This article looks at the way people tactically adjust to contexts of insecurity and danger. Building on fieldwork with disenfranchised urban poor in West Africa and marginal West African migrants in Europe, it clarifies how perspectives and practices are attuned to precarious situations and life conditions. The article argues that the struggle to identify threats leads to a nervous sociality in which figures and social forces are examined for hidden intentions and negative potentials. Such circumstances engender an apprehensive bearing, as an affective state, posture and approach, through which social life is sought, investigated and controlled. It augments perceptivity and leads to a scanning and probing of social life that feeds into a social version of the hermeneutics of suspicion and generates a range of pre‐emptive practices.