Handbook on Gender in World Politics
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Handbook on Gender in World Politics

Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe

The Handbook on Gender in World Politics is an up-to-date, comprehensive, multi-disciplinary compendium of scholarship in gender studies. The text provides an indispensable reference guide for scholars and students interrogating gender issues in international and global contexts. Substantive areas covered include: statecraft, citizenship and the politics of belonging, international law and human rights, media and communications technologies, political economy, development, global governance and transnational visions of politics and solidarities.
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Chapter 30: The securitisation of human rights

Katherine E. Brown


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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