(In)security rationales are becoming ever more powerful templates to policy fields of all kinds, from interstate diplomacy to transnational mobility and urban affairs. At the same time, the instruments and actors destined to safeguarding things – nations, populations, or everyday life tout court – become increasingly sophisticated and intrusive. Yet, the proliferation of security logics does not always succeed in colonizing other policy fields, and the expansion of security dispositives does not always lead to a restriction of pluralistic democratic life – an observation that raises a number of challenging questions: What do societies consider threatening and what not? What policies and practices do security logics empower? Is security politics the antithesis to democracy, or is and can there be pluralisation and democratisation through security?
This website presents my work in critical International Relations and comparative Political Science, grouped as research themes. It also features book reviews, policy-oriented consultancy work, contributions to media, and visual documentation in form of photography, videos and interview recordings.
Township (in-)security – Khayelitsha, Cape Flats
Monwabisi Park & Social Justice Coalition, 2/2018
The programmatic and institutional reconfiguration of Swiss national security
It is widely known that national security fields changed considerably in the last decades. Different from the late Cold War years, when they focused on military threats, were closely orchestrated by Defence Ministries and contained few international contacts, national security ‘systems’ today handle wide sets of dangers, draw on complex casts of actors across levels of government, and often maintain working relations with multiple foreign partners. This comprehensive reconfiguration of national security fields is a central theme to security scholars and policymakers alike – but also difficult to pin down for methodological reasons. Written documentation on security agencies does not give precise indication of actual everyday inter-agency work practices, and assessments of nationwide security work across functions and levels of government are challenging by sheer questions of size. Adopting a practice-oriented approach to security research, this article draws on an unparalleled nationwide data collection effort to differentiate and map-out the Swiss security field’s programmatic and institutional evolution.
Figure 11: Transnational inter-agency cooperation in Swiss national security
Hagmann, Jonas; Davidshofer, Stephan; Tawfik, Amal; Wenger, Andreas; Wildi, Lisa (2018). The programmatic and institutional (re-)configuration of the Swiss national security field. Swiss Political Science Review. PDF / Score tables / OpenAccess URL
The political construction of collective international danger
Securitization theory offers a powerful take on the political construction of threats. In its original variant, however, the theory focuses strongly on the deontic (norm-breaking) powers of ‘security talk’ – and not on the threat sceneries that the latter substantively describes. This article in the Journal of International Relations and Development addresses this latter link by reworking securitization into a positional/relational argument. Seen its way, the framing of something as threatening comes with larger – often implicit – claims about threatening and threatened actors in world politics. The empirical cases on post-war France and West Germany show how securitization equals an epistemological systematization of international affairs, for the political construction of collective international danger becomes an ordering process that conditions foreign policy strategizing.
Hagmann, Jonas (2018). Securitisation and the production of international order(s). Journal of International Relations and Development 21(1): 194-222. PDF
The politics and practices of securing urban spaces
According to some, societal steering evolved from an analogue disciplining of enclosures into a network-centric, privatised, digital and global form of control. This article engages this claim from an empirical security studies perspective. In the age of globalisation and urbanisation, technological innovation and liberal policy ideals, how are security apparatuses reorganised, and in what relations do they stand to local societal and political orders? The article argues that while there is an impressively rich, integrative and topical research agenda on urban security management, its empirical applications may still benefit from further development. To this aim, the article first systematises the various substantive points made by the literature. It then employs a spatial heuristic to enquire into the securing of three urban spaces – a site of mobility (HB Zürich), a public square (Bundesplatz Bern) and a place of mass commerce (St. Jakob Park Basel) – in Switzerland. Forgoing universalisms about societal steering, the article makes the case for more nuanced engagements with urban security ensembles, their technological evolution, relations with democratic ideals, globalisation and de-territorialisation both in and beyond Western polities.
Securing public space in Switzerland – Bundesplatz Bern
Hagmann, Jonas (2017). Security in the society of control: The politics and practices of securing urban spaces. International Political Sociology 11(4): 418-438. PDF
Towards an institutional sociology of the International Relations discipline
The sociology of International Relations (IR) literature successfully unpacks the discipline’s political and intellectual penchants. Yet curiously enough, it has not given more attention to the discipline’s embodiment in concrete institutions. How does the organization of social scientific fields, education policies, and related institutional transformations condition the production and diffusion of scholarly knowledge about world politics? This forum promotes a dedicated engagement with the ‘institutional sociology’ of the discipline. Its ambition is to highlight the diversity of sites and settings where specialized knowledge about international relations is produced, shaped and re-instantiated. In doing so, the focus on IR’s institutional layer becomes an important vector for opening up the literature to insights from related fields of study.
Grenier, Félix; Hagmann, Jonas (2016). Sites of knowledge (re-)production: Towards an institutional sociology of International Relations scholarship. International Studies Review 18(2): 333-336. PDF
(In)security and the production of international relations: The interlinked politics of threat construction and foreign policy-making in Europe
What happens to foreign politics when actors, things or processes are presented as threats? This book explains state’s international behavior based on a reflexive framework of insecurity politics. It argues that governments act on knowledge of international danger available in their societies, and that such knowledge is organized by varying ideas of who threatens whom and how. The book develops this argument and illustrates it by means of various European case studies. Moving across European history and space, these show how securitization projected abroad evolving – and often contested – local ideas of the organization of international insecurity, and how such knowledges of world politics conditioned foreign policymaking on their own terms. With its focus on insecurity politics, the book provides new perspectives for the study of international security. Moving the discipline from systemic theorizing to a theory of international systematization, it shows how world politics is, in practice, often conceived in a different way than that assumed by IR theory. Depicting national insecurity as a matter of political construction, the book also raises the challenging question of whether certain projections of insecurity may be considered more warranted than others.
Hagmann, Jonas (2015). (In-)security and the production of international relations: The politics of securitisation in Europe. London/New York: Routledge, 244p. URL
Engaging world politics through national lenses: IR teaching at leading American and European Political Science departments
The emergent sociology of International Relations (IR) literature investigates the discipline’s organization and inner structuring. It makes the field cognizant of its own institutional and intellectual configurations and thus empowers scholars to engage more critically with IR’s analytical, geocultural, and political lenses. This contribution notwithstanding, the literature continues to focus on ‘flagship’ publications as indicators of intellectual proclivities, and on scholars as their only relevant audiences. This article challenges this focus. Making the case for an inquiry into classroom socialization, it maps the paradigmatic, geocultural, gendered, and historical perspectives taught to students in the case of 23 leading US and European IR graduate programs. It points to differences between the ‘instructed’ and the ‘published’ discipline, and shows how the former is governed and constrained by a variety of intellectual parochialisms. Problematizing the educative functions of these, the article advocates a more self-reflexive understanding of IR teaching.
Hagmann, Jonas; Biersteker, Thomas (2014). Beyond the published discipline: Towards a critical pedagogy of international studies. European Journal of International Relations 20(2): 291-315. PDF
The causal relations at play between knowing and enacting insecurity
How does knowledge of insecurity connect with threat-based policy-making? Reflexive approaches to security not only maintain that dangers are socially constructed, but also that they relate with political behavior. Representations of terrorism, for instance, are argued to constitute that danger in distinct ways and thus to make certain counter-terror policies possible. This article challenges this popular perspective. It argues that constitutive argumentation advances an insufficiently tangible argument of effect, and that this conceptual weakness derives from both a problematic foundational social theory and a premature rejection of causation. Drawing on the social theory of Archer and Bhaskar, as well as a differentiated notion of causation, it advances a ‘dialectical causal’ framework for the analysis of representations of danger. Applying it to Swiss terrorism politics, the article shows how this framework improves on constitutive argumentation in disentangling the political powers involved in the production and enactment of representations of danger.
Hagmann, Jonas (2013). Representations of terrorism and the making of counterterrorism policy. Critical Studies on Terrorism 6(3): 429-446. PDF
National risk registers: The measurement, comparison and ranking of all kinds of danger
European civil protection agencies have become highly active in measuring, comparing and ranking all kinds of public danger, ranging from natural hazards to industrial risks and political perils. This article focuses on this production of integrated ‘national risk registers’ and the analytical power politics in which they are complicit. It argues, first, that by positing ‘science’ as an objective determinant of security truth, the registers advance modernist understandings of how knowledge about danger can be arrived at – thus discounting both ‘sovereign’ and popular authorities. Second, it shows that by operationalizing traditional risk-assessment formulas, risk registers empower seemingly apolitical decisions in security affairs, taken on the basis of cost–benefit thinking. Third, it discusses how risk registers’ focus on ‘themes’ tiptoes around the definition of referent objects, thus avoiding explicit decisions about beneficiaries of particular security decisions. Taking these factors into account, the article finds the new risk registers to depoliticize national security debates – while transforming insecurity into something permanent and inevitable.
Hagmann, Jonas; Dunn Cavelty, Myriam (2012). National risk registers: Security scientism and the propagation of permanent insecurity. Security Dialogue 43(1): 79-96. PDF