What Is in an Act? Diffusing Politics of Insecurity

CEU Community Only
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Wednesday, November 3, 2010 - 5:30pm
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm

Chair: Irina Papkova

Discussant: Paul Roe

In the speech act of security, the concept of ‘act’ draws attention to a dual aspect of securitising: the actualisation of a decision with political gravity and the exceptionality of acts of securitising. The decision to securitise enacts the world through a centre of gravity where multiplicity can be brought together around an upping of the bet into a test of the will to survive. At this point a political critique of securitising becomes possible based on assigning political responsibility, demanding political accountability, and the legitimacy of authorisation based on claims of exceptionality. When looking more closely at analyses of surveillance, risk management and precautionary practice, among others, one tends to encounter a highly diffuse process of securitising and its contestation in which decisive acts with gravity are effaced. What can the politics of insecurity be if securitising is a highly diffuse process which effaces ‘acts’ as the actualisation of a decision with gravity? I propose a political analytics of little nothings that focuses on the critical capacity of mediating actants in situations of disagreement over justifications pertaining injustices and understands these disputes as an ordinary, frequent part of a scattered and scattering process of securitising. It is the basis for a political sociology of securitising in which the distinction between the normal and exceptional, the everyday and the security elite, the habitual and the extra-ordinary, which are central to the conception of speech acts of security, no longer organise the politics of insecurity.

Dr Jef Huysmans is Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Open University, London. He has published widely on security theory, the securitization of migration, asylum and refugees, and international political theory. Currently he focuses on political theories of the everyday and on critical methodologies in security studies. Dr Huysmans conducts his new work on the everyday politics of insecurity through the university’s Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance of which he's also a director. Dr Huysmans is Principal Investigator of the project ‘International Collaboratory on Critical Methods in Security Studies’ funded by ESRC programme International Networking and Training Opportunities (2009-2011). Dr Huysmans also works on the political significance of mobility, specifically in relation to European citizenship. Currently he leads, with his colleague Dr Aradau, work package 3 Enacting mobility: making a more democratic European citizenship for the new OU-led, European Union funded (Framework 7) project Enacting European Citizenship (2008-10). He was also associate researcher in the Framework Programme 6 project The Changing Landscape of European Liberty and Security and chaired the research network COST Action A24, ‘The Evolving Social Construction of Threats’.