THE reviews Spaces of Security

Times Higher Ed has a nice review of Security and Insecurity: Geographies of the War on Terror, edited by Alan Ingram and Klaus Dodds, published by Ashgate (our Foucault book publisher).

The reviewer, Simon Reid-Henry, who directs the Centre for Global Security and Development, Queen Mary, University of London, describes it as:

a fascinating cross-section of contemporary understandings of security that take us well beyond stock-in-trade critiques of the political lassitude and legal effrontery of Western states, particularly the previous US Administration.

Such a task could have been undertaken within a range of academic disciplines, of course, but this book is overwhelmingly the work of geographers. Although they are aware of the moral, legal, ethical and political questions posed by the subject matter, the main points they raise are primarily geographical ones. And while Ingram and Dodds’ overarching aim may be to explore the production of security discourse within variously non-political and cultural arenas, they do so only after covering geography’s more traditional base – geopolitics. The result is a satisfying analytical arc, which begins with an international- relations critique of Tony Blair’s vision of “just” war and ends in artwork that projects security plans from Baghdad on to a map of Brussels to bring the “urban geopolitics” of the Iraqi capital closer to home.

Should be useful for people reading through Security, Territory, Population.

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Terror alerts and politics

Tom Ridge’s recent confirmation that the Bush administration used terror alerts for political gain is currently getting attention in various political blogs (eg, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald). Ridge was Secretary of Homeland Security until his resignation in November 2004 shortly after the presidential election. In a new book, Ridge details meetings held within the administration in which the possibility of raising the terror alert was discussed just prior to the election. (Alertsd were also issued at other times which Ridge does not discuss.)

Although this is not directly about Foucault, it does parallel themes that he discussed in several places, namely the intersection of security, politics and governmentality. In that light it is interesting to see this discourse gradually seeping into the wider public sphere, and to see journalists who dismissed those who raised this issue as crazy be held accountable (Greenwald is shudderingly good on the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder).

This story will no doubt be watered down into exactly what Ridge or the Bush administration did or didn’t do, but we can put that aside for the historians and just consider for a moment how this affects what is considered acceptable political discourse. Greenwald cheekily emails one of the journalists who derided critics of the Bush administration as needing “psychological help” to ask if he thinks Ridge is similarly insane. Those who pointed out that the US is itself a terrorist state have long been marginalized, even within academia though mostly in the public mind (eg Noam Chomsky). (Foucault never said this of course.) I’m not sure if the pin has been moved on the political meter in the USA but I think this is a noteworthy story.

How homeland security has infiltrated academia

Big article in The Nation on how homeland security has affected and dominated academia, not just in research, but also materially:

Free-speech zones. Taser guns. Hidden cameras. Data mining. A new security curriculum. Private security contractors. Welcome to the homeland security campus. From Harvard to UCLA, the ivory tower is fast becoming the latest watchtower in Fortress America.

Some of the seven means by which this has happened are long familiar (privatization for one has often formed the backbone of the neoliberal state) or part of larger trends (surveillance). Continue reading

More comments on Iran

It’s quite interesting how Ignatieff dismisses Foucault’s support for the Iranian revolution with just labelling him as radical and praises Jahanbegloo’s attempts to bring the liberal, pragmatic thinkers such as Rorty and Heller.
<snip>
A recurring theme these days is that the lines between the right and the left, when it comes to Iran, has become so blurry that they has almost become meaningless.
The left has started to challenge the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy in a similar fashion to the right. This is what living in the American paradigm does to one’s intellect, I suspect.

(From here.)

Continue reading

Rudy Giuliani: identify every “non-citizen”

Rudy Giuliani has proposed that every “non-citizen” in America should be identified and placed in a federal database:

The organizing purpose should be that our immigration laws should allow us to identify everyone who is in this country that comes here from a foreign country.

They should have a tamper-proof I.D. card. It should be in a database that allows you to figure out who they are, why they’re here, make sure they’re not illegal immigrants coming here for a bad purpose, and then to be able to throw out the ones who are not in that database.

Talk about a society of security! I can’t wait to receive my nice new ID card.