This chapter starts to challenge the narrative introduced in chapters 1 and 2, and establishes the central relation within Prevent between security and temporality. It argues that Prevent represents a novel ambition for the state: early intervention into processes of becoming violent. It thus intervenes within conditions of uncertainty, in that it is not certain whether such an individual would go on to participate in violence or any other illegal act. Engaging with the emergent academic literature in this area, the chapter argues that such intervention necessarily acts within conditions of uncertainty. This in turn requires discursive and institutional mechanisms that make such a threat knowable and actionable. The term preclusive is introduced here as a general term that emphasises this relation between security and temporality, making clear that all acts of securing are necessarily productive of a future threat they then preclusively act on to mediate. The chapter then demonstrates how the concept of radicalisation fulfils this function for Prevent, identifying potential future violence in the present.
This chapter demonstrates that the anlaysis of chapter 1 has been, historically, reproduced across much of the academic literature on Prevent. This literature, it will be argued, often sees the ‘solution’ to Prevent as the separation of its security and identity strands. It therefore positions the two strands as ‘separable’, failing to go beyond the questions that the policy itself asks. It can thus be argued that the academic literature, even when critical, has failed to develop an account of Prevent that conceptually grasps the relationship between security and identity established in the policy. This chapter then analyses two approaches to Prevent, emergent within the literature, that provide a means of moving beyond this position: first, an approach that argues Prevent has produced Muslims in the UK as a ‘suspect community’, and second, an approach that argues Prevent represents a strategy of counter-insurgency.
Drawing heavily on the original interviews conducted during the research, this chapter provides a comprehensive account of the history of the Prevent policy. This chapter identifies the key discursive and organisational shifts that have occurred within the development of Prevent, periodising Prevent into three distinct phases: 2001–6; 2007–10; and 2011–15. It demonstrates that the changes to Prevent reflect an underlying debate that sits at the heart of the policy: should Prevent focus on those at imminent risk of radicalisation? Or should the focus be broader, engaging with the ideas and values of communities that may justify and enable violent extremism? A security and an identity strand. The debate between these positions, narrated in the interviews and policy documents, represents the conventional narrative of Prevent, where, at times, the strands are brought together, and at times, it is their separation that is advocated.
The introduction begins by narrating the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal that engulfed Birmingham education in 2014. Identifying the anxiety surrounding Trojan Horse as being the introduction and intensification of an Islam-informed ethos into the schools, it highlights an analysis which claims this ethos will leave children in these schools ‘vulnerable to radicalisation’, a claim which could not have been made without the development of the Prevent strategy. The book positions this conceptual link drawn between identity, security and temporality as central to Prevent, with the Trojan Horse situated as an exemplar of the function of power that Prevent has mobilised in responding to the problematic of radicalisation, a function of power that the rest of the book will go on to outline. After outlining the key claims made in the book, the introduction then outlines the theoretical and methodological approach taken. It discusses the approach taken to the interviews as well as the Foucauldian concepts of problematisation, assemblage and diagram, outlining how they will be used to shape both the argument and the structure of the book. The introduction then concludes by providing an account of this structure.
This chapter draws together the previous chapters to establish Prevent as a form of power that has played a key role in producing and policing contemporary British identities. It argues that this diagram enacts its own political geography, producing an account of identities as secure or risky based upon their coherence, or not, with a ‘British’ identity, and then seeking to act on those identities produced as alienated from, or outside of, this ‘normalised Britishness’. Read as an abstract diagram, the power Prevent mobilises need not be reduced to a focus on Muslim identity, and is translatable beyond its specific genesis. It then demonstrates the consequences this function of power has for the expression of politics in the UK, arguing it radicalises the relation of security and identity in the UK. In seeking to intervene early, it extends the scope of who must be secured (as signs of potential to violence must be managed) and who is responsible for such security (as all must now bear responsibility for identifying such signs).
This chapter develops an account of how Prevent manages problematic spaces. Notably, this represents the conflation of community cohesion work and Prevent. While community cohesion develops separately to Prevent, a discursive reading of cohesion and Prevent texts show how the two become conjoined as a way of thinking about, and governing, threatening communal environments. Prevent also contains a focus on problematic institutions such as schools and prisons wherein extremism could take hold. Both rely on an analysis that understands an alienation from ‘Britishness’ and ‘British values’ to represent a threat which can be managed by intervening into the spaces in which radicalisation occurs. In order to manage these spaces, a governmental approach is invoked, wherein through intervening into the circulation of identities, it is presumed that less threatening identities can be generated. Yet it also pushes beyond Foucault’s articulation of this modality of power, seeking not just to regulate flows, but to actively intervene to promote ‘British’ identifications.
Vulnerability, extremism and
This chapter demonstrates that Prevent produces an account of future violence by discursively producing certain performances of identity as ‘vulnerable’ to radicalisation due to their alienation from ‘Britishness’ and ‘British values’. It is therefore through understanding and ordering identities in the present that processes of becoming violent in the future can be conceptualised and intervened into. Analysed through a post-structuralist framework, this discursive positioning can be understood as a set of productive practices; it is through the security act that alienation from ‘Britishness’ is made manifest. ‘Britishness’ and ‘British values’ are thus produced as secure and securing; they are normalised, while that which is produced as external is rendered threatening and, therefore, in need of intervention. Prevent, therefore, establishes a boundary between those identities deemed secure, those that are contained within a ‘normalised Britishness’, and those deemed threatening, on account of the potential they may contain. The problematic of Prevent therefore brings together questions of temporality, security and identity, producing and then securing the threat of the future through an analysis of performances of identity in the present.
The politics of Prevent
How can potential future terrorists be identified? Forming one of the four
pillars of the United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST, Prevent
seeks to answer, and act on, this question. Occupying a central role in security
debates post-9/11, Prevent is concerned with understanding and tackling
radicalisation. It carries the promise of early intervention into the lives of
those who may be on a pathway to violence.
This book offers an innovative account of the Prevent policy, situating it as a novel form of power that has played a central role in the production and the policing of contemporary British identity. Drawing on interviews with those at the heart of Prevent’s development, the book provides readers with an in-depth history and conceptualisation of the policy. The book demonstrates that Prevent is an ambitious new way of thinking about violence that has led to the creation of a radical new role for the state: tackling vulnerability to radicalisation. Foregrounding the analytical relationship between security, identity and temporality in Prevent, this book situates the policy as central to contemporary identity politics in the UK. Detailing the history of the policy, and the concepts and practices that have been developed within Prevent, this book critically engages with the assumptions on which they are based and the forms of power they mobilise.
In providing a timely history and analysis of British counter-radicalisation policy, this book will be of interests to students and academics interested in contemporary security policy and domestic responses to the ‘War on Terror’.
The concluding chapter returns to the ‘Trojan Horse’ affair, demonstrating how it epitomises the mobilisation of the power identified in the book. The chapter situates Prevent as central to understanding contemporary academic and political debates regarding security, identity, community and the expression of politics in the UK. Further, it locates Prevent as central to an emerging security paradigm that seeks to map and secure the future, and is mobilised outside of traditional security architectures, notably through pastoral forms of power. In doing so, it outlines an analysis and a research agenda that is crucial to understanding the present and future of security policy in the UK.
Identifying individuals who
This chapter analyses how specific individuals who are deemed vulnerable to radicalisation are governed. It articulates Prevent as a targeted, counter-radicalisation programme, most clearly expressed through the Channel project. Channel functions through identifying individuals deemed vulnerable to becoming violent, through identifying the ‘vulnerability indicators’ they display in the present. Channel thus acts as an institutional space to make visible and then intervene into performances of identity that are read as constituting a potential threat. In so doing, it invokes and reworks a pastoral power of care. This power seeks to produce the truth of the individual through interpreting the signs they display in the present. Once identified, intervention is required to bring the individual back to a ‘secure’ identity.