Conference on Insecurity

deadline for submissions: 
January 11, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
UWM Center for 21st Century Studies
contact email: 

The Center for 21st Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee invites proposals for their spring 2019 conference, Insecurity, which will take place on May 2-4, 2019. 

Confirmed plenary speakers for the conference are: Neel Ahuja (UC Santa Cruz), Jennifer Doyle (UC Riverside), Annie McClanahan (UC Irvine), Mark Neocleous (Brunel University London), Safiya Noble (USC), Naomi Paik (Illinois), and Saskia Sassen (Columbia).

Full description:

This conference proposes the concept of “insecurity” as one of the governing logics of economic, political, and social life in the West at the end of the second decade of the 21st century. Insecurity picks up on, and challenges, several key concepts of 21st century studies, especially “precarity,” “securitization,” and “resilience.”

The notion of insecurity has affinities with, but is more capacious than, “precarity,” which has been used by cultural, economic, and sociopolitical theorists to describe the structural vulnerability that runs through the complex historical formation of labor under which we operate today. Like precarity, insecurity manifests itself in terms of diminished access to housing, food, healthcare, and other vital human and social welfare resources. Both precarity and insecurity address the increasing economic inequality of the 21st century, in which the gap between individual and corporate wealth and the income of those who work (or are unable to work) for a living grows increasingly vast and unbridgeable. Our definition of insecurity begins with and is predicated upon the structural economic injustice and precarity that predominate in our present historical moment, but expands the concept of precarity from its primarily economic meaning to include technological, affective, environmental, and geopolitical concerns.

Insecurity also picks up on and challenges the basic premises of “securitization,” which refers to the burgeoning structure of state and non-state surveillance that has proliferated in the US and globally after 9/11. In fact, it would not be mistaken to insist that rather than making populations, transportation, and information systems more secure, securitization systematically produces insecurity—evident most dramatically in the treatment of refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers across the globe, but also in the increased danger of cybercrimes or cyber war, terrorism, climate disasters, global epidemics, and economic crashes. Political theorists and legal scholars have identified the “insecurity state,” which gets at some of what we mean to address. But we mean as well to take up the way in which surveillance and securitization generate both individual and collective feelings of insecurity. These are experienced in a highly securitized daily life, in which the ubiquity of social media, data mining, GPS tracking, and other surveillance technologies enables the collection of unfathomable quantities of data in the name of securing the state from named and unnamed threats which are themselves produced by the apparatus of securitization.

We seek proposals for 15-20 minute papers, which could address any of the following topics:

  • securitization, cybersecurity, hacking, surveillance
  • data insecurity
  • refugees, migrants, and border security
  • precarious labor
  • gender/sexual insecurity, the erosion of trans rights and the increasing visibility of sexual assault
  • climate, water, and ecological insecurity
  • food insecurity
  • housing insecurity
  • resilience and insecurity
  • psychological insecurity
  • national, geopolitical, and technological insecurity
  • health care security, global biorisk
  • the security state
  • economic insecurity, global financial markets, and the threat of collapse

Please send your abstract (up to 250 words) and a brief (1-page) CV by Friday, January 11, 2019 to Richard Grusin, Director, Center for 21st Century Studies, at c21@uwm.edu.