Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Security Atmospheres or the Crystallisation of Worlds

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Security Atmospheres or the Crystallisation of Worlds

Article excerpt

Abstract. This paper makes several moves towards the study of geographies of security through notions of atmosphere. Two related claims circulate through this paper: that security is becoming attuned to what we might call affective atmospheres, whilst it is itself becoming atmospheric. The paper proceeds to develop, first, a correlation of ideas across concepts of security, power, and affective atmospheres. The following section sees security understood atmospherically, before it goes on to explore how security is increasingly attuned to affective atmospheres as its object-target. Finally, by way of conclusion, the paper offers several manners of contestation and critique. Throughout, the paper draws on a variety of secondary literature as well as primary documentary research and analysis, focusing empirically upon a set of counterinsurgency practices known as 'atmospherics'.

Keywords: affect, atmospheres, security, war, dispositif

"Atmospheres are indeterminate above all as regards their ontological status. We are not sure whether we should attribute them to the objects or environments from which they proceed or to the subjects who experience them. We are also unsure where they are. They seem to fill the space with a certain tone of feeling like a haze."

Bohme (1993, page 114)

"But, still, what impels this particular constituency to push the envelope so relentlessly?"

Connolly (2005, page 871)

"How does one challenge a preemptive context, an atmosphere?"

Simon (2012, page 170)

Prologue

Haruki Murakami's (2001) excavation of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult's Sarin attacks on the Tokyo underground in the mid-1990s gives us a sense of a strange sort of knowledge. The low-level suspicions of Michiaki Tamada, a train manager who survived the attacks, are voiced. He had already evacuated the train upon orders from central control; they were told that an explosion had happened further up the line. They stopped the train in a tunnel before Tamada walked the length of the carriage to see if something was wrong. Nothing was. Only his transcript records a moment when he tries to account for an experience beyond words. He says that something "felt wrong inside the train". It was not so much a smell--it was a hunch, or something more. Tamada explains, "Ride the trains each day and you know what's regular air, and you pick up on anything that's not quite the same. Call it instinct" (Murakami, 2001, page 137).

Murakami is outlining a manner of encounter which draws on a deep knowledge of a place and people, an ambient sense of things out of sorts which Tamada has gained through experience and can now intuit. His testimony accounts for an atmosphere of the untoward that disrupts a dichotomy of object-subject. Something from the smell alters the mood with a new olfactory colouring of something wrong in the air. Tamada recognises this atmospheric anomaly and registers it as something abnormal: fear. The atmosphere is not simply 'free floating', but we might take note of Gernot Bohme's argument that atmospheres are created by "things, persons or their constellations. Conceived in this fashion, atmospheres are neither something objective, that is, qualities possessed by things, and yet they are something thinglike" (1993, page 122).

Introduction

In this paper 1 make several moves towards the study of 'security atmospheres' in order to make two related claims: that security is becoming increasing attuned to what we might call affective atmospheres, whilst it is itself becoming atmospheric.

We have seen an array of research on security logics such as preemption and preparedness (Anderson, 2010a; De Goede, 2008), on rationalities such as risk, and in a variety of different contexts, from counterterrorism to emergency planning. Something is notably expressive about security events, perhaps recorded in the "deep-set feelings of ill-being" Chris Philo (2012, page 1) has recently addressed and Tamada accounted for. …

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