Accepted paper:

Doing insecurity: how to link anthropology of security and emotions

Author:

Alexandra Schwell (University of Klagenfurt)

Paper short abstract:

The paper makes a novel contribution by linking the anthropology of security to the study of emotions. It specifically focuses on fear and anxieties as emotional practices and directly connects them to securitizing practices, thus scrutinizing their resilience and proliferation.

Paper long abstract:

The paper makes a novel contribution by linking the anthropology of security to the study of emotions. It specifically focuses on fear and anxieties as emotional practices and directly connects them to securitizing practices, thus scrutinizing their resilience and proliferation. Security experts, populist politicians and tabloid media frequently invoke an imaginary population's "subjective feeling of security" as a reference point for action. Research has shown how securitizing actors stoke fears of religious minorities, asylum-seekers, or the opening of borders. Authors such as Didier Bigo scrutinized how knowledge is produced within the security field, how it shapes public discourse, and how it is translated into security measures, policies, and laws. Yet, the subjective feeling of security itself, and the anxieties that inform it, got surprisingly little scholarly attention so far. While it is generally agreed that these notions are informed by historically transmitted narratives and instrumentalized in struggles over power and resources, their functioning and practice have seldom been subjected to closer scrutiny. Anxieties are implicitly dismissed as something irrational that only befalls the gullible and less educated - and therefore can be refuted by ratio and reason. Yet, emotions are not the opposite of ratio, but they are embodied social practices that acquire and reproduce meaning and effects within a specific context. Drawing upon examples from (in)security discourses, the paper argues that micro practices of fear and anxiety as "doing insecurity" play an important role in the creation, institutionalization and perpetuation of security discourse and practices.

panel P001
Bodies of evidence, experts, and intimacy in the anthropology of security (EASA Anthropology of Security Network)