Matthew Carey, Ida Nielsen Sølvhøj, Eve Monique Zucker, Younes Saramifar, and Louis Frankenthaler
Methodological Reflections from the Field
This article focuses on the training context of private military and security (PMS) contractors. The training they undergo varies considerably, though the majority of training providers offer instruction in how to work in armed close protection (CP) as so-called bodyguards of dignitaries or on convoy protection. Set against this backdrop, the article reports on two periods of ethnographic field research of armed CP training where the author trained as a bodyguard in the first, and played the role of dignitary in the second. The discussion notes the very particular ways in which security is co-constituted between training instructor, author, and student. Here, a form of embodied reflexivity is used to show how security is translated between actors. Acknowledging that security is mediated through time, space, and the body can help to explain the experiences of host populations whose security has at particular moments been jeopardized by these armed actors.
US Military Investments in the Concept of Creativity, 1945–1965
Bregje F. Van Eekelen
This article investigates the Cold War entanglements of the concept of “creativity” with the US military. The field of creativity studies came about after World War II, and the military was a vital site for the production of knowledge about creative thinking. Creativity emerged on the geopolitical radar, in terms of the acquisition of creative thinking skills, attempts to “think the unthinkable” (atomic futures), and the detection of creative citizens. Creative, divergent thinking garnered a renewed urgency with the Sputnik shock, which showcased that conformist practices in knowledge production would not put an American on the moon. Between 1945 and 1965, the concept of creativity—as something to be defined, measured, and stimulated—was framed as a matter of national security and an object of geopolitical concern. This ensuing traffic in knowledge between Cold War academic and military contexts has been constitutive of present-day understandings of creative, undisciplined thought.
Policing Partnerships in Nairobi, Kenya
Francesco Colona and Tessa Diphoorn
Research on policing in Africa has provided tremendous insight into how non-state actors, such as gangs, vigilantes, private security companies, and community initiatives, increasingly provide security for urban dwellers across the continent. Consequently, the state has been categorized as one order among many whose authority is co-constituted through relations with other actors. Drawing on our ethnographic fieldwork in the past two years, we highlight how the state police dominates security arrangements in Nairobi and asserts itself not just as one order among many. We show how, in various policing partnerships between police, private security companies, and residents’ associations, the state police acts as a coagulating agent of such practices. In order to elucidate this relationship, we utilize the “junior partner” model from the criminology literature and expand based on the community policing initiatives that in Nairobi act as the “eyes, ears, and wheels” of the police.
Private Security Work in Rio de Janeiro
Erika Robb Larkins
Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the private security industry, this article focuses on the training of low-level guards, examining the centrality of the body and embodied experience to their work in hospitality settings. In a racially stratified society in which lower-class, dark-skinned bodies are often equated with poverty and criminality, security guards are required to perform an image of upstanding, respectable, law-abiding citizens in order to do their jobs protecting corporate property. Guards learn techniques of body management at security schools as part of their basic training. They also learn how to subdue the bodies of others, including those of white elites, who represent a constant challenge to their authority. Working from my own experiences as a student in private security schools, I argue for the relevance of an understanding of the body and its significations to private security work.
The Digital Age Opens Up New Terrains for Peace and Conflict Research
Josepha Ivanka Wessels
The arrival of the Digital Age added a new way to preserve memories of war and conflict. These developments beg deeper reflection on the role of cyberspace and how memories of conflict have become publicly and collectively owned, shared and mediated in the digital space. Cyberspace offers a context for the deposit of digital memorials for victims and casualties of war from any adversary in a conflict. The final workshop in a three-part exploratory series entitled Virtual Zones of Peace and Conflict is the basis for this special section, which deals with digital memory. The three articles were selected because they reflect on the role of the Digital Age in peace and conflict studies, and specifically focus on the intersection between online (virtual) and offline (physical) realities and how cyberspace forms an enabling environment for digital memorializations.
Ethnographies of Private Security
Erella Grassiani and Tessa Diphoorn
This introduction emphasizes the value of an anthropological lens within the research on private security. Although much scholarly work has been conducted on private security throughout the past decades, anthropological attention for this subject was somewhat delayed. Yet, the works that have emerged from this discipline through ethnographic fieldwork have provided new and diff erent types of insights, namely bottom-up understandings that explore the daily practices and performances of security and the experiences of the security actors themselves, that other disciplines can unquestionably draw from. As the introductory piece of this section, it also familiarizes the four articles that constitute various “ethnographies of private security.”
The Social Life of Contentious Concepts
Ronald S. Stade
Concepts have cultural biographies and social lives. Some concepts become social and political keywords that can be both indicative of and instrumental in social and political conflicts. (It might even be possible to speak of conceptual violence.) But they are not just contentious; they also tend to be contested. Contentious and contested concepts have been studied by historians and social scientists from varying temporal and spatial horizons. It is a research area that lends itself to cross-disciplinary approaches, as is demonstrated in the three contributions to this section, the first of which investigates the Russian obsession with the concept of “Europe.” The second contribution to the section explores the military roots of the concept of “creative thinking” and the final contribution examines the social life of “political correctness” as a fighting word.
Living in Peace and Conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh
Nasir Uddin and Eva Gerharz
Reconsidering the trend in anthropology to conceptualize the multifaceted nature of the state and to focus on the local social dynamics beneath the institutional framework of the state, we argue that “state” is not a single governing entity but rather a multilayered body of practices at various levels of the society. We configure “state” as constructed, imagined, and negotiated by people in their everyday life in four dimensions: zones of limited statehood depicted as “peripheries,” “local state” by which the center governs locales, “public discourse” that represents dominant notions of “stateness,” and ambivalent positioning of political elites who represents state in the margin. This argument is substantiated with the reference to the case of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a southeastern part of Bangladesh.
The Microsocial Foundations of Physical Military Violence in Noncombat Situations
Nir Gazit and Eyal Ben-Ari
In this article, we use the case of the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories to offer a microsociological analysis of military violence in noncombat situations. Utilizing the insights of Randall Collins, we suggest that in order understand these encounters, the emotional dimensions of violent behaviors must be linked to the interactional dynamics that trigger the transformation of these emotions into violent actions. We review the emotional configurations that characterize military occupations and discuss a range of violent behaviors initiated by these emotions. Finally, our analysis goes beyond the microsociological level to complement Collins’s model by showing the trans-situational implications of our analysis. We focus on the emergence of violence leaders (the “violent few”), the importance of actual and real audiences, and the development of a violent military habitus.