Call for Papers:
"The Production of Human Security in
Premodern and Contemporary History"
Conference April 8 - 10, 2010, Bochum
Deadline for submission of papers: November 15, 2009
Since the 1990s the concept of "human security" has been used increasingly in the debates on social and political theory as well as in practical international politics. Part of its appeal is due to the unusually wide extension of the term covering such diverse objects as classical international security politics, security problems arising from natural hazards and even threats of traffic accidents. In general, the concept is designed to replace the perspective of the so-called ‘Westphalian System’ in which sovereign state actors conduct international politics , and individual human beings are subject only to state authority which has to be respected by other states and international actors.
Advocates of the human security concept, not least the representatives of UN institutions, rely on a historical narrative in which the current widening of the notion of security is nothing new. Rather it is conceived of as the revival of older, pre-modern and pre-Westphalian concepts of security such as the scholastic concept of securitas, the security aims of all kinds of pre-modern ‘Policey’-orders or the medieval and early modern concepts of risk management and security production by state and non-state actors. In this scheme, the era of the modern nation-state with its clear distinctions between domestic and foreign, private and state security appears as a historical exception.
At our conference we want to historicize the understanding of ‘human security’ by analyzing the variable and dialectic relations between people’s fears and the production of ‘security’ in pre-modern and contemporary times. We hope to test and challenge the simple historical narrative of a correspondence between pre-modern and late modern concepts of security and to explore the complex and historically variable ways of producing security. Comparing the pre-modern and the contemporary world we do not want to reproduce the historical narrative of ‘human security’ uncritically: contributions on the 19th and early 20th centuries are welcome if they address the ‘unclassic sides of classic modernity’. In general, we want to avoid the common dichotomy between a "modern" and a "post-modern" world which puts too much emphasis on the uniqueness of our time and instead focus on underlying similarities and structural problems of the production of security in the perspective of a "longue-durée". Thereby, we hope to assess the usefulness and productivity of “human security” as a concept of historical analysis.
We invite papers which address one or several of the following aspects of the production of human security in premodern and/or contemporary history:
1) Multiple Fears – Multiple Securities? Subjects, Types, Dimensions
While, in general, historical scholarship tends to concentrate either – as it has been fashionable in recent years – on “fear” or on “security,” these concepts need to be conceived of as two sides of one coin. Which spaces, phenomena and actions were connected with which kinds of fear in pre-modern times and today: the sea, unknown places, insecure futures, disease, economic downfall, natural disasters? What were the corresponding types of security, how were they produced, what was their scope and, above all, to what extent did regimes of security trigger the fears that they were designed to overcome?
2) Conveyors of Security: States, Institutions, and Communities
Which different historical actors offered security for which groups of people? Shifting the analysis away from an overly state-centered view we want to ask what kinds of institutions and communities provided human security (the family, ‘the church’ in all its dimensions, guilds, private insurance companies, state based insurances or private security services)? How did these “producers of human security” compete with each other and convince their clients that they were able to guarantee their security?
3) Techniques and Technologies of Security
It is common to draw a sharp distinction between a present “risk-society” and pre-modern times by referring to the function of modern technology considered to be fundamentally new. However, the Janus-faced nature of technology producing simultaneously security and insecurity may also be found in history before the advent of the machine. In which ways did technological advancements create new fears and how were new technologies and techniques used in order to promise greater security in premodern as well as in contemporary history?
4) Security and Religious Cultures
Anthropologists remind us that the specific needs for different sorts of security vary over time and from group to group. What constitutes a "fear" or a "risk" and what is considered to be “security” for a certain group at a certain time need not be worth any consideration for another group at another time. With this basic premise in mind, we would like to analyze the reactions of different groups (religious, ethnic, cultural, etc.) toward comparable dangers, thereby elucidating the social constructions of past and present needs for security.
5) Relations between International and ”inner” Security
The paradigm cases for the application of the concept of “human security” are humanitarian interventions in failed or failing states. Do these allow comparisons to pre-modern conflicts and interventions before the rise of the sovereign state? Moreover, the relation between domestic and international security pervades current debates about global terrorism and the alleged trade-off between freedom and security. How did various state and non-state actors treat and negotiate the relations between international threats and the productions of domestic security on the one hand and internal insecurities and the international production of security on the other?
6) Historicizing Sociologies and Anthropologies of Fear and Security
Sociologists, political scientists and anthropologists have developed various theories of fear and security. While these theories constitute important inspirations for historical research they should neither be read as factual descriptions nor be uncritically presupposed in the research process. Rather, they have to be historicized: Who theorized “fear” or “security” in which historical constellation with which specific interests?
Please submit an abstract of no more than one page outlining your talk plus a short CV to email@example.com by November 15, 2009.
A first draft of the whole paper (approx. 10 pages) should be submitted by March 15, 2010 for pre-circulation.
Accommodation will be provided and travel expenses at reasonable cost can be reimbursed.
The conference will be financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Projekt ‘Risikozaehmung in der Vormoderne’.
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