This article challenges the well-established presentation within conflict studies of paramilitary organizations as state-manipulated death squads or self-defence groups, and argues that some present-day militias extend their functions well beyond the role of shadowy pro-regime enforcers. Drawing its empirical insights from Ukrainian pro-government volunteer battalions and supporting its findings with empirical observations from other parts of the world, the article posits that the rise of powerful militia organizations acting in parallel with the state makes it imperative to revisit the theory and typology of paramilitary violence. The key theoretical argument of the article is that ‘state-parallel’ militias differ qualitatively from the ‘state-manipulated’ paramilitaries that are typical of the Cold War period. The article shows that although ‘state-parallel’ paramilitaries are not a new phenomenon, they have thus far remained critically understudied and undertheorized.
This article assesses the role of the audience in securitization theory. The main argument is that in order to accurately capture the role of the securitization audience, it must be theorized as an active agent, capable of having a meaningful effect on the intersubjective construction of security values. Through a meta-synthesis of 32 empirical studies of securitization, this article focuses on two central questions: (1) Who is the audience? (2) How does the audience engage in the construction of security? When assessed against the theoretical works on securitization, this analysis reveals that the manner in which the audience is defined and characterized within securitization theory differs with the empirical literature that investigates securitization processes. Where the empirical literature suggests securitization is a highly intersubjective process involving active audiences, securitization theory characterizes audiences as agents without agency, thereby marginalizing the theory’s intersubjective nature. This article sketches a new characterization of the securitization audience and outlines a framework for securitizing actor–audience interaction that better accounts for securitization theory’s linguistic and intersubjective character, addresses this theoretical/empirical conflict, and improves our understanding of how groups select and justify security priorities and costly security policies.
There appears to be a rift between the theoretical and normative understandings of what reconciliation means and offers, and what people expect to happen in postconflict scenarios. Here we present a conceptual framework that captures the definitional diversity surrounding the concept of reconciliation and then operationalizes it in order to analyze responses from postconflict populations. The illustrative application of our framework to responses from a representative survey of 1,843 Colombian citizens reveals that people’s convictions are just as diverse as scholars’. Nevertheless, significant proportions of respondents seem to understand reconciliation to be primarily a psychological and political process which aims to achieve the re-establishment of quotidian or day-to-day relations and cooperation; which should be preceded by the cessation of violence, dialogue, goodwill, and attitudinal and emotional change; and which should be accompanied by social welfare and security. It is noteworthy that understandings of reconciliation as a process mediated by justice, truth, and memory are scarce. The application of this framework will help to reveal differences between hopes and promises, and inform scholarly work and policymaking that is more realistically rooted.
This article examines rumour as a distinct type of speech act and makes a case for engaging with the spaces within which rumours are deployed and circulated in practice. Critiquing the rigid linguistic focus on speech acts within prevailing securitization theories, it follows insights from the fields of political geography and anthropology in order to incorporate voices from the margins more fully into its analysis of threat construction. Examining the local deployment and circulation of rumours in religiously mixed Arab localities in Israel, it argues that the perlocutionary force of rumour not only is rooted in local security and policing arrangements but reveals a spatialization of violence that is particular to the margins. In so doing, the article seeks to contribute to a broadening of the research agenda on the social construction of threat that would not only bring ‘security have-nots’ to the centre of its analysis but draw attention to the margins as a particular type of security space.
While international relations has increasingly begun to recognize the political salience of Indigenous peoples, the related field of security studies has not significantly incorporated Indigenous peoples either theoretically or empirically. This article helps to address this gap by comparing two Arctic Indigenous peoples – Inuit in Canada and Sámi in Norway – as ‘securitizing actors’ within their respective states. It examines how organizations representing Inuit and Sámi each articulate the meaning of security in the circumpolar Arctic region. It finds that Inuit representatives have framed environmental and social challenges as security issues, identifying a conception of Arctic security that emphasizes environmental protection, preservation of cultural identity, and maintenance of Indigenous political autonomy. While there are some similarities between the two, Sámi generally do not employ securitizing language to discuss environmental and social issues, rarely characterizing them as existential issues threatening their survival or wellbeing.
Drawing on securitization theory, this article proposes three factors to explain why Inuit have sought to construct serious challenges in the Arctic as security issues while Sámi have not: ecological differences between the Canadian and Norwegian Arctic regions, and resulting differences in experience of environmental change; the relative degree of social inclusion of Inuit and Sámi within their non-Indigenous majority societies; and geography, particularly the proximity of Norway to Russia, which results in a more robust conception of national security that restricts space for alternative, non-state security discourses. This article thus links recent developments in security studies and international relations with key trends in Indigenous politics, environmental change, and the geopolitics of the Arctic region.
Full securitization has largely been regarded as something negative that should be avoided. While acknowledging this, the present article adds that securitization moves that fail to succeed (i.e. that end in securitization failure) can, at least in the environmental sector of security, trigger positive outcomes if a given issue becomes (re)politicized rather than depoliticized. This is because securitization moves can be helpful in raising sufficient awareness of an issue to gain the attention of the relevant audience(s). Subsequently, the article argues, different audience strategies determine whether securitization moves are turned into securitization failure as (re)politicization or securitization failure as depoliticization. The article introduces different behavioral strategies that audiences can employ to reject securitization moves: the passive recipient strategy, the blocking strategy, and the active reshaping strategy. Only the latter indicates that an audience not interested in letting securitization moves succeed simultaneously seeks to have the issue in question be, or remain, a part of the political agenda. The article uses the spring 2010 Mekong crisis as a test case to support its theoretical arguments.
This contribution asks how the reliance on mass dataveillance of travellers is sustained as a central policy option in the governance of EU border security. It examines this question by analysing a recent initiative of the European Commission proposing the establishment of EU ‘smart borders’. The analysis draws from a set of thinking tools developed by the sociology of association in the field of science and technology studies. The contribution argues that in order to grasp policy outcomes such as smart borders, security studies would benefit from adopting a compositional outlook on agency, where action is seen as the effect of associated entities. Looking at the smartening of EU borders, the article finds that this process is held together by multiple translations and enrolments through which the technical side of dataveillance – platforms, automated gates, matching systems, and so forth – has become associated with the processes of policymaking on border security and sustains the furtherance of mass dataveillance.
This article calls for a greater emphasis on issues of politics and anti-politics within critical debates about transnational security governance in the metropolis. While scholars have documented the growing popularity of policy ‘models’ and ‘best practices’ in policing and urban security planning, we know little about what makes these schemes attractive to the officials who enroll in them. I take the government of Maharashtra’s decision to ‘learn from Israel’ following the 2008 Mumbai attacks (26/11) as an invitation to re-evaluate the relationships among policymaking, politics, and depoliticization. Focusing on references to Israeli security know-how as a ‘best practice’ by Maharashtra state officials, I explore how an association with Israel was used to negotiate the conflicts and controversies that followed 26/11. The article has two aims: first, it addresses how transnational policy schemes work anti-politically within particular local contexts. Second, it locates counter-terrorism policy as a form of performative politics, which is generative of policy problems. In doing so, the article helps to reclaim the political contingency of policy responses to terroristic violence and addresses the agency of policy actors in the global South.
The nuclear age has been characterized by an emerging and now well-established norm of nuclear non-use, the ‘nuclear taboo’. In the realistic and naturalistic setting of the science-fiction TV series Battlestar Galactica, however, nuclear weapons are used frequently and at times massively. Claiming that science fiction can function as an illuminating ‘mirror’ for international relations scholarship and that we can learn something from ‘second-order’ (fictional) worlds, this article explores potential in-show reasons that render the absence of a nuclear taboo plausible within the universe of Battlestar Galactica. We turn to the central pillars of the nuclear taboo in the real world and find them reversed in the show: nuclear weapons are (depicted as) ‘clean’, international institutions are absent, and the enemy is socially constructed as a ‘radical other’, thus rendering the possibility, if not likelihood, of nuclear war plausible. With these insights, we return to our world and argue that, particularly during the years of the George W Bush presidency, the erosion tendencies of the nuclear taboo were indeed quite serious: technological progress and growing political inclination expedited plans to develop usable nuclear weapons, arms control regimes came under considerable strain, and opponents were portrayed as ‘unjust enemies’ or ‘rogues’.
Biosecurity is a concern in many parts of the world but is differently conceived and addressed depending on context. This article draws on two cases concerned with life sciences research involving dangerous pathogens, one in the United States and one in Israel, to examine this variability. In both cases, concern revolves around issues of biosafety and bioterrorism, which are targeted by similar policies and solutions. The cases, nevertheless, differ. In the United States, biosecurity is contextualized in the dynamics between science and society, and apprehension about research with dangerous pathogens focuses on the social risks and benefits of such research. In Israel, biosecurity is contextualized in the dynamics between science and the state and hinges on whether and how far the state should restrict scientific freedom. In view of this difference, the authors advocate the development of a nuanced concept of biosecurity capable of describing and explaining local permutations. They suggest reconceptualizing biosecurity as a boundary object that mediates between competing domains and that takes variable form in efforts to resolve the problem of securing life.
During the last couple of decades, the virtual has emerged as a forceful conceptual tool in security studies. While used primarily in order to question assumptions about an objective truth concerning the meaning and value of security and different forms of insecurity, the implications of drawing on this concept vary considerably depending on how the virtual is conceptualized, and specifically how the potentiality of the virtual is linked to the process of actualization. Turning to the philosophies of Baudrillard, Agamben and Deleuze, as well as key thinkers in contemporary security studies, this article delineates three different approaches to analysing the virtualization of security. Focusing in particular on how these approaches point to contending views of ‘capture’ and ‘resistance’, it is argued that the choice of approach has serious implications for grasping what is at stake politically in the process of virtualization. These implications relate, more precisely, to how the virtual opens up and/or closes down the spaces of resistance that the modern subject of security traditionally has relied upon. In this way, the virtualization of security not only is important for thinking about capture and resistance, but challenges the very ground on which the modern subject of security rests.
This article examines the history of the development of drone technology to understand the longer histories of surveillance and targeting that shape contemporary drone warfare. Drawing on archival research, the article focuses on three periods in the history of the drone: the early years during World Wars I and II, the Cold War, and the 1990s. The history of the drone reveals two key trends in Western warfare: the increasing importance of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and the development of dynamic targeting. These trends converge today in a practice of lethal surveillance where ISR capabilities are directly linked to targeted killing, effectively merging mechanisms of surveillance and knowledge production with decisions on life and death. Taking this history of lethal surveillance into account not only reframes current debates on drone warfare, but also connects the drone to other practices of security and control.
This article investigates the relation between exception and governmentality in the critique of sovereignty. It argues that the problem of sovereignty is not only expressed between the accounts of sovereignty that exception and governmentality articulate, but also within each of those accounts. Taking Michel Foucault and Carl Schmitt as the paradigmatic theorists of governmentality and exception, respectively, this article engages in close readings of the texts in which these concepts are most thoroughly elaborated: Security, Territory, Population and Political Theology. These readings demonstrate that the spatiotemporal expression of the problem of sovereignty within exception and governmentality renders these concepts indistinguishable from one another in terms of their relation to the boundaries of political order. Schmitt and Foucault’s accounts of sovereignty should thus not be read as opposites, but as expressions of the limits of modern political authority. Efforts to develop a critique of sovereignty through typologies of exception or governmentality are bound to reinstantiate the spatiotemporal limits expressed by the principle of state sovereignty.