International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 30: The securitisation of human rights
The field of international relations has long debated the meaning of security and its role in global politics. With the end of the Cold War two trends are notable: a deepening of the concept (so that the security of ‘individuals’ and ‘communities’ might be considered a valid concern of international relations) and a widening of the concept (such that ever broader areas of human life are understood and acted upon through the prism of security). Security therefore is not an objective condition, but a sustained strategic practice aimed at convincing others that a specific development is threatening and risky, requiring immediate action. The process by which this occurs, and how issues and groups are absorbed into the ‘security drama’, is referred to as ‘securitisation’. As described by one United Nations (UN) official, security is ‘sexy and alive, you know buzzes’ (cited in Hudson, 2009: 53–54), because without it nothing else matters. Yet, in response to the war on/of terror, the state simultaneously produces a sense of terror and fear in a banal everyday manner. Thus despite the exceptional processes and practices there are no guarantees of security. This exposes a condition of perpetual insecurity: there is an ‘everyday securitisation’ of ordinary life to the extent that, in the current climate, ‘terrorism’ is with us continuously. This occurs through the institutionalisation of security practices. While defined by a modality of threat-urgency, there is a normalisation of exceptional acts such as banning the burqa.
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