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 different 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.”
Ethnographies of Private Security
Erella Grassiani and Tessa Diphoorn
Land, Settler Colonialism, and Security for Indigenous Peoples
This article theorizes why Indigenous peoples’ security claims fail to be accepted by government authorities or incorporated into the security policies and practices of settler states. By engaging the concepts of securitization and ontological security, I explain how Indigenous peoples are unable to successfully “speak” security to the state. I argue that nondominant societal groups are unable to gain authoritative acceptance for security issues that challenge the dominant national identity. In effect, indigeneity acts an inhibiting condition for successful securitization because, by identifying the state and dominant society as the source of their insecurity, Indigenous peoples’ security claims challenge the ontological security of settler societies. Given the incommensurability of Indigenous and settler claims to authority over land, and the ontological relationship to land that underpins Indigenous identities and worldviews, the inhibiting condition is especially relevant with respect to security claims based on damage to the natural environment.
This article reviews the contributions of the two main discourses that study the environment and development in global politics: the human/environmental security discourse and the critical globalization discourse. Both sub-disciplines deal with what is substantively the same subject matter from different perspectives. However, there is hardly any cross-reference between these two dialogues. This article explores the contributions of these two bodies of literature and evaluates their common ground. It argues that with the exception of the traditional environmental security school of thought there is substantial overlap in terms of research concerns. However, it also finds that the language of the critical human/ecological security school of thought hinders rather than helps its research concern.
Oscar A. Gómez
This article analyzes the peripheral role of Latin America in global discussions about human security. The main hypothesis is that proposals for opening security theories and practices to a “human vision” failed to merge with the evolution of security concepts and institutions in the region over the last twenty years. Hence, there is no constructive communication interface between citizen and human security activities that inform security practices in the medium and long term. This article describes two approaches: (a) the slow development of human security concepts that may be somehow useful to the region due to (b) the positioning of citizen security as an alternative security paradigm in Latin America. Following a conceptual and institutional review of these approaches, the article concludes with some proposals to establish a dynamic and effective bridge between these two visions.
Spanish El presente artículo analiza el papel periférico de Latinoamérica en las discusiones mundiales sobre el concepto/enfoque de seguridad humana. La hipótesis de trabajo es que las propuestas para abrir la teoría y práctica de seguridad en la región a la visión humana no han logrado acoplarse a la evolución en las concepciones e instituciones de seguridad durante los últimos veinte años; por tanto, no existe una interface constructiva de comunicación entre lo ciudadano y lo humano que informe el quehacer en seguridad en el mediano y largo plazo. El estudio describe dos hilos conductores: (a) el lento desarrollo de versiones elaboradas del concepto de seguridad humana que resulten útiles a las sociedades de la región, en parte producto de (b) el posicionamiento de la seguridad ciudadana como el paradigma alternativo de seguridad en América Latina. Después de hacer una revisión de estos hilos en lo conceptual e institucional, el artículo cierra con algunas propuestas para establecer un puente más dinámico y efectivo entre las dos visiones.
French Cet article analyse le rôle périphérique de l'Amérique latine dans le débat mondial sur le concept / approche de la sécurité humaine. L'hypothèse de travail est que les propositions visant à ouvrir la théorie et la pratique de la sécurité dans la région à la vision humaine ont échoué à engager l'évolution des concepts et des institutions de sécurité au cours des ces vingt dernières années; par conséquent, il n'existe pas d'interface de communication constructive entre le citoyen et l'activité humaine à informer sur les initiatives de sécurité dans le moyen et long terme. L'étude décrit deux fils conducteurs: (1) la lenteur du développement des versions du concept de sécurité humaine élaborées qui sont utiles aux entreprises dans la région, en partie le produit de (2) la conception de la sécurité « citoyenne » comme un paradigme alternatif de la sécurité en Amérique latine. Après un examen de ces discussions sur le conceptuel et l'institutionnel, l'article se termine par quelques propositions destinées à établir un pont plus dynamique et efficient entre les deux points de vue.
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 oft en 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.
Gendered constructions of need and hybrid forms of social security
This article explores gendered constructions of care and need and the ways in which these affect men's social security in contemporary Russia. It is suggested that gendered caring practices, besides overburdening women and devaluing their labor, also contribute to a trivialization of men's needs and their marginalization in, and/or exclusion from, complex forms of social security. Social security is understood to encompass both material and emotional support structures and networks, involving both state and nonstate actors. It is argued that hybrid forms of provision are emerging, with new actors challenging and blurring strict categorizations of state/nonstate, formal/informal, and material/ emotional in their contribution to social security. The article draws on a study of the Altai Regional Crisis Center for Men and its attempts to identify men's needs for social support, to provide appropriate forms of care, and to enhance the social security of men in the Altai Region of Western Siberia.
Searching for Security in Post–New Order Indonesia
Security concerns are creeping into new aspects of everyday life in Indonesia, resulting in new organizational forms and ways of perceiving self and society. Stressing the cultural shaping of all security discourses, this article examines how members of the Balinese minority on the island Lombok have formed a Hindu-inspired civilian security force known as Dharma Wisesa. I argue that the appeal of this movement is located in its attempts to fuse domains of power that the modern state has prised apart. Having appropriated the magic of the state, the Dharma Wisesa movement also maintains relations with a 'spirit army' that provides supernatural support. Such practices draw into question the notion of secular modernity and suggest that authority is constituted by allying oneself with different forms of power, both visible and invisible.
The changing face of compassionate social security
Melissa L. Caldwell
Changing emigration and co-residence patterns in the post-Soviet period have left many elderly Russians living alone or without caretakers in close proximity. In addition, Russia's transition from state socialism to neoliberal capitalism has encouraged private welfare groups, often funded and staffed by foreigners, to assume increased responsibility for providing social security to elderly people. Consequently, notions of compassion are undergoing transformation in Russia, and the types of people who provide care are also changing dramatically as caregivers are more likely to be strangers, and especially foreigners, rather than family members. This article examines social security arrangements among Russia's elderly, with particular emphasis on the emergence of transnational caregiving relationships, and how these caregiving arrangements differ from global care networks reported elsewhere.
Public security and the military in Brazil
This article investigates a case in which the Brazilian military, according to national press, “invaded” and “occupied” a Rio de Janeiro favela neighborhood under the auspices of a public security program. Rio’s “pacification” program aims to replace drug trafficking organizations’ control of favelas with Pacifying Police Units and counts on the occasional participation of the military. Based on research with military personnel and favela residents, I investigate the construction and consequences of the pairing of militarism with humanitarianism. I show how these logics are not opposed, as they might at first sound, but in practice, deeply aligned. Among other reasons, both state force and state caregiving are performances to justify military presence on the streets to audiences in and outside the favela. The visible spectacle of humanitarian militarism effaces abuses and makes light of the everyday fears and insecurities suffered by the urban poor.
Reconfigurations of public and private
Rosie Read and Tatjana Thelen
State frameworks for welfare and social security have been subject to processes of privatization, decentralization, and neoliberal reform in many parts of the world. This article explores how these developments might be theorized using anthropological understandings of social security in combination with feminist perspectives on care. In its application to post-1989 socioeconomic transformation in the former socialist region, this perspective overcomes the conceptual inadequacies of the "state withdrawal" model. It also illuminates the nuanced ways in which public and private (as spaces, subjectivities, institutions, moralities, and practices) re-emerge and change in the socialist era as well as today, continually shaping the trajectories and outcomes of reforms to care and social security.