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Paper short abstract:
This paper examines how vigilante individuals at the US-Mexican border are watchful towards conflicting futures and how this is linked to their understanding of security. It shows that the intertwinement of security and temporality can be turned into tools of governance and subject formation
Paper long abstract:
Racialized immigration policies along the US-Mexican border and increasing state surveillance are promising "security" in the face of immediate threats looming across the border. Security is understood as essential to ensure the further existence of an imagined society, based on values which are conceived of as inherently "American". Increasingly, the state calls upon its citizens to be vigilant using slogans like "if you see something, say something" and thus actively engage simultaneously in security-making and future-making. Drawing on research in San Diego, I show that the emic notion of being vigilant helps us to better understand the relationship between security, temporality, and state interventions in various ways. Vigilance is a form of watchfulness which is motivated by social values, often accompanied by concrete actions towards protecting those values. "Security" is turned into an individualized task, which makes citizens responsible for both the very instant as well as a more distant future of the US society more broadly: vigilance actually promises security and therefore a desirable future. This paper elucidates how vigilante individuals are watchful towards sometimes conflicting futures and how they link these back to their understanding of security. This practice goes beyond the individual, as each vigilante lends heightened attention in the service of a higher task. On a conceptual level, I argue that while the security paradigm (Goldstein 2010) provides a framework for social practices related to the anticipation of future scenarios, it also goes beyond this and serves as a tool for governance and subject formation.
The Future in Security: ethnographies of security at the edge of tomorrow [Anthropology of Security Network, ASN]