Sensing evil

Counterterrorism, techno-science, and the cultural reproduction of security

in Focaal
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  • 1 Maynooth University Mark.H.Maguire@nuim.ie
  • 2 University of Essex pfussey@essex.ac.uk
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Abstract

New counterterrorism systems are spreading throughout the world. Many are based on behavior detection by skilled officers; others deploy techno-scientific theories and software-mediated environments. All of these systems raise critical questions about scientific and legal evidence; profiling, costs, and effectiveness. However, much of the recent scholarship on this topic is based on secondhand information and fails to attend to key transformations in security discourses and in practice. Rather than offering just an overview and theoretical critique, this article draws from our ethnographic data on counterterrorism in the UK (with reference to the broader global securityscape) and examines the phantasmagoria of fears and threats, the experimentations, myriad “expert” theories, and productivity in this realm. In doing so, the article examines how, beyond utilitarian notions of efficiency and security, counterterrorism practices perform multiple cultural roles for those charged with its delivery. We discuss particular examples of counterterrorism deployments and explore the production of theories about the human in security discourses and practices.

Contributor Notes

Mark Maguire is head of the Maynooth University Department of Anthropology. He twice held visiting professorships in the Department of Anthropology, Stanford University, California. From 2010 to 2014 he edited the international journal Social Anthropology and is co-editor of The Anthropology of Security: Perspectives from the Frontline of Policing, Counterterrorism, and Border Control (Pluto, 2014). Email: Mark.H.Maguire@nuim.ie

Pete Fussey is professor of Sociology at the University of Essex. He has published widely in a number of areas, including terrorism and counterterrorism, critical studies of resilience, major-event security, surveillance and society, organized crime and urban sociology. He is coauthor of Securing and Sustaining the Olympic City (Ashgate, 2011) and co-editor of Terrorism and the Olympics (Routledge, 2010). Email: pfussey@essex.ac.uk

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

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