Ingram and Dodds’ Spaces of Security and Insecurity presents itself as summary selection of contemporary understandings of security. Critical from the outset and remaining so throughout, the purpose and rationale of the piece appears to be to make us think outside the realms of what we may consider to be ‘traditional’ critical geopolitics, and expand current literature into new realms of analysis. Unfortunately, the success of this aim is variable.
The work certainly manages to go beyond the usual critiques, growing more abstract in nature as the text goes on. Analysis predominantly explores how contemporary security discourses are produced in what we may not immediately consider to be a political arena. Of course, some pieces are more successful at this than others. The theoretical and methodological approaches are wide ranging and diverse, each drawing on a different set of empirical evidence.
To streamline the work, contributions have been clarified into three chapters with common areas of interest; Constructing the War on Terror, Governing through Security and Alternative Imaginations.
Constructing the War on Terror
This chapter principally examines the ways in which the War on Terror has been developed as a geographical concept, through notions of sovereignty, failed states and the like. When taken together, these contributions show how the concept of space has been manipulated to support and perpetuate the discourse of the War on Terror.
Looking at the events of the Blair and Brown era is of course a very logical place to begin a discussion of this type. Eden examines the discourse surrounding humanitarian intervention and territorial sovereignty, and how this concept may be considered void under certain conditions (Ingram & Dodds 2009:21). One would expect authors such as Agnew (2001) to support the anti-Orientalist tone of Jeffry’s study of failed states, as it criticises the flawed policies associated with the false application of this label and projection of certain values onto other states. The chapter then achieves validity with regards to similar works. What is interesting however is when the text moves to rather more unexamined subject areas including Dittmer’s study of how an American evangelical Christian group interpret political events in the Middle East in relation to their own religious beliefs regarding the apocalypse. This work precisely embodies the book’s opening statement that,
“It is necessary to be mindful of the fact that the term ‘War on Terror’ does not denote a stable and coherent referent object, but is caught up in complex discursive struggles for legitimacy.” (Ingram & Dodds 2009:3)
It is really the later chapters that then really start to make headway with regards to approaching this study from a new angle, and though these can sometimes be a little far fetched, perhaps more priority should have been given to these exploratory pieces.
Governing through Security
Nadarajah’s analysis takes an interesting approach by examining the impact a certain definition can have on the development of a concept, and in turn the response to it (Ingram & Dodds 2009:109). Though not necessarily a new approach, the conflation of the term ‘terrorist’ with certain responses is increasingly relevant and thus important to take continued account of. The nexus here of course lies with the impact this term can have on power relations. This chapter specifically concerns the classification of the LTTE, largely considered an authentic expression of resistance to the Sri Lankan state, as a terrorist organisation. The fundamental concern here is the extent to which one diasporic community can impact international political movements. In terms of the geographical side of analysis, this work is very effective in connecting the process of politicisation with the more traditional geographic concerns of migration and diaspora.
The rest of the chapter is largely equally as effective in their analyses; Noxolo makes use of a highly sophisticated discursive analysis of interview materials regarding immigration and asylum, whilst Baker introduces another realm of geography to the political analysis- that of biosecurity and the relationship between ethnographic responses to terror and security threats and those to the native flora and fauna (Ingram & Dodds 2009:131). Each makes distinct and well argued contribution to the chapter’s theme of the governance of security in relation to terror threats.
By it’s very definition, this is undoubtedly the most bold of the three chapters in terms of content. Ingram champions the role of art practices in acting as an “entry point for geographers concerned with landscapes of security” (Ingram & Dodds 2009:17). Perhaps in this case, Ingram has gone too far in his attempts to expand the field of knowledge and has extended into a place which is in fact entirely unnecessary. Whilst the connection between vision and space is valid, it remains unconvincing that curators and artists can offer a solution to geopolitical epistemological concerns. Where Ingram’s work does hold weight however is in it’s recognition of the significant role of cartographic representations within landscapes of security. Of course, the abuse and manipulation of images is a pertinent issue, yet I would argue not the key to unlocking the future of geopolitics.
In parts of this chapter, the tone is choppy and inconsistent, and though attempt has been made to clarify the book into themes, this is not entirely successful in this chapter and as a result the work is somewhat disjointed. Some chapters stand out in their analytical rigour however and achieve much more success than others. As previously discussed, Dither’s work is a particular highlight, introducing a previously unexplored parallel to Middle Eastern politics in a sophisticated and clear way.
Arguably the book’s main contribution to the field is that it demonstrates the relevance of critical geographical imaginations to an interrogation of the present. One can identify a number of common threads of thought that run throughout the book. Ironically perhaps, the main agreement seems to be that we cannot in fact identify one singular model of thought. The concept of security and way in which it manifests itself in state actions is highly dynamic and influenced by cultural processes, and identification and deconstruction of these processes is one way in which this book shines. Does this then act as the book’s lasting message to political elites and policy makers? Security is now more than ever based not on elite political actions, but subtle changes in cultural movements, social media patterns and shifts in the public psyche. This book then supports the existing scholarship of Dalacoura (2012) and Tuathail (2000) – among others of course- in their assessment of the increasing importance of social interactions within the sphere of Geopolitics. Overall then, this work makes an important contribution to furthering awareness of the role of critical geopolitics.