Global Insecurities Centre Lecture

On 3 March 2021, Professor Claudia Aradau will present a current research paper at the Global Insecurities Centre Lecture: Making digital surveillance unacceptable? Security, democracy and the political sociology of disputes of at the University of Bristol. The talk draws on collaborative work with GUARDINT member Dr Emma Mc Cluskey.

The lecture will discuss how, despite extensive criticisms of mass surveillance and mobilisation by civil liberties and digital rights activists, surveillance has – paradoxically – been extended and legalised in the name of security. How do some democratic claims against surveillance appear to be normal and common-sense, whilst others are deemed unacceptable, even outlandish?

Instead of starting from particular ‘logics’ of either security or democracy, the paper proposes to develop a political sociology of disputes to trace how the relation between security and democracy is shaped by critique in practice. Disputes entail demands for justification, which are ‘inextricably linked with the possibility of critique’ (Boltanski and Chiapello 2005). They allow us to account for the constraints which govern whether an argument is deemed acceptable or improper; common-sensical or peculiar. We mobilise disputes in conjunction with Arjun Appadurai’s reflections on ‘small numbers’ in democracies in order to understand how justifications of surveillance for security enact a ‘rise in generality’, while critiques of digital surveillance that mobilise democratic claims enact a ‘descent into singularity’. To this purpose, Prof Aradau and Dr. Mc Cluskey analyse public mobilisations against mass surveillance and challenges brought before the European Court of Human Rights. They draw on interviews with a range of actors involved in the disputes, the parties’ submissions, oral hearings, judgements and public reports.

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