University of Sussex
Martin, Thomas Christopher.pdf (1.86 MB)

Prevent: the preclusive identity politics of British counter-radicalisation policy 2001-2015

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posted on 2023-06-09, 08:20 authored by Thomas Martin
Forming one of the four pillars of the United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST, Prevent occupies a central role in security debates post-9/11. Concerned with understanding and tackling radicalisation, it carries the promise of early intervention into the lives of those who may be on a pathway to violence. The core contribution of this thesis is in demonstrating Prevent has played a key role in the production and policing of contemporary British identities, representing an innovative mobilisation of power, in response to the production of a novel threat. Its security ambition is novel, in that it does not seek to intervene into those who are dangerous, but into individuals who are vulnerable to becoming radicalised, and the environments that generate such radicalisation. The key question is how this future becoming is manifested as knowable in the present. The thesis shows that Prevent generates security in the present by producing certain identities as threatening for the future, and then acting to transform these identities in the present. The identities discursively produced as threatening are those that are understood to be alienated from mainstream ‘Britishness’. The acts of security within Prevent thus constitute this outside, producing the identities that are ascribed as risky. In bringing this identity politics to the fore, the thesis argues that Prevent draws its own borders between the secure, ‘British’ interior and its risky exterior. In intervening into those deemed risky, such identities, on the basis of their potential, are denied political expression within the United Kingdom. Further, this analysis shows how Prevent radicalises the contemporary relation between security and identity. In the increasing demand to intervene early, it is identities in their potential that demand intervention, redefining and extending the scope of both those who must maintain vigilance for signs of threat and those subject to these security interventions.


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University of Sussex

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