A theoretical introduction to the book, which outlines the problems with existing treatments of death in International Relations. The chapter uses continental philosophy (especially Heidegger and Bauman) and literature from the sociology of death to articulate a new theory of security – one where security is the ontological counterpoint to death anxiety. Security responds to, and functions to displace, the anxiety of mortality - which would otherwise disrupt the performance of sovereignty.
Itinerant death at the Ground Zero Mosque and Bali bombsite
This chapter explores civil society activism around bombsite reconstruction in Bali and Manhattan, during delays in post-disaster reconstruction. Organisations have protested against potential profane usage of post-terrorist space in both cases, and in the process they have inadvertently and implicitly made spatial claims about ‘sacred’ space. This chapter explores the Ground Zero Mosque (park 51) controversy, the transportation of debris from the twin towers to a Staten Island landfill site, and the Bali Peace Park campaign to reclaim the Bali bombing site, to explore how activism causes bombsites to mutate, expand and contract in their spatial constitution. The chapter interprets the civil society activism around bombsites through cultural geography to argue that mortality remains an itinerant force of anxiety until post-terrorist landscapes are rebuilt.
This chapter develops the analysis of the relationship between death and security for the era of resilience policy. Instead of promising that a stable and impermeable lifeworld can be maintained through security barriers, resilience reframes security around the inevitability of disaster events. The promise made by security officials to the public is no longer exclusively made in terms of prevention, but also through the prospect of resilient recovery after the crisis: death has made its way inside the performance of security. Despite the shift away from the prophylactic model of security, the chapter argues that resilient security practices still function to mitigate anxiety associated with mortality.
This chapter moves away from Manhattan to explore the competing memorial projects at sites connected to Anders Breivik’s attacks of 22 July 2011 in Norway. It compares and contrasts the aesthetic approaches to memorialisation used by the Norwegian state and civil society actors, while arguing that memorialisation is a security practice in both contexts. Heideggerian and phenomenological geography is used to explore the reclaiming of post-terrorist space and place by civil society actors at Utøya island.
This chapter explores how policies and practices of disaster recovery frame the emergency as ongoing and dangerous, in subsequent months and years, through its disruption of urban architecture and its lingering presence in memory. Death is understood to live on, hidden within human memory, with destabilising effects for politics. Efforts to consolidate recovery use techniques which act upon trauma (such as counselling) and which efface the memory of death inherent within destroyed landscapes (such as memorialisation). This chapter argues that memorialisation is a security practice, contra mortality. The empirical focus of the chapter is the World Trade Center in Manhattan, where the Reflecting Absence memorial has been constructed to simulate disaster recovery and the mitigating of death on the site of 9/11.
Chapter Two outlines the 2012 study ‘Public Perceptions of Threat in Britain’ designed in order to address the gaps in the literature identified in Chapter One, along with the approach to analysis of the data. The study combined representative macro-level insights into public opinion with non-representative micro-level thick descriptive accounts of individuals’ everyday stories, experiences, and (de)constructions. The chapter sets out how an initial tranche of ten mini-focus groups, or ‘triads’, of three people, was conducted to explore questions such as how participants conceptualise ‘security’ and ‘security threat’ and whether they agree or disagree with and/or are affected by a range of government messages about security. Observations of the mini-focus groups and analysis of the transcripts were used to reflexively inform the development of an online survey that was administered to 2004 respondents in June 2012. The chapter outlines the questions asked, and why. A second wave of ten mini-focus groups was then conducted in September 2012, which concentrated on more specific areas of concern in the light of the first two stages of research. The last part of the chapter discusses the approach to analysis.
The Conclusion sums up the research, explores its implications, and draws lessons for the future for both academic and policy-making communities. The implications of the research are several, spanning government and its understandings of how the public views security threats and how the public perceives, experiences, and responds to messages about security threats, academic research in IR and Security Studies and how it conceives of public opinion and the role of the citizen in the risk management cycle; and academic research in Political Psychology and its understandings of the origins and consequences of threat perceptions.
This book explores citizens’ perceptions and experiences of security threats in contemporary Britain, drawing on perspectives from International Security Studies and Political Psychology. The empirical chapters are based on twenty focus groups across six British cities and a large sample survey conducted between April and September 2012. These data are used to investigate the extent to which diverse publics share government framings of certain issues as the most pressing security threats, to assess the origins of perceptions of specific security threats ranging from terrorism to environmental degradation, to investigate what makes some people feel more threatened by these issues than others, to examine the effects of threats on other areas of politics such as harbouring stereotypes of minorities or prioritising public spending on border control over health, and to evaluate the effectiveness of government messages about security threats and attempts to change citizens’ behaviour as part of the risk management cycle. The book demonstrates widespread heterogeneity in perceptions of issues as security threats and in their origins, with implications for the extent to which shared understandings of threats are an attainable goal. The concluding chapter summarises the findings and discusses their implications for government and public opinion in the future. While this study focuses on the British case, its combination of quantitative and qualitative methods seeks to make broader theoretical and methodological contributions to scholarship produced in Political Science, International Relations, Political Psychology, and Security Studies.
Chapter Five takes as its starting point the various ways in which elite responses to security threats such as the National Security Strategy both summarise government perceptions of the most salient threats and are also intended to send messages to the public and shape their behaviour. It examines three dimensions of the relationship between elite and non-elite perceptions and experiences of security threat politics: 1) the extent to which the British public is aware of the NSS or of other government messages and efforts to mitigate security concerns; 2) whether such awareness is associated with heightened or reduced levels of threat perception; and 3) what citizens think of such messages. The various stories people tell – of economic insecurities, fear of crime, and Islamophobia – problematise the narrow and homogenising imperatives of the National Security Strategies, and open up alternative narratives about identity, border-production, and multiple overlapping (in)securities. Awareness of any government security programme and of the NSS is low, about 10 per cent of the survey sample for each, with surprisingly little overlap between the two. Awareness of government strategies for security is also associated with perceptions of more threats.
This chapter highlights the importance of the subject matter of the book and situates the approach and contribution in the fields of International Relations and Political Psychology. While spending on national security in the UK since 2001 has more than tripled to £3.5 billion (Cabinet Office, 2008), it remains unclear how the objectives of the National Security Strategy are received by the British public, whether they are aware of and/or understand those objectives, and if they feel more or less ‘secure’ as a result of their existence. One aspect of this lacuna is a broader lack of social scientific research, including a tendency within security studies to focus on elite perceptions and constructions of security threat. Another is a lack of understanding of the political psychology of different threat perceptions, of the kinds of information and communications that heighten or reduce sense of threat when there are multiple existing threats, as opposed to singular threats from international terrorism or immigration, and of the consequences of different threat perceptions for other political attitudes and behaviours. Having discussed these problems this Introduction maps out how the chapters that follow seek to redress them.