Jan 19-20, 2015: Security at Large: Violent Exchanges and Citizenship Beyond the State

In cities across the world, security has become one of the most prominent concerns in people’s everyday lives. In an increasingly pluralized landscape of security, people rely on a broad range of security providers. In addition to public security forces such as the police and the military, non-state actors such as private security companies, neighborhood watches and armed vigilantes also play an important role in protect urban residents’ lives and property.

As the provision of security is privatized, pluralized and globalized, new forms of governance and political subjectivity emerge, and differentiations of citizenship are reproduced and reconfigure.

The workshop focused on the role that security providers – actors characterized by their capacity for violent enforcement – play in new configurations of governance and citizenship. There was particular interest in ethnographic studies of the security encounters between security ‘providers’, ‘clients’ and ‘threats’, and how these enable a relational understanding of citizenship and governance.

In such encounters between policing authorities and urban residents, ‘violent exchanges’ – transactions involving violence and money – may become central in negotiating relationships of rule and belonging, of rights and responsibilities. How is power negotiated in such encounters and exchanges, and what relationships of reciprocity do they enable?


During this two-day workshop, speakers presented on these issues, drawing on cases from across the world. In addition to presenting empirical cases, they reflected on the analytical purchase of concepts such as assemblages and hybridity in theorizing forms of rule that blur public-private distinctions.

Speakers included: Finn Stepputat (DIIS), Rita Abrahamsen (Ottawa), Michael Williams (Ottawa), Steffen Jensen (Dignity Institute), among others. Click here for the full programme.


This workshop was organised by SECURCIT/University of Amsterdam and DIGNITY Danish Institute against Torture.