Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Piracy and the Production of Security Space

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Piracy and the Production of Security Space

Article excerpt

Abstract. Since the emergence of Somali piracy as a threat to the circulation of cargo and capital through the Gulf of Aden, we have seen a massive effort on the part of global institutions, states, militaries, and private sector actors to protect this major artery of global commerce. This paper offers an analysis of the new institutional patchwork of 'counterpiracy' through the lens of the production of security space. What comes into focus then are the historical and contemporary processes of securing the conditions of capital circulation through war, law, primitive accumulation, and the enclosure of maritime spaces. By bringing together Foucault's analysis of security and Marx's analysis of capital circulation under the rubric of the production of space, I put forth a theory of production of security space as forming part of an infrastructure of circulation. Ultimately, I argue that legal, carceral, bureaucratic, and military practices are constitutive of this process of spatial production. Under the rubric of counterpiracy, law and discipline (as Foucault once wrote) have become 'armatures' in the apparatus of security. They have also become cornerstones of the new infrastructure of global capital circulation.

Keywords: piracy, security, production of space, infrastructure, oceans

The number of active pirates is perhaps 3000 ... so if you put a thousand behind bars, and 300-400 die every year at sea from hunger (or) drowning ... you will quickly come down."

Thomas Winkler, UN Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (1)

'Legislation treated them as 'voluntary' criminals, and assumed that it was entirely within their powers to go on working under the old conditions which in fact no longer existed "

Karl Marx (1977, page 896)


Kenya's Shimo La Tewa prison is a half an hour's drive north of Mombasa on the coastal road that leads up to the Somali border. Located only a few hundred yards from the luxury resorts and private villas that line the Mtwapa Creek where it meets the Indian Ocean, the prison--which holds the majority of Kenya's 157 pirate suspects and convicts (2)--fits unobtrusively into the eclectic landscape of shopping centers, shantytowns, hotels, cement factories, and other trappings of uneven development and tourism. The prison itself has become a major cog in the functioning of international counterpiracy efforts and has received large amounts of development money to improve its facilities through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) Counter Piracy Programmed The UNODC has overseen and provided the capital for many projects at the prison, including the construction of new water and sanitation systems, the provision of new prisoner uniforms and 2500 new mattresses, the refurbishing of a dispensary, and even the construction of a number of classrooms for the juvenile facility. Most striking, however, has been the construction of a new courthouse within the prison compound itself. The Shanzu Court at Shimo La Tewa opened in July 2012, purpose-built for piracy trials and staffed with its own resident magistrate trained by the UNODC (UNODC, 2013). The facility is now widely celebrated as 'the model prison' in the Kenyan penitentiary system (UNODC, 2009, page 4; see also Hatcher, 2013), and has become the prototype for a number of prison renovation and construction projects undertaken by the UN in East Africa. (4) As an integrated juridico-carceral complex, Shimo La Tewa also seems to embody the very ethos of 'counterpiracy', blending and harnessing powers of legal and penitentiary institutions within a regional maritime security infrastructure.

Globally, there are approximately 1200 Somalis in prison, convicted or awaiting trial for the crime of'piracy' (UNODC, 2013). In order to absorb this growing prison population and provide support for the often long and complex trials, significant amounts of development money have been allocated to the 'modernization' of courts and legal institutions and the construction of prisons in Kenya, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Tanzania, the Maldives, Somaliland, Puntland, and Somalia (UNODC, 2012). …

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