Urban design is increasingly widely used for city-oriented security production, and thus becomes included into the latter’s complex politics of in- and exclusion. This contribution showcases how urban design becomes deployed as a technology of security both internationally and in Switzerland, and how a reflexive security studies perspective on this use offers productive new research avenues. This is because the focus on urban design allows asking in new ways whether ‘more security is better’, how technological interventions are used and appropriated, and how they reconfigure democratic processes. Security research drawing on reflexive IR and security studies is well placed to this endeavour, as it proposes integrative and dialectical analyses of how built environments may be empowering/disempowering and inclusive/exclusive. The contribution sets out the specificities of this research ontology, presents urban design’s operation as technology of security politics, and illustrates said link in two mini-case studies centring in Bogotá and Zürich. In line with the special section to which it contributes, the article seeks to familiarize readers with architecture-oriented political analysis, and to draw out main lines of further investigation.
Hagmann, Jonas; Kostenwein, David (2021). Urban design as technology of (counter-) democratic security politics. Swiss Political Science Review 27(1): 193-204. PDF
New technologies – from nanotech to drones, bioengineering and smart weapons – play prominent but also highly ambivalent roles in contemporary accounts of security politics. For some, the innovations represent potent solution to complex management problems. But for others, the new technologies themselves are causing the most pressing societal dangers of today. This dominant Manichean framing of technology yet distracts from the fact that technology has no deterministic effects in and of itself. In a reflexive security studies perspective, the shape, design and uses of ‘new tech’ is deeply enmeshed in shifting power-laden social and political practices, and thus much more contradictory and dynamic. This new special section focuses on these complex processes of making new technology meaningful – and operational – in the security field. Its seven contributions look at how cybersecurity, predictive policing, drones, artificial intelligence, targeted sanctions and urban design are enlisted as technologies of security in Switzerland, and they offer a range of dedicated analytical arguments about how this process evolves. The ambition of the special section is to introduce readers not commonly engaing with security technology with state-of-the-art conception of their political significance, and to showcase contributions of reflexive IR and security research to political analysis.
Dunn Cavelty, Myriam; Hagmann, Jonas (2021). The politics of technology and security in Switzerland. Swiss Political Science Review 27(1): 128-138. PDF
With contributions by Florian Egloff, Myriam Dunn Cavelty, Matthias Leese, Francisco Klauser, Andreas Wenger, Sophie-Charlotte Fischer, Mark Daniel Jäger, Jonas Hagmann, David Kostenwein and Anna Leander.
Urbane Sicherheitsgouvernanz wird stark von lokalen Gegebenheiten gesteuert. Wie demokratisch und rechenschaftspflichtig ist das Politikumfeld? Welche Gefährdungen werden als primäre Herausforderungen anerkannt? Welchen Typ Technologie kann und mag eingesetzt werden? Und was ist die Rollenverteilung zwischen Staat, Privatwirtschaft und Zivilgesellschaft? An der Jahreskonferenz der Städtischen Sicherheitsdirektorinnen und -direktoren (KSSD) der Schweiz in Bern leuchte ich die Diversität der Ansätze aus, mit dem Ziel die Reflexion über Ist- und Ideal-Zustände voranzutreiben.
ETH Zürich covers my ongoing fieldwork on urban security management in Kathmandu, Nepal, in a social media news stream. For more information and audio-visual material see ETH ISTP’s homepage, facebook or twitter account.
Urban police unit, Metro Kathmandu
Citizen interview, Old Bus Park
Thamel Police Station
Juddha Barun Yantra Karyalaya (Kathmandu’s only fire station)
There is much agreement that urban security dispositives acquired new qualities in recent years. But do the dominant diagnoses hold up to detailed empirical verification? This forthcoming piece in International Political Sociology re-engages the pertinent security studies literature. In the age of globalisation and urbanisation, technological innovation and liberal policy ideals, how are urban security apparatuses reorganised, and in what relations do they stand to local societal and political orders? Describing the evolving security handling 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) –, 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 (forthcoming). Security in the society of control: The politics and practices of securing urban spaces. International Political Sociology. PDF
From 1 September 2017 – 30 November 2017, I will be a Visiting Faculty at the Kathmandu School of Law’s Research Department . The research stay serves to connect to local urban and security studies specialists, and to conduct field research on the reconfiguration of urban security management in different sub-city laboratories, the Gongabu New Bus Park, the Basantapur Durbar Square, Thamel, and the Lajimpat residential area.
From 1 November 2016 – 30 January 2017, I will be a Visiting Scholar at the Groupe de Recherche sur la Stratégie et la Sécurité, Faculté des Sciences Juridiques, Economiques et Sociales, Université de Marrakech. The research stay serves to connect to local urban and security studies specialists, and to conduct field research on the reconfiguration of urban security management in different sub-city laboratories, the Souks des Ferblantiers, the Place Djemaa el-Fna, the Gare Routière, and the Quartier de Guéliz.
From 15 August – 30 October 2016, I will be a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, University of Cambridge. One goal of this stay is to connect to local urban and security studies specialists, and to refine the analytical framework of my ongoing SNSF Ambizione enquiry into the global politics and practices of urban protection. Another aim is to design a collaborative research project with Dr Wendy Pullan on the politics of memorializing genocide in the City of Kigali, an upcoming case study city.
In support of my SNSF research grant on the politics and practices of urban protection in the Global South, I am looking for a Research Assistant in Political Science/Urban Studies, to be based at ETH Zürich’s new Institute of Science, Technology and Policy. The candidate should have a BA degree in social science (International Relations, political science, sociology or other), urban studies or urban planning. Her/his main tasks include the production of literature reviews on urban politics, security dispositives and transnational networks, as well as desk-based research on city case studies in Morocco, Nepal, and Rwanda. Click here for further information about the recruitment. Deadline for applications is 25 February 2016.
Cities are or have become the key locales of everyday life. Since a few years now, the majority of the world’s inhabitants is living in cities, and with this the protection of ‘the urban’ has become an ever more important challenge: The securing of the city, i.e. the development of comprehensive security dispositives specifically targeted to urban habitats, has become a pressing policymaker issue, and it now also emerges as a new research topic in international security studies. This 2016-2019 Swiss National Science Foundation Ambizione research project, institutionally attached to ETH Zürich’s new Institute of Science, Technology and Policy, contributes to this new security studies focus on cities. Based on a comparative empirical analysis of urban protection policies and practices in Switzerland, Morocco, Rwanda and Nepal, it examines how urban security dispositives are turned towards an integrated management of local, national and international dangers of all sorts. It analyses how this process includes use of new tools and actors, and integration and internationalization of existing ones, and how it is influenced by political systems, technological access, cultural influences and traditions of urban planning.