The full issue, edited by Tereza Østbø Kuldova and Jardar Nuland Østbø can be accessed here:
Security and Morality
Critical Anthropological Perspectives
Tereza Østbø Kuldova
OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University
Jardar Nuland Østbø
Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies
Security and Morality: Critical Anthropological Perspectives is a special issue that emerged out of a conference of the same title organized at the University of Oslo by the EASA Anthropology of Security Network (https://anthro-security.net/) in March 2019. Some of the articles in this issue started off as papers presented at this conference, while other papers were submitted in response to the related CFP. In this issue, readers will find a range of articles questioning the relationship between security and morality from critical, interdisciplinary, and anthropological perspectives and addressing issues such as securitization, strategies of moral legitimization and moral cultures, manufacturing of threats, surveillance and paranoia, or the lived experiences of in/security.
John R. Parsons takes us in his article Border Militias: Experience, Narrative, and the Moral Imperative to Act to the US-Mexico border, and reveals how moral ideals, such as the ideal of the citizen-soldier protecting the nation against the evil and immoral Other, underpin the actions and self-understanding of these border militias – an unsecured border is hence interpreted as a legitimate moral imperative to act. Julia Leser discusses in her article On the Sensory Policing of Vices: Morality at Work in a German Vice Squad the affective dimensions of policing sex work in Germany, revealing how morality and the political become performed and operate in the raids against the red-light ‘milieu’ through the sensuous, the somatic and the aesthetic. Tereza Østbø Kuldova argues in her article Imposter Paranoia in the Age of Intelligent Surveillance: Policing Outlaws, Borders and Undercover Agents that new technologies of surveillance, policing and social sorting, powered by big data and artificial intelligence can potentially result in a society driven by suspicion and paranoia, where the Other is perceived either as a threat or a potential imposter - or both; she insists on the need for critical anthropology’s engagement with new security technologies and for a revival of politics proper vis-à-vis the technocracy of algorithmic governance and its injustices. Vera Lazzaretti offers in her article The Burden of Security: Moral Frictions and Everyday Policing in a Contested Religious Compound a nuanced ethnography and analysis of the transformation of the referent object of securitization and of the moral underpinnings of security discourses of policing of the Kashi Vishvanath-Gyan Vapi Compound in Northern India, pointing to the pivotal role of the religion-morality nexus, in this case pointing to the role of the Hindu nationalist versions of Hindu dharm. David Sausdal argues in his article Police Bullshit: Taking Brutal Police Talk Less Seriously, grounded in an ethnography of Danish detectives, that we should not – as the title suggests – afford too much analytical importance to their often distasteful and offensive language, as their words rarely have purchase on their practice; their words are better understood as instances of “bullshitting”. Tessa Diphoorn and Erella Grassiani turn in their article ‘Why Do We Need Your Research?’ The Ethics of Studying Security and the Dilemmas of the Anthropologist-Expert to the ethics and struggles involved in doing critical anthropology of security. Utilizing concrete examples from their respective field sites they engage with the ethical dilemmas of selecting research subjects and facing the expectations of operating as ‘experts’ and engaging with stakeholders. Hedva Eyal, Limor Samimian-Darash, and Nadav Davidovitch explore in their article Humanitarian Aid, Security and Ethics: The Rise of a New Humanitarian Governance at Home the ways in which the politics of life in the context of humanitarian aid by Israel to casualties from the Syrian civil war became shaped by the conflict between two moralities – that of the “human” and that of the “citizen”, which created a new medical-security space and thus raised new ethical and political questions. Stine Ilum shows in her article The Good City: Counterterrorism and the Ethical Work of Transformation in Copenhagen how moral values of liberal democracy and the welfare state become inscribed in the materiality of security architecture in the city of Copenhagen, and how city planners, architects, researchers and others embed their ideas of what they see as the “good city” into its landscape. Tom Bratrud examines in his article Paradoxes of (In)Security and Moral Regeneration in Vanuatu and Beyond the paradoxical intersections of fear, security and morality and the rise of charismatic actors by analyzing a child-led Christian revival movement in Ahamb and juxtaposing it with the recent political and cultural crisis in UK and USA, thus showing that part of their common appeal comes down to their ability to appear to take people’s concerns seriously in a way that established authorities do not. Jardar Nuland Østbø argues in his article Dignity Promotion and the Revenge of Honour: Security and Morality in Russia-West Relations that the West’s neoliberal ‘dignity promotion’ in other parts of the world leads to the resurgence of a primordial culture of honour; using the case of Russia, he shows in great detail how dignity promotion in the post-Soviet countries has failed and even become counterproductive to dignity, leading instead to honourable revenge. Ana Ivasiuc analyzes in her article Threatening the Social Order: The Security-Morality Nexus in the Crisis of Capitalism the moral and normative underpinnings of security laws and the explosion of security narratives that target the Roma in Rome, linking these to the reproduction of social order in the context of contemporary capitalism, while also seeing possibilities for resistance.
This issue also includes book reviews of the following titles: The Anthropology of Police (eds. Karpiak, K. & Garrriott, W.), reviewed by Tessa Diphoorn and Doing Ethnography in Criminology: Discovery through Fieldwork (eds. Rice, S. K. & Maltz, M. D.), reviewed by Ana Ivasiuc.
We are delighted to share with you this extremely rich and exciting special issue. We would like to express our thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their thorough engagement and critical work with all the contributions to this issue of the Journal of Extreme Anthropology. Thank you for reading!