Centre for the study of Global Security and Development

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Security: the very idea

Like all terms, security has a history. It is a product of the post Second World War period, when States became unable to convincingly claim they could provide for the defense of the realm. The notion of security implies, therefore, that the protection of citizens is contingent upon the constant amelioration of various risks: be these the threat of attack from various state and non-state actors, or even more generally posed social and environmental concerns, such as viruses and climate change.

There is a need to critically analyse how such understandings of security have developed and how they are being used by various actors today. Central to this is developing a better understanding of the way that contemporary security and development landscapes are bound up with global economic and political processes and to assess what the implications of this are for existing patterns of development and life chances more broadly. Even notions such as ‘human security’, while seeking to provide greater protection for the individual in the face of contemporary geopolitical and economic crises, may unwittingly support the extension of various forms of state power over individuals. All discourses of security are thus to be treated with caution, and not least because the deployment of a logic of security quite often requires the construction and elaboration of a ‘threat’ that needs ameliorating.

Work in this strand thus seeks to examine the context in which security policies and practices are produced and to ask whether more security is always what is needed. The Centre will develop research on the ways that notions of security, development and specific concerns (such as security panics) – as well as the various political objectives often furthered in the name of security concerns (from military ‘humanitarian interventions’, the procurement and retention of resource supplies to the introduction of biometric profiling) – are producing some new and reinforcing some old social and political boundaries. This includes considering how such processes are reconfiguring certain features of (post-) colonial relations; how they are re-defining notions of identity through the increasing reach of technology and control over basic human activity; how they are recomposing issues of race, class, gender and social mobility through new forms of political discourse and practice; and how they are becoming increasingly interlaced with the workings of capital.

Staff in this theme

Bove, Dodge, Dunkerley, Fleming, Hanlon, Harney, Kiely, Lee, Mabee, Mandarini, McIlwaine, Reid-Henry, Smith

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