Security Aesthetics and the Management of Life

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 36 illustrations Published: January 2020

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies > Surveillance Studies, Geography

Security is a defining characteristic of our age and the driving force behind the management of collective political, economic, and social life. Directed at safeguarding society against future peril, security is often thought of as the hard infrastructures and invisible technologies assumed to deliver it: walls, turnstiles, CCTV cameras, digital encryption, and the like. The contributors to Futureproof redirect this focus, showing how security is a sensory domain shaped by affect and image as much as rules and rationalities. They examine security as it is lived and felt in domains as varied as real estate listings, active-shooter drills, border crossings, landslide maps, gang graffiti, and museum exhibits to theorize how security regimes are expressed through aesthetic forms. Taking a global perspective with studies ranging from Jamaica to Jakarta and Colombia to the U.S.-Mexico border, Futureproof expands our understanding of the security practices, infrastructures, and technologies that pervade everyday life.

Contributors. Victoria Bernal, Jon Horne Carter, Alexandra Demshock, Zaire Z. Dinzey-Flores, Didier Fassin, D. Asher Ghertner, Daniel M. Goldstein, Rachel Hall, Rivke Jaffe, Ieva Jusionyte, Catherine Lutz, Alejandra Leal Martínez, Hudson McFann, Limor Samimian-Darash, AbdouMaliq Simone, Austin Zeiderman


“This provocative book reframes the issue of security, considering it at the intersection of aesthetics and politics. It opens new possibilities of critique and of understanding, using ethnographies to expose several dimensions of our everydayness that normalize fear, risk, violence, and the invisibilization of growing inequalities. It will become mandatory reading for all interested in criticizing contemporary formations of power and the ways in which violence and security are lived and felt in the everyday.” — Teresa P. R. Caldeira, author of City of Walls: Crime, Segregation, and Citizenship in São Paulo

“This volume offers a critical analysis of ‘security’ as a mode of power and form of governance by examining its aesthetic dimensions. The authors explore the institutions and discourses that sell protection from almost every aspect of everyday life. By focusing on the political and social aesthetics of how security claims and threats control human lives, they argue that it is these aesthetic manipulations that provide an affective infrastructure and set of practices that manage human life. An important addition to the anthropology of security, Futureproof provides a provocative glimpse into the future.” — Setha Low, coeditor of Spaces of Security: Ethnographies of Securityscapes, Surveillance, and Control

"The development of the concept of security as an aesthetic and sensory experience is an interesting line of research, and the broad sample of cases evaluated in Futureproof was well chosen. This is a reference text I would recommend for security practitioners as well as advanced students and scholars of security and strategic theories. Far from the typical security text, there are philosophical elements and advanced concepts that lend more to a scholar’s eye, but this text will prove educational for anyone with an interest in the staging and portrayal of security." — Courteney J. O’Connor, LSE Review of Books


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

D. Asher Ghertner is Associate Professor of Geography at Rutgers University.

Hudson McFann is a PhD candidate in geography at Rutgers University.

Daniel M. Goldstein is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Rutgers University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / Catherine Lutz  vii
Introduction. Security Aesthetics of and beyond the Biopolitical / D. Asher Ghertner, Hudson McFann, and Daniel M. Goldstein  1
1. The Aesthetics of Cyber Insecurity: Displaying the Digital in Three American Museum Exhibits / Victoria Bernal  33
2. Danger Signs: The Aesthetics of Insecurity in Bogotá / Austin Zeiderman  63
3. "We All Have the Same Red Blood": Security Aesthetics and Rescue Ethics on the Arizona-Sonora Border / Ieva Jusionyte  87
4. Fugitive Horizons and the Arts of Security in Honduras / Jon Horne Carter  114
5. Security Aesthetics and Political Community Formation in Kingston, Jamaica / Rivke Jaffe  134
6. Staging Safety in Brooklyn's Real Estate / Zaire Z. Dinzey-Flores and Alexandra Demshock  156
7. Expecting the Worst: Active-Shooter Scenario Play in American Schools / Rachel Hall  175
8. H5N1 and the Aesthetics of Biosecurity: From Danger to Risk / Limor Samimian-Darash  200
9. Securing "Standby" and Urban Space Making in Jakarta: Intensities in Search of Forms / AbdouMaliq Simone  225
10. Securing the Street: Urban Renewal and the Fight against "Informality" in Mexico City / Alejandra Leal Martínez 245
Afterword. The Age of Security / Didier Fassin  271
Acknowledgments  277
Contributors  279
Index  285
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0690-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0609-1