What does it take to safeguard a country like Switzerland? And is the national security system, which exudes certainty to those controlled by its agents, indeed as fortified as it appears? This essay chapter in Salvatore Vitale’s photographic visual study of 21st century statehood discusses the history and political sociology of the Swiss national security field. It lends a special eye to the the authorities capable of defining what security is or ought to be about, and asks whether the field has become more accessible and participatory in recent years.
Hagmann, Jonas (2019). Making Switzerland secure, making security Swiss. In: Vitale, Salvatore (ed.). How to Secure a Country, pp261-265. Zürich: Lars Müller Publishers. PDF
‘Security’ has for the most part been considered a special kind of politics by observers, as one that closes down inclusive policy-making and democratic debate. This Special Issue reviews theoretical and empirical developments at the intersections of ‘security’ and ‘politics’. It argues that research centering on the notion of politicization offers new ideas on how to addresses this complex and evolving conceptual tandem, and importantly, helps elucidate the growing range of actors, arenas and arguments factually visible in contemporary security affairs. The Special Issue develops a framework around the dimensions of controversy, mobilization and arena-shifting, and showcases the potential of such a perspective through empirical illustrations and theoretical examinations, covering issues such as post-Snowden public-policy controversy in Germany, lay participation in European security strategy-making, and the evolving role of the British parliament in UK security politics. The Special Issue’s ambition is to re-engage the relationship between security and politics, to inspire innovative new empirical work on ‘politics around security’, and to empower more differentiated inquiries into the ambivalent consequences of politicization.
Hagmann, Jonas; Hegemann, Hendrik; Neal, Andrew (2018). The politicization of security: Controversy, mobilization, arena shifting . European Review of International Studies 5(3): 3-29. URL ToC
My UdelaR colleague Diego Sanjurjo and I are currently in the field to trace how public authorities, citizens, private companies and civil society groups contribute to urban security politics in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. We also analyze how the country’s political heritage – a statist inclination and history of military dictatorship rule especially – conditions the politics of in- and exclusion in three different sub-city sites, Ciudad Vjeja, Tres Cruses Terminal, and Montevideo Shopping/World Trace Centre. First findings draw a fairly complex panorama in which new government programs for integrated citizen safety, generalized video surveillance, and significant expansions of the private security sector don’t succeed in curbing growths in crime and violence, heightened public sentiments of pervasive insecurity, and polarized political debates regarding the city’s future trajectories.
Montevideo is the third case study in the SNSF Ambizione research program “Securing the city: The global politics and practices of urban protection”. It connects and compares to political sociology work on the Swiss cities of Zürich, Basel and Bern, the Moroccan city of Marrakech, and the Nepali capital of Kathmandu.
For extended visual documentation of our Montevideo fieldwork see here.
Police – Programa de Alta Dedicación Operativa
Penitentiary – Cárcel Punta de Rieles
Private security (integrated) control room
Residential space and vigilantism
Fieldwork in the Ciudad Vieja
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 1: Ministerial threat management practice
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 24(3): 215-245. PDF / Score tables / OpenAccess URL
From August – October 2018, I will be a visiting scholar at the Universidad de la Republica’s Department of Social Sciences. The research stay serves to connect to sociologists, criminologists and political scientists based at UdelaR – especially the research group of Professor Nico Trajtenberg – and to conduct field research on the reconfiguration of urban security management in the City of Montevideo.
From June – August 2018, I will be a visiting researcher at the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Political Science. The research stay serves to connect to UvA-based security studies scholars, especially Marieke de Goede’s ERC research program on the production/translation of ‘security knowledge’, as well as to local urban studies specialists, such as Rivke Jaffe and her ERC grant on urban security assemblages in cities of the global south.
ETH Zürich covers our ongoing Winter School on urban (in-)security in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha in a social media news stream. Visit the ISTP homepage, facebook or twitter account for updates, reports and audio-visual material.
Khayelitsha – Harare and Monwabisi Park
Program visits – Ikhayalami/EmpowerShack and Social Justice Coalition
African Centre for Cities – 10th Anniversary Conference
ETHZ Spin Street Lectures
Winter School program