The State and the Urban: a Security Affair

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 6:20 PM (MDT)
Room: Balcony K, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Organizers: Lior Volinz, Francesco Colona
Chairs: Lior Volinz


A growing scholarly discussion turns our attention to the role of security practices, materialities and knowledge in crafting the state, a process which takes place in both colonial and Western settings (Hansen 2006, Goldstein 2012, Graham 2011). In this panel we would like to turn this discussion toward the urban: to explore the relations between the city, security provision and the state. While cityscapes inform and define the relations between (in)security provision and the production, or performance, of the state, so do these relations (re)configure both public and private urban space.

The state, both in its ideas and its systems (Abrams 1988), has often approached as the source of sovereignty and authority. Through the bureaucratic, more or less corrupt, at times violent encounters between citizens who are positioned in an uneven geography of power, sovereignty and authority are often reproduced in practice and through discourses, suggesting specific ideas of state and state-ness (Gupta 2012; Trouillot 2001). Security encounters and the work of security providers, both public and private, such as police, army, neighborhood watches, vigilante groups, private security companies, and mercenaries offers a privileged entry point to understand the dynamics through which the state and its apparatus is crafted in everyday interactions in cities.

Security encounters and the political work of state crafting they do does not happen in a geographical vacuum. Urban areas are the cradles where all these actors meet and interact with each other and with the city dwellers. Cities need to be understood as those processes and spaces that allow for and make state crafting possible (Isin, 2007); It is often through and in the city that security practices, knowledge, materialities, and encounters inform and produce the contours of the state.

Looking at state crafting and the blurring of the boundary between state and city through a multiplicity of security practices raises questions about urban planning, urban design, and the role of urban infrastructure. While the latter could be the technology providing security, they also need to be secured, entering complex relations with the residents of cities. Recently ever more urban areas are being securitized and militarized, becoming the playground and the stage for state endeavours, keeping the meaning of citizenship (in cities and beyond) on an ever-shifting plane. Substantive citizenship, based upon the distribution of rights, resources and privileges, is both claimed and denied through and within urban space. The city becomes both an arena and a producer of security challenges and citizenship claims, where terrorism, criminality, social struggles, migration and informality reshape our cities and (re)configure the relations between citizens and the state. This panel welcomes papers that discuss security practices in urban areas and their relation to the state, to issues of securitization, militarization, policing, infrastructure and security architecture.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Francesco Colona*, University of Amsterdam, Urban Policing Partnerships in Nairobi: Enabling the Police and Enacting the State 20 4:40 PM
Presenter Zoltan Gluck*, CUNY - Graduate Center, Security Urbanism and the Counterterror State in Kenya 20 5:00 PM
Presenter Ana Ivasiuc*, University of Giessen, Making and unmaking the state: informal policing in Western Europe 20 5:20 PM
Presenter Lior Volinz*, University of Amsterdam, Performing the State: Territorialization and Public-Private Security in East Jerusalem 20 5:40 PM
Presenter Kezia Barker*, Birkbeck, In/security in the city in imagined scenarios of state absence: ‘prepping’ in the UK 20 6:00 PM

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