Accepted paper:

Inside security research


Julian Genner (University of Freiburg)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

While laboratory ethnography successfully engages in the question of social construction of scientific facts it has paid much less attention to applied sciences and the social construction of technologies. Further, it treats the laboratory as an isolated place focusing only on scientists as main actors. This perspective is inadequate when it comes to an ethnographic study of a security research project, namely the development of a full body scanner. I will show that such a research project depends heavenly on the merging of civilian and military sectors, corporate and state interests. These dependencies constrain the everyday work at the laboratory via the project as an institutional form. Although the rethorics accompanying projects in security research highlight partnership, equality and cooperation projects put actors in very different positions. While the scientists are sceptical or uninterested towards the promises made by state officials or company managers, there is a structural dependence especially on corporate interests. Still, my ethnographic research raises some doubt, whether security research produces new security technologies. The ressources provided don't suffice, enterprises aren't too intrigued to participate in a public research program and to engage with its bureaucracy. Could it therefore be that security research programs are not about new products in the first place but rather about generating legitimations for a new market?

panel H1
Open Track