Does our security over ‘here’ depend on the insecurity experienced and violence perpetrated in ‘sites of exception’ over ‘there’?  (2000 word count)

Global insecurity and ‘exceptional sites’

Does our security over ‘here’ depend on the insecurity experienced and violence perpetrated in sites of ‘exception’? How can borders, (air)ports, detention centres and sweat factories be considered ‘necropolitical’ sites? Is violence today to be found more in these logistical ‘nodes’ than in inter-state wars?

Essential readings:

1) F. Debrix and A. Barder ‘Nothing to Fear but Fear: Governmentality and the Biopolitical Production of Terror’, International Political Sociology, 3:4 (2009), pp. 398-413.

2) Eski, Y. (2016) ‘The war on meaninglessness: A counter-terrorist self through an absent terrorist other’, Ethnography, vol. 17 no. 4, pp. 460-479

Supplementary readings:

Adey P (2009) Facing airport security: affect, biopolitics, and the preemptive securitisation of the mobile body. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 27(2): 274–295.

Amoore L (2006) Biometric borders: Governing mobilities in the war on terror. Political Geography 25(3): 226–351.

Duffield, Mark (2005) ‘Getting savages to fight barbarians: development, security and the colonial present’, Conflict, Security & Development, 5:2, pp. 41-159.

Walters W (2002) Mapping Schengenland: denaturalizing the border. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 20(5): 561–580.

Giorgio Agamben, “Security and Terror” (Theory & Event, Vol. 5 No.4: 2001) Online here:

De Larringa , Miguel and Doucet, Marc (2008), ‘Sovereign Power and the Bio-Politics of Human Security’, Security Dialogue, vol. 39, no. 5.

Johns, Fleur (2005) ‘Guantánamo Bay and the annihilation of the exception’, European journal of international law 16, pp. 613-35.

Jenny Edkins, “Power, Zones of Indistinction, and the Camp”, Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, Vol. 25, No. 1: 2000), pp. 3-25

Lecture Notes:

What is the politics of contemporary violence, insecurity and killing?

= general strategies of power that, in the process of making life live, entail the regulation of populations.

= aims to control and manage populations through forms of surveillance which are internalized. Power lies in the ability to differentiate between what must live and what must die.

= Mode of control that rather than relying on direct and crude coercion is predicated on taken-for-granted practices and ideas aimed at making bodies docile.

– we have witnessed a subtle shift from sovereign juridical power to biopower.

instead of political subjects, we now have technologised subjects of administration, governance, surveillance and discipline.

– the sovereign (state) has the power to reduce individuals to ‘bare life’, establishing a ‘state of exception’ where human rights no longer apply.

– individuals stripped of their hurnanity whom the sovereign can kill without punishment and without honouring human death.

refugee camps

Guantanamo Bay

migrants at the border

sweat shops

‘gig’ economy…

Politics is the continuation of war by other means – Michel Foucault

contemporary violence results not from the pursuit of the politics of life -> Biopolitics

but from the politics of death -> Necropolitics

  • sovereignty means the capacity to define who matters and who does not, who is disposable and who is not.
  • the Western ‘zone of peace’ is intimately linked to ‘death worlds’ in the Global South where vast populations are subjugated, made into ‘living dead’ (beyond ‘bare life’, death­in-life), rendered disposable.
  • the distinction between disposable and non-disposable lives is made to rely on a biological difference -> in necropolitics the function of racism is to regulate the distribution of death.
  • colonial occupations and modern-day forms of slavery (including labour) as forms of necropolitics.

The essential infrastructure of global capitalism is not finance or trade but it is logistics – the infrastructure of the global economy that ensures, regulates etc the flow of goods, people, stuff, capital (e.g., ports, airports, web, etc).

  1. crisis of the Westphalian system


security as a lynchpin of the Westphalian system

security as the flipside of the state monopoly of violence

security as the marker of inside / outside distinctions

  1. crisis of war as an institution of international order

This infrastructure rests on

an architecture of security and violence

90% of all violent deaths today happens outside situations of war

violence transverses the global political space, along the ‘global insecurity continuum’

realism: territory, sovereignty and security


  1. Corona Virus can also be used as a current example. The government uses fear to control us an example would be the enforcement of lock down and the increase in security and surveillance. The virus was not a concern to the West, it was not a direct threat as it was associated with the territory of mainland China. Only once it came knocking at the door of Europe did the government decide to take security precautions.

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