Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Series in Critical Security 7

SCS 6 gave me the opportunity to delve a bit deeper into what is meant by "threats" in the discourse of National Security. Further reflection on the issue has helped me to realize a fundamental reality of security: the condition of relationships between entities (for lack of a better word). I came to this understanding by breaking down the different parts that constitute the concept of a "threat." In order for there to be a threat, there must be a vulnerability. If there were no vulnerabilities then threats would cease to be considered a threat. Secondly, in order to calculate vulnerabilities there must exist some potential capacity to exploit that vulnerability. So in a very structural and schematic way "threats" are relational. My use of relational in this instance is meant to describe the connections between different elements in security discourse. So, for instance, in order to claim that Saddam's supposed capacity to deploy WMDs was a threat, US vulnerability to such a capacity had to be demonstrated - thus, the relational structure.

But given the intellectual mileage already accumulated in this series, I know that "ethnic state security maps" operate as, "the basis for state elites structuring inter-ethnic relations in a fashion that best secures the current state structure" (Enloe 1980, p. 15). Furthermore, I know that state structures operate at the level of racial projects and ensure their viability through the creation of domestic and global racial hierarchies entangled with gendered, classed, and sexualized forms of difference and domination. These theoretical insights from Ethnic Studies scholarship bring another use of relational into the fold of Critical Security Studies.

This other use of relational refers to post-structuralist theory of identity formation with special regards to Derrida's use of the term differance. This term, differance (different from difference with an e), emerges from the understanding that meaning is produced because of the relationship of elements in a system. In this system there are no positive elements - no elements that can be called simply itself. The identity of a "thing" depends upon its difference from the network of other "things" that are strung together in space and time - so that its meaning is never present in itself but always deferred, delayed, put off until you have time to cross that space and time to determine the set of relations (Thanks to "Derrida for Beginners", for the helpful exposition).

If we are to mesh these concepts together then it seems plausible to think of the structure of race relations that best secures the state apparatus as the result of inter-relational racial discourses. In other words, ethnic state security maps provide the orientation of subjective identities. [This is a new idea that I'm trying to work out, so I'm not sure if this is will be fruitful in the end, so thanx for bearing with me] May be an example would help out. For instance, when the possibility of Arab immigrants carrying out a terrorist threat in the US is considered, policy elites, bureaucrats, and pundits never define the threat of such individuals solely based upon thier abilities. The definition of that threat involves merging the identity of undocumented latino border crossers with Arabs, in order to demonstrate a vulnerability. Additionally, the threat consideration will likely victimze the bureaucracy as plagued by poor funding (this has the dual effect of garnering more legislative support shifting the blame to those who oppose such policies). In a different example, the consideration of undocumented immigrants in the US is never solely based upon political rights, but rather defined in relation to thier impact on domestic workers and labor markets (especially in regard to black workers, in an effort to prevent solidarity). Additionally, the secrutity considerations of Latinas is different than that of Latinos, which links them to the stereotype of black women in thier relationship to state. These security considerations allow policy makers to make claims that security policies that create insecurity for the target population are appropriate for managing the problem. It seems that Critical Security Studies must draw from the traditions of Ethnic Studies if it is going to be able to alleviate the insecurity of state security programs.

The challenge for combining racial theory and Critical Security Studies is the double movement of dismantling the racial discourse created by the security apparatus as well as establishing new possibilities for social organization that are not the result of threat calculations. If you can think of other challenges, please bring them forward - I'd love to hear them.

Relational Threat Analysis:
  1. Structural schema which defines the "threat terrain."
  2. Unstable and fluctuating constellation of inter-referential identities, the basis of "who" in questions concerning state security.


Blogger Trevor said...

Hey Jason,

Have you seen this call for submissions? Maybe a good palce for the Chang?


11:10 PM  
Blogger Carton Tragedy said...

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10:07 PM  

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