Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Ethics
Secondary Theme: Policy
Security is ubiquitous. Didier Fassin describes it as “a keyword and a leitmotiv of national and international policies in many domains” (Security: A Conversation with the Authors 2008). Although traditionally within the purview of International Studies, security has emerged as a popular subject of anthropological study. Specifically, anthropology has enhanced our understanding of security’s relationship to urban policing (Fassin 2013), migration and human rights (Burrell 2010), and the National Security State (Price 1998). Yet, security’s meaning(s) often remain(s) ill-defined. Likewise, most studies of security tend to focus on core concepts like the state, violence, and war while the idea of security itself can produce a “masculine bias” (Sjoberg 2009).
Etymologically, security denotes the removal (se) of “concern” or “care” (cura) and, therefore, implies a condition that is either carefree or careless (Hamilton 2013). That is, the condition of feeling secure necessitates the work of others in producing care. Recent anthropologies of care have grown. But few have foregrounded the complementary relationship between ostensibly distinct practices of care and security. How might viewing care—both in its presence and absence—and (in)security as mutually constitutive unveil the (invisible) feminized work behind managing individual and collective conflict? Similarly, how might posing security as a masculinized display of (un)caring practices highlight the performative dimensions of the former?
This panel follows interventions by feminist security studies, as well as calls for more critical comparative ethnographies of security (Goldstein 2010). We ask: within which diverse local work contexts might an “ethics of care” (Gilligan 1982)—the theory that care’s core elements of sustaining human relationships and dependencies should achieve moral significance–manifest as a viable alternative to a rationalized perspective of “indifference” (Herzfeld 1992) and justice undergirding conventional logics of security? What are the conceptual and practical implications of productively disrupting pat distinctions between the labor of care and security? For example, in what ways might care labor also serve to (re)produce modes of social inclusion and exclusion? Likewise, how might viewing security as embodied acts of absent (and present) care shift our knowledge about global regimes of gendered labor, precarity, and agency?
Burrell, Jennifer. 2010. “In and Out of Rights: Security, Migration, and Human Rights Talk in Postwar Guatemala.” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 15(1): 90-115.
Fassin, Didier. 2013. Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing. Cambridge: Polity.
Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Goldstein, Daniel M. 2010. “Toward a Critical Anthropology of Security.” Current Anthropology 51(4): 487-517.
Hamilton, John. 2013. Security: Politics, Humanity, and the Philology of Care. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Herzfeld, Michael. 1992. The Social Production of Indifference. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Price, David H. 2010 Cold War Anthropology: Collaborators and Victims of the National Security State.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 4(3-4): 389-430.
"Security: A Conversation with the Authors." Curated Collections, Cultural Anthropology website, December 6, 2012, https://culanth.org/curated_collections/14-security/discussions/13-security-a-conversation-with-the-authors.
Sjoberg, Laura. 2009 “Introduction to Security Studies: Feminist Contributions.” Security Studies 18(2): 183-213.