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Racism! What do you mean? From Howell and Richter-Montpetit's underestimation of the problem, towards situating security through struggle

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Version 2 2023-06-12, 09:56
Version 1 2023-06-10, 00:18
journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-12, 09:56 authored by Lara Montesinos ColemanLara Montesinos Coleman
I suggest in this essay that colonialism and racism penetrate the intellectual foundations of security studies at a level deeper than recent discussion would have us believe. This is because of unstated or disavowed ontological assumptions that shape the parameters of the field and lead scholars to foreclose upon a deeper understanding of systemic, racialized relations of violence. The problem in much critical scholarship on security, I will argue, is not only a failure to grasp the centrality of structural racism to the practices and interventions under examination. It is a more insidious matter of what knowledges, experiences and struggles are invisible, and – as a result – what practices and interventions are not subject to examination because of the centrality given to security. Even when security is understood in the broadest sense, it is still practices that are about threat and danger, friendship and enmity, that catch the eye of the critical scholar. The result is a tendency to naturalize the denigration and abandonment of non-white and poor populations deemed lacking in the qualities for success within a profoundly violent global political economy. After staking out my critique – and why I think recent discussion of racism in security studies only scratches the surface of the problem – I will consider how research agendas and methods might be recalibrated with a greater sensitivity towards colonialism and race. Crucially, I caution against attempts to ‘decolonize security studies’ by seeking to add the insights of decolonial and critical race scholarship to the field (see Adamson, 2020) without attention to the ontological assumptions that make it natural to centre security. Taking inspiration from Lewis Gordon (2011) and Olivia Rutazibwa (2020), as well as from my own engagement with decolonial social movements, I propose that part of what is required is greater attention to lived thought, to how reality always exceeds the questions our scholarly communities lead us to ask, and to what is revealed when we consider security through the lens of struggle.


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Security Dialogue




SAGE Publications


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