Vernacular Theories of Everyday (In)security: The Disruptive Potential of Non-Elite Knowledge
Stevens, Daniel P.
Copyright © The Author(s) 2015 by Peace Research Institute Oslo
Citizens increasingly occupy a central role in the policy rhetoric of British National Security Strategies, and yet the technocratic methods by which risks and threats are assessed and prioritized do not consider the views and experiences of diverse publics. Equally, security studies in both ‘traditional’ and ‘critical’ guises has privileged analysis of elites over the political subject of threat and (in)security. Contributing to the recent ‘vernacular’ and ‘everyday’ turns, this article draws on extensive critical focus-group research carried out in 2012 across six British cities in order to investigate: (1) which issues citizens find threatening and how they know, construct and narrate ‘security threats’; and (2) the extent to which citizens are aware of, engage with and/or refuse government efforts to foster vigilance and suspicion in public spaces. Instead of making generalizations about what particular ‘types’ of citizens think, however, we develop a ‘disruptive’ approach inspired by the work of Jacques Rancière. While many of the views, anecdotes and stories reproduce the police order, in Rancière’s terms, it is also possible to identify political discourses that disrupt dominant understandings of threat and (in)security, repoliticize the grounds on which national security agendas are authorized, and reveal actually existing alternatives to cultures of suspicion and unease.
Published online October 14, 2015