Sicherheitskultur im Wandel

Topics: Terrorism 



Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Many European states have witnessed attacks by social-revolutionary or ethno-nationalistic groups like ETA in Spain and France or the Red Brigades in Italy. However, such terrorist groups where rather locally organized and focused their action on state authorities. This has changed recently with the '9/11' attacks and the attention created by and given to the Al-Qaida network as a transnational, even global organization. General accounts state that democratic societies in the West have become the target of religiously motivated, extremist terrorists while non-Western states are highly perceived as the supporter of such groups. In order to secure and safeguard their people, Western states reacted with more and more sophisticated countermeasures, including the protection of critical infrastructure such as airports (body scanner, biometrical methods of identification) and, in general, with ever increasing surveillance technologies of public spaces. These measures, however, are highly contested due to their political and normative consequences. Whether such policies of public surveillance produces more security or rather leads to the opposite, undermining the normative foundation of liberal societies has become a contentious issue in Western democracies.

Many perceive transnational terrorist groups, in particular Al-Qaida as the main source of insecurity and daily risk in the 21st century. The ways how societies and states deal with terrorism influences to what extent individuals feel secure. The individual demands and collective approaches on how to confront these threats and risks differ widely. Some counter-terrorism measures, for example extra-ordinary renditions, are even violating international law (habeas corpus) and have caused major resistance by NGOs. While some societal groups view terrorism as a central security problem and argue in favor of surveillance, other groups feel threatened by exactly these anti-terrorism measures and see their civil rights at risk. As a consequence, there might be not only one but many security (sub-) cultures furthering rather a fragmentation of than an integration of security demands and capabilities. The project is tracking those developments on the individual, societal and international levels.

Activities on "Terrorism"

05/2012 Securitizing Images: The female body and the war in Afghanistan Article in the European Journal of International Relations, online

Referring to the recent 'visual turn' in Critical Security Studies, the aim of this article by Gabi Schlag and Axel Heck is threefold. First, by taking the concept of visual securitization one step further, we intend to theorize the image as an iconic act understood as an act of showing and seeing. This turn to the performativity of the visual directs our attention to the securitizing power of images. Second, this article addresses the methodological challenges of analysing images and introduces an iconological approach. Iconology enables the systematic interpretation of images as images by also taking their social embeddedness into account. In the third part of this article we apply this theoretical and methodological framework to analyse a cover of the TIME magazine published in summer 2010. The cover shows a young Afghan woman whose ears and nose were cut off accompanied by the headline: 'What happens if we leave Afghanistan'. This cover image not only provoked a heated debate in the USA about the (ab)use of images in order to legitimize the continuity of the war in Afghanistan, but shows how gender and the body are visually securitized.

The article can be accessed at EJIR, behind the subscribers paywall [Download]

Full citation:

Gabi Schlag/Axel Heck 2012: Securitizing Images: The female body and the war in Afghanistan. European Journal of International Relations (published online 27 April 2012). DOI: 10.1177/1354066111433896

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