Security, Community & Democracy

6 February 2013
14:00 to 16:30

This is the second seminar in our Culture & Polity series in which our invited speakers will be examining the post-neoliberal subject as produced by the strategies of behavioural economics, security screening and the discourse of virology. What is the meaning of community and the social under these conditions? What forms of governance emerge from new techniques of securitisation and behaviour management and what are the implications for democratic processes?

Room EB.G.10 Docklands Campus

Will Davies: ‘Experiments in Community: Relational Government and Audit After Neoliberalism’.

The neoliberal era is – or was – characterised by the extension of economic modes of evaluation into new corners of social, cultural and political life. Various critical scholars noted that it either eradicated the ‘social’ realm as a distinct terrain of action, or else re-imagined it in ways that was supportive of the ‘economic’. But in the wake of various crises of neoliberalism, the ‘social’ has reappeared with its own logic, as ‘social media’, ‘social prescribing’, ‘social enterprise’ and so on. Policy-makers have re-discovered the social, not simply as an economic ‘externality’, but as a psychological or neurological resource, which facilitates wellbeing and behavioural rationality. But what sorts of evidence, audit and evaluation will be required to realise new forms of ‘relational government’? What does it mean for a policy to ‘succeed’, if not in a purely  economistic sense? The paper will suggest that audited field experiments in community and behavioural policy, accompanied by data analytics, represent a key methodological basis for governance in the emerging era.

Will Davies is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick. His research looks at the policy uses of economic techniques and methods, especially with respect to the promotion of competitiveness and wellbeing.

Tony D Sampson: ‘The Immunologic Strategem: How to Spread Fear by Not Specifying Whom Your Enemy Is’

The immunologic stratagem involves the spreading of fear relating to encounters between a knowable self and an unknown nonself to justify, among other things, the intensification of security measures. It is not merely an ideologically conceived deception. Its attempt to control the idiom by way of linguistic trickery is just one layer of a far more concentrated discursive formation. Indeed, discursive formations do not necessarily operate at the level of ideology at all (Foucault, 1980). There is, as such, a need to locate both the discursive and prediscursive forces that assemble real practices. My approach in this talk shifts away from the importation of language into discourse, toward the assembled components of fearmongering stratagems wherein immunology can be seen to permeate the very matter and functionality of network security. The binary filtering of self and nonself exceeds abstract diagrammatic forces, becoming part of the concrete relations established between end users and the software they encounter. Key to this ever evolving stratagem is the growing significance of an unknown (and sometimes unwitting) threat to the unified body that functions on both a discursive and prediscursive plane. This unknown enemy is increasingly located as the source of contagion but is opportunely kept at a distance and cloaked in anonymity.

Tony D. Sampson is a Reader in Digital Media and Communications at the University of East London. His ongoing interest in contagion theory is reflected in his recent publications, including The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies from the Dark Side of Digital Culture (2009), which he coedited with Jussi Parikka, and Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2012. He blogs at

Mark Maguire: ‘Policing the Emotions: Abnormal Behaviour Detection in Counter-Terrorism Operations’

This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork with counter-terrorism officers in secure ports of entry. I briefly discuss the problematization of terrorist threats to airports as a way to appreciate the importance of a key incident in Boston-Logan Airport in late 2001. I show the ways in which one of my key research participants identified a gap in security systems and later assembled techniques for policing at the level of life itself – abnormal behaviour detection by means of skilled vision. The system he developed has spread throughout the world, from counter-terrorism measures in Belfast to military deployments in Iraq. My ethnographic research is composed of participant observation in counter-terrorism training, from interrogation techniques and counter-surveillance measures to live deployments with armed uniformed and covert officers. This paper will contrast the apprenticeship required to develop skilled vision with the recent US Homeland Security-led systems that use affective computing to detect emotional deviance or ‘malintent’. The paper will make use of a number of concepts available in the work of Bentham and Nietzsche, Foucault and Agamben. My concern here is to stake out a position for the anthropology of contemporary (in)securitization.

Mark Maguire is Head of the Department of Anthropology, National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He researches the technologies and processes of securitization, especially counter-terrorism, biometric security, affective computing and the detection of abnormal behaviour and ‘malintent’.

Chair: Debra Benita Shaw, School of Arts & Digital Industries, UEL.

About Virality

Tony D. Sampson is Reader in Digital Culture and Communications at the University of East London. He has a PhD in social-cultural-digital contagion theory from the Sociology Department at the University of Essex. He is a former art student who re-entered higher education in the UK as a mature student in the mid-1990s after a long stint as a gigging musician. His career in education has moved through various disciplines and departments, including a maths and computing faculty, sociology department and school of digital media and design His publications include The Spam Book, coedited with Jussi Parikka (Hampton Press, 2009), Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), The Assemblage Brain: Sense Making in Neuroculture (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) and Affect and Social Media (Rowman and Littlefield, July 2018). He is organizer and host of the Affect and Social Media conferences in the UK. As a co-founder and co-director of the public engagement initiatives, Club Critical Theory (CCT) and the Cultural Engine Research Group (CERG), Sampson has developed a number of funded research projects and public events that aim to bring impactful critical theories into the community and local political sphere to approach a series of local challenges. These activities have included large conferences co-organized with local authorities looking at a range of policies relating to the revitalization of the Essex costal region, developments in the cultural industries as well as a series of community focused events on food cultures and policy, collaborations with arts groups and informal lectures/workshops in pubs and community centres. Director of the EmotionUX Lab at UEL. He occasionally blogs at: Full academic profile:
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