Localizing Global Security: Technologies, Protocols, Infrastructure
4-6 May 2017 at University of Marburg (Germany)
organized by Prof. Dr. Thorsten Bonacker & Prof. Dr. Sven Opitz
Current approaches in globalization studies have criticized the idea of the globe as a comprehensive sphere that exists at a somehow “higher level”, detached from local circumstances. Instead, scholars from different backgrounds have proposed to understand the global as something to be accomplished through situated practices. The global can thus be found in the diffusion of particular norms inscribed into local jurisdictions (Saskia Sassen), in „vernacularization on the ground“ (Sally Merry), in traveling models (Richard Rottenburg), in something as mundane as in technological standards (Keller Easterling), or in particular places such as infrastructural zones (Deborah Cowen). As a consequence, scholars have made the compelling case that the global can be rather small and non-coherent (John Law). This conference aims at adopting this fresh perspective for the analysis of regimes of global security. It seeks to investigate the means through which the global in global security is being attained and how it is translated and somehow modified in local contexts: How is security rendered global? What effect has the fabrication of the global on the notions of security themselves? And how is global security modified and reordered in local contexts?
The conference seeks to answer this question in a comparative fashion. We assume that different regimes of security are constituted by and depend on different modes of “localizing the global” (Bruno Latour). In order to examine the different means through which projects of security reach out for the globe, we invite participants to focus especially on the following three aspects:
- Technologies of global security – Instead of a quasi-natural spherical body, the globe in global security is a highly technological object: simulation models deployed for envisioning the next pandemic or the emergence of civil unrest, algorithms calculating the potential of cascade effects in the world Pinancial system, the software code in drone warfare or risk mapping tools to determine the impact of severe weather events are a case in point. These instances are to be examined with regard to the ways in which security becomes global through technological means.
- Protocols of global security – Instead of thinking of global security law in terms of a distinct layer existing above national jurisdictions, legal globalization is articulated through an assemblage of contracts, court rulings, legal expertise and legislative processes reaching across what are often perceived as “levels” (the federal, the national, the regional etc.). Especially in the absence of a unitary administrative apparatus, global security mechanisms are installed by means of legal standards for communication and conduct. Such regulatory protocols are to be investigated in how they endow security arrangements with a global index.
- Infrastructure of global security – Instead of understanding the global in global security as a boundless, “smooth” or frictionless space, these qualities have to be considered as the result of spatial practices. In fact, producing a global space is mostly highly dependent on practices of territorialization. The logistical zone in security of global supply chains, the war prison in the global war on terror, the aid compound in transnational humanitarian action or the quarantine station in global health security all illustrate this point. They are to be analyzed in terms of territorial strategies designed to articulate regimes of global security. The global in global security is therefore always to be found in local inscriptions. It is inscribed into technological, regulatory or territorial forms. Mostly, these situated articulations of the global go unnoticed with the effect of mistaking the global as a large, homogeneous and detached totality. Focusing on how regimes of global security depend on technological, regulatory and territorial infrastructures thus adds a fair amount of critical rePlexivity to the debate. It helps to unearth the politics that is immanent to the production of the global in global security itself.