Less lethal weapons as border control

Authors: Anna Feigenbaum*, Bournemouth University
Topics: Political Geography, Human Rights
Keywords: borders, border control, militarism, policing, riot control
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Studio 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Less lethal weapons, or weapons less likely to kill a target than firearms, have long been used to exert control over prisoners and protesters. Increasingly these weapons have come to be used in the policing of border zones, becoming a regular part of the ‘humanitarian’ arsenal of border security. In this session presentation I discuss how less lethal weapons form part of a system of atmospheric governance (Feigenbaum and Kanngieser 2015), using the air itself as a weapon through which to enact sensory terror on the body and environment. Always presented as the less possible evil (Weizman 2011), these weapons become constructed as a democratic alternative to more repressive forms of border control. The easy mobility, cost effectiveness, and ephemerality of less lethal weapons make them an ideal force for policing of emergent border zones, where security infrastructures are often ad hoc and responsive. Yet while these weapons leave fewer traces of blood than bullets, there is always debris: canisters shells, grenade shrapnel, casings strewn across the border landscape. Learning to read these objects left behind--a process we call civic forensics-- reveals a much larger geographical political economy connecting manufacturers in the transnational trade of these weapons and drawing attention to what has been called the ‘militarization of aid.’ This presentation uses evidence from our 'civic forensic' analyses of deployments of less lethal weapons as border control in Europe since 2015 to show how this atmospheric governance is embedded in the broader transnational trade of ‘humanitarian’ response and border securitization.

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