us, both empirically and theoretically, about exceptionalism.

Along with Andrew Lakoff, I have been working on historical dimensions of emergency economic government in the United States for a number of years now. As such, I am particularly sympathetic to Best’s point that emergency economic governance is far from a new problem. Indeed, it is historically important to modern reflections on exceptionalism. Carl Schmitt’s discussion of crisis government in Dictatorship(1921)—which Giorgio Agamben has referred to as a first, isolated treatment of the theory of the exception—was motivated in large part by the frequent recourse to exceptional powers during recurrent economic-financial crises in Weimar Germany.[i] Emergency economic government in the US has also been historically tied to questions of exceptionalism. The crucial occasions of American emergency government during the first half of the 20th century were the Great Depression and industrial mobilization for World War I and World War II. These events raised questions about exceptionalism: could they be managed within the legal and constitutional framework of American political institutions?

I would like to approach Best’s article from a somewhat oblique angle, making a few comments on this historical material and then turning to the contemporary forms of economic government that Best analyzes. What was the form of emergency economic governance that was exercised amid depression and world war? How has emergency economic government changed over the last century? And what does it have to do with the ‘state of exception’? In addressing these questions, it is useful to take a step back to consider emergency economic government in the context of broader tendencies of American political development during the first half of the 20th century.

At this time, governmental reformers —specifically late-Progressive reformers—were convinced that in an increasingly metropolitan and mass-industrial society, government would be more frequently required to manage rapidly evolving social and economic problems. To do so, reformers argued, governments had to be equipped with discretionary executive power and mechanisms of technocratic decision-making to address the demands of rapidly changing situations, from economic shocks to strikes and other forms of social unrest. But in the early decades of the 20th century, such equipment was lacking in the American governmental system. Sovereign power was highly diffused, both within the federal government and across the constituent states. Executives —whether mayors, governors, or presidents— had limited discretionary power, at least when judged by contemporary standards. Government at all levels lacked the instruments of technocratic rule: large bureaucracies staffed by cadres of technical experts. Progressive reformers thus identified a mismatch between governmental institutions and the contemporary problems they faced. Reform and adjustment were necessary.

This mismatch that reformers perceived between inherited governmental form and the challenges that confronted modern governments suggests why economic crisis governance raised problems of exceptionalism. The most indicative case, perhaps, is President Roosevelt’s initial response to the Great Depression in 1933. Famously invoking a threat to the nation as great as that posed by an enemy during wartime, Roosevelt did indeed seize—or was granted through emergency legislation—a set of exceptional powers that were soon rebuked by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Roosevelt opted for ‘exceptional’ economic government in an emergency situation because the executive in the US federal government was totally unequipped to respond in any other way.

But before jumping to the conclusion —as Agamben does— that Roosevelt’s early response to the Great Depression set in motion a much broader tendency toward exceptionalism that continues to the present day, it is worth noting how reformers responded to the rebuke of early New Deal initiatives to manage the Great Depression in the middle to late 1930s. To grossly simplify a complex story, reformers sought a form of emergency economic government that would not require recourse to exceptional measures. They found it in the instruments of what came, after World War II, to be known as the regulatory or administrative state. A couple of salient features of this regulatory state are particularly relevant for the present discussion. Congressional statutes delegated authority to various offices and agencies housed in the executive branch of government, not through ‘emergency’ legislation, but as standby powers created during ‘normal’ times. Importantly, these new discretionary, executive powers—often exercised by new expert bodies of various sorts—were not necessarily placed under the direct authority of the president. Legislative oversight was generally maintained, and in many cases mechanisms were put in place to promote independence from the ‘sovereign.’ The Federal Reserve, which features centrally in Best’s account, provides an important example of this pattern. In the Banking Act of 1935, discretionary power was, on the one hand, centralized in the Board of Governors, which was to be comprised of members who were ‘well qualified by education or experience to participate in the formulation of national economic and monetary policies’[ii]—that is to say, by experts of a certain sort. On the other hand, measures were instituted to protect the actions of the Board from interference by the president and the presidential administration.

Today, this basic model of the regulatory state is pervasive in the U.S. (and in other countries). It comprises, to quote Best’s characterization of the emergency economic governance mechanisms she describes, ‘a set of expert decision making bodies’ that are, in important ways, ‘insulated from the democratic process.’ At the same time, this model fits pretty uneasily with what is usually referred to in discussions of ‘exceptional governance.’ It certainly does not involve a sovereign proclaiming that the constitution and legality have to be set aside; indeed, it was created by reformers who wanted precisely to avoid such recourse. Rather, this model of economic governance involves the exercise of specific powers that are grounded in statutory authority, that are constrained by various forms of oversight, and that are often insulated from direct control by the ‘sovereign.’ To say that these powers are hemmed in by law does not mean that they raise no questions of legality or even constitutionality. To be sure, they have garnered legal challenges from both the left and the right, in domains ranging from environmental regulation to labor regulation and financial governance. But these legal challenges are not about sovereign exceptionalism, per se. They relate, rather, to specific, statutory powers that are exercised through the technocratic apparatuses of the regulatory state.

So what does this historical perspective tell us? For one, I think it helps us think more clearly about why, at a certain historical moment, economic crisis government was so closely tied to the question of exceptionalism. At the risk of again being far too simplistic, the reason that economic or financial ‘emergency’ raised questions of sovereign exceptionalism in the first half of the 20thcentury is that the institutions of the regulatory state had not yet been invented. There was no body of law, no cadre of experts in government, and no established decision-making bodies that could undertake such interventions. They could only be accomplished by stepping outside of established statutory authority, by creating ‘emergency’ legislation, or by relying on the undefined and theoretically limitless constitutional powers of the American presidency to act ‘by dictate’—and according to the dictates—of an emergency situation.

But in wrapping up this comment, I want to turn from the past to the present, and to some of the core issues raised in Best’s article. Specifically, I would like to engage Best on two points, one analytical and methodological, the other regarding the contemporary politics of emergency, rationality, and executive power. On the methodological and analytical point Best argues that after a flurry of interest in exceptionalism, a recent literature on emergency governance ‘looks away from exceptionalism,’ going so far as to suggest that it proposes to ‘give up on exceptionalism’ as an analytical category. I would gently push back on this characterization. The argument in this literature is not that the category of exception should be discarded. Rather, it is that we have to more carefully analyze and distinguish among different ways that governments deal with what are considered to be urgent problems. This project is fully consistent with Best’s proposal to introduce emergency economic government into the discussion of exceptionalism. But I think more work remains to be done in sorting out whether the legal and administrative mechanisms involved in the governmental forms she is discussing really constitute ‘exceptional’ government in the sense we usually understand it.

There are, no doubt, cases of economic emergency government that take something like the structure of exceptionalism Schmitt described, in which sovereign authority gives itself the right to act without any statutory ground, relying either on inherent constitutional powers or on powers that are simply unelaborated, in the name of the ‘necessity’ of a particular situation. But in other cases, urgent technocratic response to economic emergencies is based on powers that are established in legislation or through the many mechanisms of regulatory authority that are fundamental to the operation of post-war states, including to the way these states deal with emergencies. I would suggest that most cases of emergency economic governance, including many of those that Best analyzes in her article, fall in the latter category, and are not examples of exceptionalism. Though Best and I may disagree on this point, I think we would agree that progress could be made in resolving our disagreement by further scrutinizing the legal and administrative arrangements of particular examples of emergency economic governance.

My second concluding point concerns the kinds of political problems that these questions of emergency, expertise, technocracy, and democracy pose today. At the end of her article, Best provocatively draws a connection between the response to the 2008 financial crisis and the ‘more recent rise in support for the authoritarian right.’ She identifies both as ‘exceptionalist manifestations of [a] new crisis of liberalism.’ In light of the history to which I have gestured, I see these developments from a different perspective. Faced with what seemed like truly dire threats to democratic government, American governmental reformers of the 1930s and 1940s invented the institutions of the regulatory state as the American alternative to sovereign exceptionalism. Today, in domains ranging from environmental policy to economic governance and the basic function of statistical analysis and reporting, these technocratic mechanisms of the regulatory state are being attacked.[iii]Thus, from my perspective, the distressing prospect today is not that mechanisms of expert rule present an exceptionalist politics that may undermine democracy. Rather, it is these mechanisms that were originally invented as alternatives to exceptionalism will be destroyed. Will the Progressive ‘solution’ to the problems of emergency, executive power, and expert rule stand? Can the institutions created to institute democratic executive government, hemmed in by technical expertise, impersonal standards, and bureaucratic norms, survive? I couldn’t agree more that, as Best suggests, our democracy is at stake. But the real threat today is not excessive sovereign power acting under the guise of expert truth. Rather, as in the 1920s and 1930s, it is sovereign power wielded against the truth.

Stephen J Collier is Professor of City and Regional Planning at Berkley, University of California

[i]Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2005). The argument that Schmitt’s early reflections on crisis government were largely oriented to the economic-financial crises of Weimar Germany is advanced in William Scheuerman, Liberal Democracy and the Social Acceleration of Time(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004).

[ii]‘Banking Act of 1935.’ Accessed at

[iii]This argument has also been made in Stephen J. Collier and Andrew Lakoff, ‘Trump’s Fictional Crises and the Real Threats to American Democracy.’ The New Republic, February 8, 2017.

A Political Economy of ‘the Exception’? A comment to Jacqueline Best

One of the most noteworthy responses to the election of Donald J. Trump came from politically radical African-Americans. In light of the longue durée of racial supremacy and the experience of those exploited by America’s economic system, it was not surprising or exceptional that aracist, misogynist, xenophobic plutocrat could succeed the first black President of the United States. In contrast, very many white liberals were stunned that such a man could be elected in 2016. I was reminded of this discrepancy, the absence/presence of shock in response to what was conceived of as either a normal or exceptional event when reflecting on Jacqueline Best’s provocative article on ‘exceptionalism’.

During the 2000s, several ‘critical security studies’ (CSS) scholars turned to theories of ‘the exception’ to understand how and why the Bush administration spoke of an ‘emergency’, an ‘extraordinary’, and ‘exceptional’ situation to justify its military and legal choices after the 9.11 attacks. Jacqueline Best’s ambitious aim is to unify CSS and ‘cultural political economy’ through returning the concept of ‘exception’ to its original economic roots. Such an account, she hopes, might overcome some criticisms of exceptionalism theory: the too narrow focus on security; neglect of ‘liberal political economy’; and related tendency to ignore the ‘social production’ of exceptionalism (380).

Best argues that there is a ‘similar logic at work’ in both security and economic exceptionalisms. In both discourses, political and economic elites attempt to define ‘the limit of normal politics’, to suspend ‘the norm (or the law)’, and then to put ‘the exception into practice’ (378, 376). As evidence, she refers to ‘the history of economic exceptionalism’ (377), which she locates in the late 19th- and early 20th- centuries United States, specifically the government’s use of martial law to crush labour strikes (381). In addition, there is a brief study of the US government’s justificatory discourse around the handling of aspects of the 2008 ‘financial crisis’.

An international political economy-centred genealogy of exceptionalism discourse would be most welcome. It is important and fascinating to ask under what circumstances elite actors claim that exceptional circumstances warrant a breach of what they present as the normal conditions of legal, economic, and political power. An account of the ‘social production’ of exceptionalism is certainly needed and Jacqueline Best must be one of the most qualified scholars to undertake such a study. But this is not the main focus in Best’s article. Instead, political economy is absorbed into a security/exceptionalism frame. In my view, this comes with great political, theoretical, and methodological costs.

Best is absolutely right that CSS is limited to the extent that it pays little to no attention to political economy. However, in adopting the concept of ‘the exception’, developed by Carl Schmitt precisely to evacuate class from his theory of the state, Best is in danger of doing the same. For example, the promising historical analysis of the role of martial law in assaulting labour activism quickly makes way for a summary of Michel Foucault’s bold statements about ‘security, economy, population’. Best then endorses Foucault’s troubling analysis of the rise of neoliberalism as a reaction to the ‘increasingly ‘coercive interventions’’ of Keynesian social democracy (387). The ‘problem of the 1970s’, on this account, ‘was that the apparatus of security had been too aggressive in checking the dangers of a free market’. Post-war state intervention in the economy ‘enabled the rise of Thatcher and Reagan and, ultimately, the move towards a far more radical form of economic liberalization’ (387).

The complex and deeply contingent class, raced, gendered, and ‘post’-colonial struggles that were part of the assault on social democracy and the rehabilitation of Hayekian economics in Chicago, Chile, then Washington and London are reduced, via Foucault, to a ‘failure’ of the ‘delicate balance’ between the needs of the ‘free market’ and the capacity of the security apparatuses to manage its exigencies.  The effective erasure of the myriad struggles that actually account for the rise of neoliberalism is probably inadvertent in this article. But it chimes with Carl Schmitt’s explicitly anti-socialist and racist political agenda when he first developed the theory of the ‘exception’. Leading with a Foucaultian rather than a Schmittian frame does not appear to overcome this problem. There seems to be something inherent in the analytic of ‘the exception’ that privileges an elite political economy frame and that marginalises race and class.

This points to a bigger underlying problem with the ‘exceptionalism’ framework. It centres almost entirely on analysing elite discourses about what they are doing in times of elite-defined emergency. The problem is not with analysing elite discourses as such. But these discourses cannot be the main validation of our theoretical and empirical claims. That would be tautology. In Best’s analysis of ‘exception’ discourse in the 2008 financial crisis, elites are quoted making statements about the severity of a ‘crisis’; subsequent actions are thereby ‘taken out of the realm of political choice’ (384) to ‘justify the suspension of free market norms’ (385). But the argument that this discourse reflects some deep underlying logic of the exception, which is both the thing to be explained and the thing doing the explaining, is totally dependent on accepting elite terms of the crisis: that ‘free market norms’ were in fact operative and then suspended.

This is certainly how liberal capitalism presents itself, but that cannot be the basis of our evaluation of the financial crisis. The so-called ‘market’ under capital accumulation is and always has been highly managed in a deeply classed, gendered, raced, and geopolitical manner. This is not news to Jacqueline Best. However, for theories of the ‘exception’ to add any value depends on the claim that it is in exceptional moments that governments ‘decide’ who is and is not worthy of protection and inclusion, who is exposed and who is excluded. Yet, this is what happens all the time in economic management, in class management, in every budget produced in every finance ministry, as well during seemingly ‘extraordinary’ interventions in the economy when elite interests are threatened with collapse.

At this point in the debate around the utility of ‘the exception’ proponents claim that ‘the exception has become the norm’; if ‘free market norms’ are constantly suspended then the exception is always at work. But this defensive move is more concerned with preserving the analytic of ‘the exception’ than analysing the phenomenon itself, in this case the politics of a financial collapse. It is not persuasive. The analytic of ‘exception’ requires accepting that there is a politically and intellectually meaningful distinction between what is normal and exceptional. I’m not sure that gendered, raced and class-based analysis of capital accumulation allows for such a distinction, or at least makes one very difficult to justify. Jacqueline Best seems to be aware of this problem, pointing out that the main focus of the article is on ‘the use of exceptionalist policies by western, industrialized states’. She notes that there is a ‘rich literature on the recurrence of exceptionalism in developing economies, particularly in the context of western-driven development’ (388).

Underlying this distinction is the claim that while there might be constant economic crises in the global South this is not so in the North or ‘West’. ‘While we may forget it in moments of prolonged stability’, she writes, ‘capitalism has always been a volatile and crisis-prone form of political economic organization’. Yet, there is a ‘capacity of free markets to foster the good life through economic growth and [a] tendency to massively disrupt that good life through periodic crisis’ (382). Here Best is trying to have it both ways, acknowledging the crisis-prone nature of capitalism while also insisting that many do live the good life and this good life can be disrupted. In the end, what has to be central to the analysis of ‘exception’ is the appearance of ‘prolonged stability’ for political and economic elites. Many of those same elites were shocked at the election of Trump.

Best is absolutely right that CSS is limited to the extent that it pays little to no attention to political economy. Jacqueline Best has written an important article that will provoke debate across CSS and cultural political economy. But I am not convinced that much is gained from theories of ‘the exception’. If the fascist origins of such theories are not enough to discredit this framing, then its dependence on elite discourses of ‘crisis’ should be enough. I understand that Best is searching for a more satisfactory framework than old-fashioned analysis of ‘class war’. If the problem with such analyses, as Best claims, is that they are too ‘formalist’ and less able to account for the everyday workings of capitalism, then the solution is to work toward a less formalist and more empirically grounded analysis of ‘the tedious ongoing work that is required to produce’ class, gender, racial and geopolitical hierarchy (389). I remain to be convinced that an analytic of the ‘exception’ offers very much in that worthy endeavour.

Patricia Owens is Professor of International Relations at University of Sussex

‘Security, Economy, Population’ – A response to Owens and Collier

What are the analytical and political stakes of thinking about political economic practice through the lens of exceptionalism? These I take to be the fundamental questions underlying the very insightful comments by Patricia Owens and Stephen Collier, two scholars whose work I greatly admire, on my Security Dialogue article ‘Security, Economy, Population’.

Best and Collier’s remarks are provocative, thoughtful and, perhaps most importantly, generative of new connections and directions for those who want to rethink the relationship between economy, security and politics today. In this brief response, I would like to pick up on four key challenges that Owens and Collier raise in their comments, and which move the conversation forward in important ways. I will begin by engaging with their appeals to take seriously the social and technocratic character of the relationship between security and economy. In doing so, I will also make a case for why exceptionalism remains a powerful category for understanding the logics of liberal governance. I move on to briefly examine the history of 20th century economic exceptionalism, adding a further layer of complexity to the narrative that Collier elaborates. I will conclude by returning to the question that I explore in the article’s conclusion: arguing for the usefulness of the concept of economic exceptionalism in our attempts to make sense of these troubling times.

Although Owens and Collier articulate their challenges in different terms, both question my narrow focus on crisis forms of exceptionalism. No doubt inspired by her own very important research into the historical emergence of the social and the often-neglected role of oikonomiain contemporary international politics, Owens suggests that we must attend to the ‘social production’ of exceptionalism. She then goes on to argue that the emphasis on exceptions obscures the ways that patterns of exclusion occur ‘all the time’ in economic management, not just at rare moments of crisis. Collier also points towards the ways that emergency-management has been embedded in a wide range of mundane bureaucratic processes—moving it beyond the kind of singular sovereign decisions that scholars of exceptionalism have tended to emphasize.

Both scholars are absolutely correct to identify this lacuna in the article, which focuses on what I describe as emergency exceptionalism. This article is part of a bigger project that seeks to make sense of both emergency and more mundane, technocratic forms of exceptionalism. In the sister-article to this one, ‘Technocratic Exceptionalism: Monetary Policy and the Fear of Democracy’(just published in International Political Sociology), I suggest that we also need to consider the role of everyday economic exceptionalism. In order to illustrate this paradoxical concept, I point to the parallels between border guards and central bankers. Both, I suggest, ‘operate, on a day-to-day basis, in political spaces exempt from many of the norms of liberal democratic politics, and yet have the power to define and constrain them.’In identifying this connection, I am drawing on rich scholarship on the mundane character of security exceptionalism (such as work by Didier Bigo, William Walters, Marieke de Goede and Louise Amoore) that attends to the ways in which exceptionalist politics can operate on a daily basis through a myriad of everyday practices that sort the safe from the unsafe, the included from the excluded.

How does this logic operate in the economic context? It does so by cordoning off a whole host of different aspects of economic policy that are deemed to be too important to be left to the vicissitudes of democratic oversight. As I note in my Security Dialogue article, capitalist economies are highly unstable. We should not be too surprised then to find that, ever since liberal states began to expand the democratic franchise in the 20thcentury, they have had to contend with the fact that the general public has a tendency of voting to constrain the wilder side of the liberal market economy when given the chance. While Karl Polanyi’s proposed resolution of this tension—using democratic authority to constrain the free market— gained some influence in the post-war era, Friedrich Hayek’s neoliberal response won out in the late 1970s. Since then, most liberal states have opted to protect the market by limiting democratic oversight over key economic policies —creating pockets of technocratic exceptionalism in the process. Why should we think these dynamics as a form of exceptionalist politics rather than a more efficient kind of policy-making? There are three compelling reasons to retain this language —in spite of the very real and reasonable concerns that both Owens and Collier flag.

First, these kind of economic practices are exceptionalist because they are immensely political. Monetary policy is a domain that is supposed to be in need of protection from democratic whim because, we are told, the public tends to vote for inflationary policies. Yet, as Kathleen McNamara has demonstrated in her article on the ‘Rational fiction’of central bank independence, this arms-length approach to monetary policy does not in fact improve economic outcomes. Instead, it actively reproduces a set of policies that, by making price stability rather than employment the dominant goal of monetary policy, bears considerable responsibility for growing inequality. Although I would agree with Owens here that the central actors in the story that I am telling are generally political elites, their actions nonetheless reproduce a particular set of class, gender and racial dynamics, and have profound consequences for the lived experiences of ordinary people.

Second, the logic underpinning these economic policies is parallel to the one that I outline in ‘Security, Economy, Population’: both emergency and technocratic forms of exceptionalism are defined by the articulation of an extreme threat, the suspension of normal democratic procedures, and the implementation of the exception through a range of technical practices. In the case of monetary policy, the logic is very clear: the threat of inflation (particularly hyper-inflation) is deemed severe enough to justify the suspension of democratic oversight, which had been the norm in most western countries until the introduction of central bank independence the 1980s. This exception has been implemented through a series of bureaucratic practices, such as inflation targeting, that have minimized the scope for considering their distributive consequences.

Third, once we recognize this exceptionalist pattern in the economic context, we can also begin to make connections with the growing literature in legal and security studies on the rise of legislative exceptionalism. As Andrew Neal, John Ferejohn and Pasquale Pasquino have noted in the British and American cases, respectively, in recent decades we have seen far fewer cases in which formal emergency powers are invoked to respond to crises, and far more reliance on legislative measures—such as the PATRIOT Act in the US and the Defense Against Terrorism Acts in the UK. While this kind of legislative exceptionalism has the advantage of some initial democratic oversight (even if it is usually an extremely rushed form), it blurs the line between the norm and the exception and is more liable to be normalized over time, as what was once an exceptional power (of surveillance, for example) becomes routine.

If economic exceptionalism can take these different forms—emergency, technocratic, legislative —then what are its historical patterns? This question takes me back to the fascinating historical discussion that Collier introduces, when he discusses the efforts by American policymakers in the 1930s to reduce that government’s reliance on emergency powers by creating more technocratic capacity. While this historical account is compelling, we should not be too quick to assume a linear path between the 1930s and today. In my own recent research into anti-inflation policies in the 1970s, I was struck by the extent to which liberal democratic governments continued to make use of formal emergency powers in this era —as President Nixon did in 1971 when he imposed wage and price controls, and as Prime Minister Heath did in Britain in 1973-74 when he imposed a three-day work week in response to the coalminers’ strikes. It is only in the early 1980s, with the election of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan that we see a clear rejection of such policies and embrace of a more technocratic kind of exceptionalism in monetary policy—in which the explicitly political, negotiated solutions to inflation that were the norm in the 1970s are replaced by monetary rules.

Although I am still in the process of making sense of this puzzle, it is clear that the relationship among different forms of exceptionalism is complex and dynamic—and far from linear. In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, for example, central banks were able to create new exceptionalist powers in the context of the emergency precisely because of their technocratic exemption from full democratic accountability. At the same time, the remarkable expansion of their powers after the crisis ultimately made people more aware of their unelected and largely unaccountable status, raising questions about the sustainability of their technocratic exceptionalism. At Judith Butler reminds us, the exceptional and the governmental are intricately linked in contemporary society.

This brings us at last to the present moment of political disquiet. Both Collier and Owen, in different ways, question the category of economic exceptionalism not only in analytic but also in normative terms, asking whether it helps us understand the present moment or obscures its dangers. As I have written elsewhere, there was a moment in the early days of Trump’s election that I wondered whether I had been wrong to argue for greater democratic accountability for central banks. After all, shouldn’t we all be relieved that there are at least some areas of economic life that are protected from Trump’s political interference? Yet, if we want to understand how we produced a western world of inflated asset prices, declining real middle-class incomes and spiralling wealth inequality, then we do have to pay attention to the technocratic practices that ensured that price stability would trump all other economic goals, whatever the costs to the many (and benefits to the few). And, if we want to understand why there is so much disillusionment with expert authority —particularly economic authority— then we also have to pay attention the specious economic ideas that have been championed by a neoliberal elite as too important to be subject to debate. And when we ask ourselves what has led to the impoverishment of contemporary democratic debate, then we need to pay attention to the systematic effort by our leaders to exclude politically salient issues from the agenda in the name of economic necessity.

The language of economic exceptionalism is powerful not only because it allows us to analyze the complex tensions within liberal modes of governance, but also because it enables us to diagnose some of the sources of the current democratic crisis—and to call for their transformation.

Jacqueline Best is Professor at School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa. The Security Dialogue blogpost on her article discussed in these rejoinders and response can be found here.

The Good Drone

Edited by Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert. Abingdon: Routledge, 2018, 202 pp.:  9780367000844 (hbk)

Kristin Bergtora Sandvik and Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert’s collected volume entitled ‘The Good Drone’ highlights the materiality of the drone in the context of humanitarian applications and questions. While the book primarily deals with the question of materiality in the context of humanitarian applications, the drone’s history as a military technology and its symbolic significance is not neglected. By asking the contributing authors what it means for a drone to be good, the editors invite them to assess whether drones can be good at all, as well as how this might vary across applications and contexts. As is often seen with emerging technologies of surveillance, there is a Janus faced quality (Lyon 1994) to drones. As Sandvik and Jumbert argue in their introduction, “drones are not ‘pre-destined’ to be good or bad, but are tools that can be used in good or bad ways” (p.14). This collection adds to the emerging literature on the use of drones outside of the battlespace, and specifically, in humanitarian applications. A major contribution of this collection, while considering the positive and negative aspects of the drone, is to warn against “the drone as a technological fantasy, and drone utopianism” (p. 6), which the authors accomplish in a balanced way. The contents from chapter to chapter build well on each other, from the shifting context of drones from military to civil contexts and each engage with the specific complexities of the drone in humanitarian applications.

The first chapter by Krasmann begins by contextualizing the drone in its killing context and takes a biopolitical stance arguing that the drone contributes to the protection of the social body by making it visible. Krasmann ultimately argues that the precision nature of the drone in war is exactly what makes it troublesome for use in humanitarian spaces. Building on the suitability for drones in humanitarian spaces, the next chapter asks whether they are bound to codify life numerically as they do in war zones. Karlsrud and Rosen conclude that while drones can be useful, key issues must first be addressed around data collection and use-policies must be put in place before their wholescale adoption in humanitarian contexts. In chapter three, Liden and Sandvik assess whether humanitarian drones are a cure-all for protecting civilians. Based on the notion of the right to protect, this chapter introduces the positive aspects of drone use but highlights the need to address harms that might arise with persistent drone surveillance and data collection in spaces of discontent. Overall, the first three chapters engage with important questions around the perception of drones by individuals who are subject to them on the ground, as well as the ways that the technical capabilities of drones might lend themselves to ‘function creep.’ While none of the authors negate the positive aspects of drones for humanitarian operations, they argue that much consideration and thought must be put into assuring their appropriate use.

Chapters four and five deal with the introduction of drones in the domestic realm for patrolling and public order. Jumbert’s chapter questions the official reasons for the introduction of drones for surveillance patrols along EU borders. She argues that the discourse surrounding the introduction of drones has positioned them as an asset in assisting with migrant rescue, whereas the project is really more about increasing the reach of the border and extending the areas under near-constant surveillance. This typical border agenda is made clearer when the author links the introduction of drones back to broader EU border projects where the goal is ultimately to keep in the good and desirable elements and keep out the bad, undesirable things, people or otherwise. Sandvik builds on these biopolitical questions and analyzes the domestic use of the drone for policing purposes. The problem uncovered by Sandvik is the framing of drones in the domestic space for policing and public order purposes, in that the question has become more about how to make drones more effective rather than whether drones should be introduced in the first instance. Echoing the other chapters, these two chapters highlight the concerns for data collection, privacy and surveillance, despite the potentially beneficial applications.

The next two chapters assess the use of drones for commercial and research purposes, looking at their adoption for precision agriculture and wildlife monitoring. Bolman’s chapter on agricultural drones engages with the strategies of normalization employed by industry to make drones seem necessary for farmers. He notes that precision agriculture has always adjusted alongside new technologies and drones are not unique in this sense; but he argues that the drone contributes to a Foucauldian articulation of neoliberal man. In this sense, farmers are repurposed as purely economic actors, in order to help accelerate the commercialization of drones, land speculation, and surveillance in ways that serve to exacerbate global resource inequality. Chapter seven highlights the role of the drone in the world of conservation science and speaks to its flexibility – which is important for this kind of research. Using the case of studying orangutans in Indonesia, Wich, Scott, and Pin Koh address the privacy concerns that arise in these remote contexts. Their recommendation is that prospective drone operations are preceded by engagement with local communities, proper protections for data, and addressing ethical quandaries that arise around data regarding illegal activities like illicit logging and poaching.

The concluding chapter by Kaufmann brings all of the topics full circle by engaging once more with the question of materiality and how a drone’s sensing abilities imitate human bodies and the kind of power this can have in humanitarian and emergency situations. Kaufmann emphasizes how technologies alter “relationships, practices, and epistemologies of emergency governance,” in the ways they interact with human beings (p. 169).

Aiming to “chart a path between determinism and constructivism,” (p.5) all of the authors engage with questions about whether the drone is neutral and what impacts it has when adopted in particular spaces. Throughout, there is a flow in the way most of the authors contest and contextualize the technological capabilities of drones within broader political and social arrangements. By engaging with the drone in the spaces where they are deployed, most of the authors challenge and question the technological optimism that has accompanied the advent of drones in the domestic space. Overall, this text adds to emerging literature on the use of drones outside of the battlespace and pushes readers to think about whether or not drones should be used across various applications just because they can be used.

Does terrorism work?

Does Terrorism Work? A History by Richard English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. 368pp., £25.00 (h/b), ISBN 9780199607853

The renewed proliferation of terrorism studies that rapidly followed the 9/11 attacks has been well-documented, and the post-9/11 wave that is now nearly two decades old, has focused predominantly on an elusive, universally-accepted definition of terrorism. Efforts to understand the utility of terrorism represent a flourishing debate that faithfully provides us with a kaleidoscope of answers. Richard English’s Does Terrorism Work? takes up this inherently controversial question by addressing four empirical cases: al-Qaeda, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), Hamas and Palestinian Terrorism, and the Basque nationalist and separatist group known as the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) or Basque Homeland and Freedom.

English’s exploration of these and other groups delivers a fascinating account of what constitutes success in the practice and management of terrorism. The primary questions raised in English’s inquiry are timely and carry a striking exigency. Prefacing his book’s intricate analysis, English addresses skepticism about the ability of experts to point to clear answers with precision, especially given that many of the challenges confronting such questions are rooted in the murkiness of subjectivity. If we are to inquire about the efficacy of terrorism, then it follows that one must ask: “for whom?” English spotlights this barrier prior to his case studies, showing that the same thorny concern has repeatedly impeded attempts to explore these issues. Having provided his own definitional approach and, after confronting the obvious difficulties in addressing the overarching question, English sets the tone of the book as one of historical engagement.

English presents the four types of success that a terrorist group or organization can achieve: “strategic victory,” “partial strategic victory,” “tactical success,” and “rewards of struggle” that lie beyond the scope of a group’s main objectives (p. 30). This fourfold framework grounds his analysis for each case. In Chapter 1, English demonstrates that although al-Qaeda failed in its stated central goal to expel the United States from the Middle East, the terrorist network nevertheless succeeded in some of its secondary objectives, including a range of tactical successes that have been undeniable to observers. The PIRA case, introduced in Chapter 2 serves up a more complex tour and English explains how PIRA’s actions could be interpreted as having gone “beyond terrorism” (p. 95). Violence, which was just one of many means used by them, was indeed instrumental in PIRA’s accomplishments but not to the extent that had been expected, even by the group itself. The case of Hamas in turn, presented in Chapter 3, tests the guiding question of English’s work. Short of achieving its central goal, Hamas’ violent strides still nurtured the development of conditions less favorable to the Israelis over a protracted period. As English writes, “[t]hey have had some success in determining the political agenda (damaging a peace process which they despised), and they have gained some interim concessions as well as huge publicity” (p. 182). In Chapter 4, English shows how the echo of reward in Spain benefitted the ETA in the Basque region on a number of fronts, with a surge of support across a broader community of radical nationalists.

Does Terrorism Work? presents readers with a detailed engagement of terrorism and terrorist struggles, sidestepping easy answers to a complex phenomenon. The subjective character of terrorism ultimately accommodates a difference of opinion regarding the capacity of groups and organizations to realize their political goals through the mobilization of radical violence. Readers will find that to assess the outcomes of terrorism, one must shift one’s lens to see acts from a terrorist’s point of view. English’s work goes a long way in accommodating this perspective by incorporating data obtained through interviews with former terrorist operatives. These interviews bring the intimacy of perpetrator motivations to the reader, illustrating with detail the stated rationale behind indiscriminate acts of violence. English sustains this subjectivity while underscoring the importance of its critical context.

Ultimately, Does Terrorism Work? offers a nuanced account of terrorist practices over the course of numerous decades. Although there have been instances where terrorism has served a group’s central and strategic aims to laudable effect, English corroborates what other leading terrorism scholars have revealed through their own research: that terrorism rarely produces the desired results of terrorist groups and organizations save for a few notable cases. Hence, in his conclusion English argues that rather than attempting to counter a group’s central grandiose objective, it makes more sense to pragmatically concentrate on areas where terrorists are more likely to succeed. This is because the so-called terrorist crisis of today stems, in part, from the relationship that governments share with terrorists in their misguided responses and counter-terrorism policies. Does Terrorism Work? Is a marvelous piece of scholarship in spite of producing some pockets of ambiguity. Horizon-expanding and masterfully-written, this work will likely make an unequivocal contribution to classrooms and be well-received by anyone interested in history, sociology, and terrorism and political violence, for many years.



Anxiety, fantasy and ideology in the social construction of a ‘Muslim problem’

‘I’ve been warning my party of its “Muslim problem” for far too long’, wrote Baroness Warsi in July 2018, calling for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the UK’s ruling Conservative Party. Warsi subverted a term coined a year earlier when Trevor Kavanagh, former political editor of the Sun, published a column in that paper posing the question: ‘What will we do about The Muslim Problem then?’. Kavanagh’s article triggered an inquiry by the UK media regulator (of which Kavanagh was a board member), whose ruling concurred with the Muslim Council of Britain and the Board of Deputies of British Jews that his words ‘could be interpreted as a reference to the rhetoric preceding the Holocaust’ but nevertheless failed to uphold the complaint.

Meanwhile, another sometime Sun columnist and radio presenter, Katie Hopkins, known for anti-Muslim hate speech called for a ‘final solution’ after the 2017 Manchester bombing, a term repeated by an Australian senator in his August 2018 maiden speech, in which he declared Muslims ‘a problem’ for Australia. Alongside these uses of Nazi terminology, ‘mainstream’ politicians offer succour to the Islamophobic far right with tirades against aspects of perceived Muslim-ness. Former Mayor of London and UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, also in August 2018, wrote about feeling ‘perfectly entitled’ to ask that Muslim women constituents remove items of their clothing in his office, ridiculing burqa-wearers as ‘letterboxes’ and ‘bank robbers’ (terms used in street abuse[1] of Muslim women). And all of these cases follow the government’s (2016) Casey Review; commissioned as a general ‘review into integration and opportunity’, the final report was obsessively preoccupied with the lives of Muslim others.

This widespread and multi-faceted problematisation of British Muslims exceeds post-9/11 ‘securitisation’ framings, and is taking place against a backdrop of rising Islamophobic hate crime and an international context that includes President Donald Turmp’s ban on people from certain majority-Muslim countries from even entering the United States.

So does the UK have a ‘Muslim problem’ and if so, what is it? Our new Security Dialogue article, explores the ideological functions served by media scandals around British Muslims relating to ‘grooming gangs’; the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal in Birmingham schools; and halal food scandals epitomised by the Sun’s ‘Halal secret of Pizza Express’ headline.

What does it mean to say that these scandals serve ‘ideological’ functions? Our article draws upon the Lacanian, psychoanalysis-infused concept of ideology developed by Slavoj Zizek, to argue that the ideological functions of a media scandal are the powerful ways that it structures social fantasies. Wherever we find anxiety-inducing social tensions and contradictions – such as those around systematic sexual abuse, deregulated education, or the industrialised production of meat – we find fantasy narratives displacing or managing these anxieties.

The UK’s real ‘Muslim problem’ is that political and media elites fixate upon British Muslims, while publics voraciously consume Muslim ‘plot’ narratives as a means of displacing ethical responsibility for social antagonisms onto a minority ‘other’. As our article shows, this has created a ‘conceptual Muslim’ like the Nazi ‘conceptual Jew’ – a monstrous figure that can be blamed for our lack of cohesive national selfhood at times of economic and political crises: the Great Recession, austerity and Brexit. Such ideological fantasies of ‘problems’ are of course extremely dangerous since they can sustain violently racist policy ‘solutions’.

[1] Following the research for this article, we are currently engaged in a research project on the ‘intersectional politics of austerity and Islamophobia’, supported by the Centre for Urban Research on Austerity at De Montfort University. In a research interview with a victim of Islamophobic abuse, just weeks before Johnson’s article was published, a participant outlining his family’s experiences of street abuse told us: ‘a guy called my wife a letterbox, because she wears the Niqab’.

The politics of identifying potential terrorists

Is it possible to identify someone who might, one day, go on to commit an act of terrorism? And if it is, is it possible to intervene in order to disrupt or mitigate this potential? These questions have been central to state responses to the “war on terror” and have led to the creation of new security practices focussed on the problem of radicalisation – understood as the process by which an individual becomes involved in terrorist violence.

The UK’s “Prevent” strategy represents the cutting-edge of global counter-radicalisation practice. Central to Prevent is “Channel,” the institutional space in which vulnerabilities to radicalisation are reported, and where decisions are made on whether and how to intervene. First trialled in 2007, Channel has grown to become a central pillar of the UK’s response to terrorism. Controversially, in 2015, engaging with the Channel process became a statutory duty for many authorities, encompassing those who work in, for instance, education, healthcare and social work. Therefore, those who work in these fields must now pay ‘due regard’ to those who might be “vulnerable to radicalisation,” vigilant to this potential, and reporting concerns where they arise.

Yet, as I demonstrate in this article, this process of identification is not as unproblematic and apolitical as government guidance suggests. Rather, Channel guidance and training produces a visualisation of the potential future terrorist. And this visualisation is political, reproducing assumptions concerning who is seen as a threat. In exploring the mechanisms through which a vision of the potential future terrorist is produced my article, recently published in Security Dialogue, contributes to a broader understanding of how security can often function through the visualisation of threats.

Key to many security regimes is the production of an optics of that which is risky, requiring securing, and that which is not. In my article I show that security often functions through what I call “regimes of (in)visibility,” which are constituted by security guidance and training. Who does this training and guidance make visible? Who does not require attention, becoming invisible? In locating the production of the security gaze as central to British counter-radicalisation efforts, what emerges is an account of Prevent that seeks to restructure the gaze of relevant professionals towards new threats. It is a desire to transform how millions of workers with Prevent responsibilities see and engage with their environments.

The question at the heart of Channel is, therefore, what gaze does it seek to produce? As has been widely discussed in the context of British counter-terrorism, it is a gaze that is concerned with identity and the vexed question of “Britishness.” With extremism being defined in opposition to “British values,” and with many “vulnerability indicators” highlighting questions of identity and religiosity, it is a security gaze directed towards those seen to not cohere. In this way, it is a gaze that cannot escape existing ideas concerning who is seen to unproblematically belong within “Britishness” and who is not. It is a gaze that is thus often attuned to those who are identified as Muslim.

In addition though, by locating vulnerability to radicalisation within a wider safeguarding framework, Channel mobilises an already existent pastoral gaze. In doing so, it integrates pre-existing safeguarding concerns within this counter-radicalisation framework. In producing the visible world anew, the gaze Channel seeks to attune one that therefore sits at the intersection of concerns of vulnerability and care, and those of extremism, values and ‘Britishness’, producing new subjects of risk. Channel thus represents a central site in the production of who is seen to be risky, requiring attention, and who is seen to be secure within the war on terror.

Moreover, as the article concludes, what we see emerging with Channel is a novel ambition that seeks to embed security at the heart of everyday social relations. If part of the human condition is change over time – of becoming – then the promise held by Channel is that, with the right training, becoming that is becoming dangerous can be made visible in the present, can be identified, and, ultimately, can be mediated before such danger manifests. Channel can thus be read as a strategy of (in)visibilisation at the forefront of visibilising life itself as a process of (potentially dangerous) becoming. It is the frontline of a profound merging of a politics of care and a politics of identity, enabling new subjects and objects of risk to be identified, and with significant implications for our understanding of how contemporary life must be secured.