[Workshop] Reshaping perceptions: human-nonhuman systems in security contexts

05 September 2023
  • Starts at: 09:00h
  • Fee: See description
  • Venue: University of Potsdam - Campus Griebnitzsee, house 6
  • Organiser: Klaudia Klonowska and Sofie van der Maarel

A growing body of literature in science and technology studies (STS) discusses the impacts of human-nonhuman systems on security practices (‘doing’). For instance, the impact of the integration of novel technologies such as biometric systems, drones, robotics, (semi-)autonomous vehicles on security practices is elaborately studied. This workshop, however, takes the road-less-traveled and explores the impacts on perceptions (‘seeing and knowing’) of human-nonhuman systems within the security realm.

Here, perceptions are considered as viewpoints or ways of ‘seeing’ that condition our understanding of the world. Central in this workshop are perceptions within and of security contexts, and the aim is to analyse the myriad ways in which such security perceptions are formed, (re)shaped, and stabilised in sociotechnical entanglements. Examples include considerations of how biometric technologies and surveillance impact the perceptions of migrant subjects and illegitimate migration or how big data filtering affects the perception of ‘known and unknown terrorists’. Sociotechnical systems may also affect inward-looking perceptions of security practitioners’ experiences and roles, for example, the use of body cameras affects police officers’ perceptions of their institutional efficiency. Furthermore, perceptions shaped through human-nonhuman interactions become entangled in the knowledge production of security binaries such as legal/illegal, safe/dangerous, civilian/combatant, and others. Where perceptions are stabilised as knowledge, interventions are implemented and justified.

Given the importance of STS approaches to a variety of disciplines, including international relations, political science, legal scholarship, critical security and surveillance studies, anthropology, media studies, and more - this workshop provides a multidisciplinary space for the exploration of the main theme of human-nonhuman perceptions in the security realm. The workshop conveners invite scholars from different backgrounds whose work draws from the following theoretical approaches: sociotechnical imaginaries, the study of practices, (law) discourses, post-phenomenological approaches, actor-network theory, posthumanism, assemblages, and similar others.

In studying the theme of security perceptions, conceptual and methodological questions are intertwined. What is considered a threat, and by whom? And (how) does this change through the integration of nonhumans in a sociotechnical system? Thus, this workshop discusses how scholars from various backgrounds understand ‘security perceptions’ (conceptually) and how they study them (methodologically). Participants are invited to reflect upon some of the following questions:

  • How to identify and study the emerging perceptions of, for example, ourselves, others, threats, risks, warfare, and security in human-nonhuman assemblages?
  • How are certain perceptions that emerge through human-nonhuman systems institutionalised and stabilised?
  • How do technologies help to reinforce certain power relations by highlighting (potential) threats and ignoring others? Or: who defines what is perceived as a threat/risk/dangerous and what is not?
  • In security contexts, which threats/bodies/communities are made visible/invisible when using digital tools?
  • How do the different theoretical lenses of sociotechnical imaginaries, ANT, posthumanism, and others contribute to the study of changing perceptions in the security realm?
  • How does the study of technological mediation and cognitive limitations contribute to the understanding of human-nonhuman entanglements in shaping security perceptions?
  • How do perceptions of security practitioners' own role change through their interactions with digital technologies, such as decision-support systems, surveillance technologies, and data analysis tools?

How to participate:

We welcome papers of both a theoretical and empirical kind and we particularly encourage submissions from early-career scholars.

Application: To be accepted to the workshop, please send in an abstract (max. 250 words) of a (draft) paper or thesis chapter before May 10th, 2023 to both convenors: Klaudia KlonowskaK.Klonowska@asser.nl (PhD candidate in International Law at Asser Institute/University of Amsterdam) or Sofie van der Maarel, sofie.vandermaarel@ru.nl (PhD candidate in International Relations at Radboud University Nijmegen/Netherlands Defence Academy). Please include in the email title: “ECW EISA Abstract Submission”.

Upon acceptance, participants will be asked to share (draft) papers or chapters of max. 8000 words (excluding references or notes) by August 15th, 2023.

All workshop participants are expected to participate in the EISA-PEC main conference, and have to be registered for the conference before attending the workshop. Accommodation costs (1 night) will be reimbursed for workshop participants to cover the early arrival at the EISA conference.