Accepted Papers:

Scripts of security and safety in transition: 'policing' urban working-class communities in Northern Ireland  


Nadja Maurer (Hamburg Institute for Social Research)

Paper Short Abstract:

The highly particularistic social organisation of security /safety during the violent conflict and thereafter has undergone a profound change. Scripts, namely knowledges, clotted narrations and feelings for in/security have subsequently become obsolete, are subject to reconfiguration and conversion.

Paper long abstract:

The decommissioning of paramilitary groups, the downsizing (and reform) of the police, and the withdrawal of the British Army in the Peace Process have led to a security vacuum. Sustained sectarian views by many, intermittent violence and dissident republicans complicate the security landscape further, particularly in less privileged republican and loyalist communities where a new generation of paramilitary actors fills that gap. The now applied model of community-based policing works best in middle-class areas where police is actually hardly needed. However, the police presence and the quality of their service is considered relatively poor in marginalised areas. Those communities that have experienced the sharp ends of the conflict are, by and large, left to their own resources, namely paramilitarism as a form of community safety. The attitudes towards police or respectively vigilante paramilitary range from legitimacy, cooperation, support, ambivalence, distance, and mistrust.

Exploring safety in the context of the dynamic and transitional security landscape is to investigate specific concepts (schemata), that constitute the virtual property security in its spatial, temporal, referential and factual dimensions. Shared knowledges, narrations, but also embodied emotions like fear or anger - these competing scripts are blended into local meanings of security. The complex "webs of meaning" are based on collectivised experiences and are, as social constructs, subject to change. Consequently, security and safety indicate not a given state, but a subjective assessment of an assumed state, a potential that shapes and forms incertainties and concerns. Peacetime futurity is constituted by feelings about and knowledge of security.

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