Urban protection

Cities are becoming new and important referent objects for national and international security politics. This is because urban habitats became the preferred place of residence for the majority of the world’s inhabitants – but also following ever more expansive understandings of security affairs as a field of work that ranges from wartime protection to the management of natural hazards and the provision of everyday safety. How do cities become reference objects of security planning? In what ways are urban security dispositives adjusted to functionally different urban sites? And to what extent are civil society groups and urban newcomers included in the production of urban security? This new research avenue investigates the emergent new global politics and practices of urban protection.

Securing the city: The global politics and practices of urban protection

ZürichMarrakechKathmanduCities 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, Nepal and Uruguay, 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.

Urban design as technology of (counter-) democratic security politics

SPSRUrban 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 (forth.). Urban design as technology of (counter-) democratic security politics. Swiss Political Science Review.

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     Bundesplatz.jpg

Hagmann, Jonas (2017). Security in the society of control: The politics and practices of securing urban spaces. International Political Sociology 11(4): 418-448. PDF

Reclaim the fences: Rethinking Barranquilla’s security architecture

TropicsIn many European and North American cities, reclaiming the street has become an important agenda. By re-appropriating sealed terrain from motorised mobility, so the idea, public space is reinvigorated and widened – even if only temporarily. When visiting Barranquilla this spring for the inauguration of Universidad del Norte’s Institute of Urban Studies, it struck me that an even more important architectural element to re-conquer is found in the vertical dimension. Certainly, roads are also to be re-appropriated in Barranquilla – and they most effectively are during Carnival season. Another prominent form of separation I observed throughout the centre, however, is posed by the innumerable gates and fences that shoot skywards in front of seemingly each and every building, and which impose physical barriers to shops and homes, even to gardens.

Hagmann, Jonas (2015). Reclaim the fences: Rethinking Barranquilla’s security architecture. Markets in the Tropics (ETH Zürich: Urban Think Tank) 2: 27. PDF

Sicherheit im öffentlichen Raum: Begegnungsorte im Spannungsfeld zwischen Kontrolle, Freiheit und Demokratie

Bulletin_2013.pngIn öffentlichen Räumen treffen immer zahlreichere und unterschiedlichere Personen, Aktivitäten und Interessen aufeinander, und spiegeln sich dank neuer Kommunikations- und Transportmittel gesellschaftliche und internationale Entwicklungen zunehmend unvermittelt. Damit wird die sicherheitspolitische Handhabung öffentlicher Räume anspruchsvoller. Mit Verweisen auf Fallstudien in Bern, Basel und Zürich beschreibt der vorliegende Beitrag die Entwicklung der sicherheitspolitischen Handhabung öffentlicher Räume in der Schweiz. Er verortet praktische Herausforderungen der geschaffenen Sicherheitsinstrumentarien und diskutiert, wie sie im Spannungsfeld mit höheren gesellschaftspolitischen Idealen bestehen.

Hagmann, Jonas; Saliba, Ilyas (2013). Sicherheit im öffentlichen Raum: Begegnungsorte im Spannungsfeld zwischen Kontrolle, Freiheit und Demokratie. In Nünlist, Christian; Thränert, Oliver (eds.). Bulletin zur Schweizer Sicherheitspolitik, pp91-109. Zürich: Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich. PDF