The Aesthetics of Security in Literature and Visual Media

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Queen Mary, University of London/Justus Liebig University Giessen
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The contemporary debate surrounding “communities of security” inquires, in particular, into culturally disseminated representations of normality, against which the dangerous is demarcated. At the same time, this debate is concerned with regulations that are designed to minimise the risk of danger and which create an atmosphere of fear; an atmosphere which in turn encourages further concerns about security. This debate frequently makes reference to Michel Foucault’s work on governmentality and to Ulrich Beck’s theory of the risk society; both theoreticians come to the conclusion that such processes of normalisation, regulation and the creation of fear are implemented and legitimised through strategies such as surveillance and inspection, measurement and statistical investigation. These strategies can also be described as mediating techniques of simultaneous inclusion and exclusion: those phenomena or people brought into view as threats are identified and included through the operations of observation, yet in the same process are relegated to being elements which, for the purposes of eliminating an imagined risk, must be excluded, if not completely eliminated. Communities of security do not implement these strategies of protection at all times and in all places, as the language of Big Brother would suggest; rather they create spatial, temporal and social Zones of Surveillance which structure awareness (of the State, of the police, and of private security communities) and make focused interventions possible.

Literature, film and television transform these zones of surveillance into semi-fictional stages of social inclusion and exclusion. Often they allow the dynamics of power to be performed by stereotypical protagonists, thereby contributing, on the one hand, to the reduction of complexity in the field of security. On the other hand, however, they render this selfsame field more complex: if literature, film and television aestheticize zones of security (border regions, prisons and camps, slums) as well as strategies of security (surveillance, inspection, measurement), then the security procedures which are depicted also continually interact with these staged and mediated processes. This is because the modes of inclusion and exclusion which are staged can equally, through the mediation of narrative, be affirmed, revised or rejected. In this way, narrative media become engaged in the negotiation of potential threats and types of safety, and are themselves integrated into the spectrum of the normalising and regulating modes of security.
For the second issue of eTransfers we are seeking contributions which — through the consideration of individual texts, films and television programmes (and possibly other formats from the new media) — analyse this aestheticization and narrativization of security. Contributions may address but should not necessarily be confined to the following questions:

• Which spaces and strategies of security are represented in literary and visual media, and which types of plot proliferate in the context of security communities?
• Which modes and behaviour and which types of persons are identified as being “dangerous”, how does this occur, which modes of inclusion and exclusion accompany the depicted strategies of security, and are there unambiguously “good” and “evil” protagonists?
• Which modes of observation, inspection and measurement are depicted and how do they interact with the specific narrative medium under investigation?
• To what extent do narrative media themselves either encourage processes of security or attempt to avoid instigating their own form of security politics, and are these narrative processes given to reinforcing or disturbing the readers’ senses of security (for example, through the technique of unreliable narration)?

We request the submission of completed essays, no longer than 6,000 words, written in either English or German, by 1 June 2011. Contributions should be sent to one of the following addresses: or arts-etransfers@ When making a submission please take note of our detailed submission instructions on or /research/anglogerman/etransfers/.

eTransfers is a bi-national, double-blind refereed academic online-journal for postgraduates in the field of comparative literary and cultural studies.Hosted at the Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations (CAGCR) at Queen Mary, University of London, together with the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, eTransfers has been published since 2011 and aims at providing a forum for postgraduates to present their academic work on cutting-edge key issues in literary and cultural studies (see our current Call for Papers). Postgraduates also engage in running the journal — including refereeing, writing calls for papers, copy-editing and publishing.

eTransfers envisions a fresh approach to relevant topics which is designed to enrich the academic landscape, to cross existing disciplinary boundaries and to open up new theoretical and conceptual fields. The journal accepts articles from postgraduates world-wide written in either English or German with abstracts provided in both languages (see also the Instruction for Authors).

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