Research project

This project is an anthropological study of how citizenship is being reconfigured through hybrid forms of security governance. It will research these transformations by focusing on public-private ‘security assemblages’, with particular emphasis on the role of the private security industry. Much recent scholarly debate has focused on shifting modes of governance in a context of neoliberal globalization. Specific attention has focused on how governance is increasingly achieved through networks or assemblages of state, corporate and voluntary actors. Such assemblages of state and non-state actors blur the lines between public and private, and between local, national and transnational. My research will shed new light on this debate by investigating the implications this form of governance has for how different groups enact and experience citizenship, concentrating on public-private security assemblages as hybrid, multi-scalar governance structures. I will examine how forms of ‘differentiated citizenship’ are produced, and how political subjectivities shift, as a result of these forms of security governance.

Case studies

These transformations in citizenship will be analyzed through a comparative analysis of security assemblages in five cities with high levels of insecurity: Kingston (Jamaica), Jerusalem (Israel), Miami (US), Recife (Brazil) and Nairobi (Kenya). The project will research the composition, operation and regulation of public-private security assemblages in and across these different urban settings, with special attention to the global mobilities of security companies and techniques. In each setting, the project will study the practices and discourses that structure relations between state and non-state security providers, clients and those seen as threats. It will focus on the ‘security encounter’ between these different actors, in which new social relationships and subjectivities are produced.

This project will make a significant contribution to our understanding of shifts in citizenship in a context of neoliberal governance. It will advance theory within the anthropology of the state, security studies and urban studies. By addressing the consequences of security privatization for rights and accountability, the project will be able to make evidence-based policy recommendations to inform the development of security governance that is not only effective, but democratic and equitable. The project is expected to lead to the development of an anthropological theory of security governance with both theoretical and applied relevance.