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Security Flows at EWIS 2023

Security Flows will be joining the 10th European Workshops in International Studies (EWIS): Are we doomed? Rethinking War and Peace in World Politics, in Amsterdam this year. EWIS 2023 will take place at the University of Amsterdam from 12-14 July 2023.

Claudia Aradau & Ibtehal Hussain will be presenting their paper at the Making Security Public: Scandals, Controversies, Struggles EWIS workshop organised by Claudia Aradau (King’s College London) & Georgios Glouftsios (University of Trento). Their paper is titled 'Neither scandalous, nor controversial? Data and its non-publics'.

Abstract of paper: Neither scandalous, nor controversial? Data and its non-publics

Borders produce many forms of spectacular and lethal violence. While we have seen much mobilisation around pushbacks, detention and deportations, some violent practices do not seem to produce public controversies or scandals. This paper inquires into how biometric data sharing between Five Eyes Countries has failed to reach the threshold of a controversy or a scandal. In doing so we ask about characteristics of (non-)violence and (non-)scandals through this case, and importantly, what this means for acts of resistance.

Biometric data sharing is deemed to have started in 2009, though the length of time and extent of these practices remain ambiguous. The Department of Homeland Security describes the programme as aiming to ‘help identify individuals whose identities were previously unknown and by doing so, improve national security’ (DHS, 2009). Though Five Eyes governments have published documents, guidelines, and occasional press releases, this case has been only sporadically covered in the media, disclosures, and NGO reports. Biometric data sharing raises questions about non-scandalous, uncontroversial violence that produces non-publics rather than rallying publicity and public mobilisation.

Workshop description: Unregistered border deaths, covered-up police violence, nonrecording of data, black operations and classified counter-terrorism programmes, as well as obscure surveillance and intelligence gathering infrastructures are only some of the forms that security takes today. Although security is practiced virtually everywhere, its form, consequences and inner workings are elusive, uncertain, concealed or foggy. We know about the existence of security’s dirty secrets, without however knowing their precise content and meaning (Birchall, 2021; Walters, 2021). It often takes the persistent efforts of investigative journalists, activists and academics to make these practices public and open new scenes of contestation. This workshop proposes to explore modes of making security public. More specifically, we invite theoretical and methodological engagements with scandals, controversies and struggles over rendering the violence of security practices visible and contestable. We understand security in broad terms as relating, among others, to warfare, policing, surveillance, as well as borders and migration management.

Controversy-oriented research has emerged within the transdisciplinary field of Science Technology Studies (STS) where scholars have been studying the development and closure of technoscientific disputes, the variegated processes through which scientific “facts” come to be accepted or rejected, and the multiple frictions arising in the process of building technological devices and large-scale infrastructures (e.g., Barry, 2001; Bijker and Law, 1992; Venturini and Munk, 2022). In critical security studies, scholars have explored how matters of care and concern emerge over security practices, how public inquiries and court hearings allow researchers to better understand how security is contested (e.g., Anwar, 2020; Gros, De Goede and İşleyen, 2017; Ingram, 2019; Walters, 2014). They have also attended to how sociotechnical controversies bring together policy makers, legislators, public authorities and private contractors (e.g., Côté-Boucher, 2020; Glouftsios, 2021; Monsees, 2019; Schouten, 2014). Scandals (and related concepts of disputes and affairs) have been discussed in pragmatic sociology (de Blic and Lemieux 2005, Boltanski and Claverie 2007), but until recently have attracted less attention in international relations (but see Aradau and Mc Cluskey 2022; Johnson, Basham and Thomas 2022). Struggles have informed critical analyses of power and knowledge, in close relation to resistance and counter-conduct. Starting from struggle has also been proposed as a methodological intervention for critical security studies to make sense of ‘less-visible violences to which they testify’ (Coleman and Rosenow 2016).

We propose to further this research agenda by inviting attention to scandals, controversies and struggles as methodological interventions to make security public. Engaging with scandals, controversies and struggles is a way to observe security politics in action, in the sense that it allows researchers to follow disputes relevant to security as they unfold in public forums and gather empirical material that would be otherwise difficult to access. Scandals, controversies and struggles involve a multiplicity of actors who often expose, debate and disseminate information about security to the wider public (e.g., oversight bodies, field experts, investigative journalists). We also want to reflect upon how we, as scholars, can engage in security politics through interventions that feed into struggles over rendering security’s violence and injustices visible.

A full programme with details of other presentations can be found in the attachment below.

EWIS final
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