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Global vigilantes edited by Pratten, David and Atreyee Sen


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Video Surveillance in Portugal

Political Rhetoric at the Center of a Technological Project

Catarina Frois

This article gives a detailed account of the political processes and stages involved in the implementation of video surveillance devices in two major Portuguese cities, Oporto and Lisbon. It seeks to draw two main conclusions regarding the introduction of these systems in public areas and the developments that they have undergone over the period under analysis. The first is that installing these devices reflects a political response designed to provide a hasty solution to a social phenomenon—fear—that is largely subjective. The second is that the generalized perception as to the uncertainty of the effectiveness of these systems explains the lack of consistency and coordination in their implementation. The article concludes by discussing fear and insecurity in the context of concerns for a more efficient justice system.

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Close insecurity

Shifting conceptions of security in prison confinement

Catarina Frois

The study of security within a prison environment implies the observation of a complex phenomenon: on the one hand, inmates are defined as agents of insecurity, insofar as they are the authors of criminal acts, which to the outside world represent everything that is perceived as a threat – in terms of the law, order and general well‐being. On the other hand, the prison is often characterised as a space riddled with fear, uncertainty and insecurity, manifest in the everyday life of prisons. In this article, based on a two‐year fieldwork in three Portuguese male prisons, I explore the meaning attributed to security from inmates’ perspectives and discourses. This analysis, which includes inmates with different ages, origins, types of crime and sentence length, as well as specificities inherent to the chosen field sites, allows us to expand and deepen our understanding of the significance of security within a population that is often excluded from this discussion, albeit invariably related with it.

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The Fate of 'Backwardness'

Portuguese Expectations over Modernisation

Catarina Frois

In Portugal, terms such as 'modernisation', 'progress' and 'development' are continually invoked by a wide range of social actors, representing the right path and ultimate goal of all political and social change, but on the other hand conceal the actual truth that, to use Latour's expression: 'We have never been modern'. The result is that the demand for modernisation is accompanied by the parallel reification of 'backwardness'. Alluding to Portugal's peripheral condition, to its distance from the rest of Europe and so forth, is part of common everyday discourse, and the country is typically portrayed as a kind of European backwater, forever lagging behind more advanced states. This article aims to present and discuss how backwardness and modernisation are recurrently present in political discourse as a leitmotiv for social, economic and cultural change and the way it is incorporated into a broader and rooted self-representation of the Portuguese modus vivendi and national features.