Security and immigration: Toward a critique of the governmentality of unease.

Author:Bigo, Didier
 
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Migration is increasingly interpreted as a security problem. The prism of security analysis is especially important for politicians, for national and local police organizations, the military police, customs officers, border patrols, secret services, armies, judges, some social services (health care, hospitals, schools), private corporations (bank analysts, providers of technology surveillance, private policing), many journalists (especially from television and the more sensationalist newspapers), and a significant fraction of general public opinion, especially but not only among those attracted to "law and order." The popularity of this security prism is not an expression of traditional responses to a rise of insecurity, crime, terrorism, and the negative effects of globalization; it is the result of the creation of a continuum of threats and general unease in which many different actors exchange their fears and beliefs in the process of making a risky and dangerous society. The professionals in charge of the management of risk and fear especially transfer the legitimacy they gain from struggles against terrorists, criminals, spies, and counterfeiters toward other targets, most notably transnational political activists, people crossing borders, or people born in the country but with foreign parents.

This expansion of what security is taken to include effectively results in a convergence between the meaning of international and internal security. The convergence is particularly important in relation to the issue of migration, and specifically in relation to questions about who gets to be defined as an immigrant. The security professionals themselves, along with some academics, tend to claim that they are only responding to new threats requiring exceptional measures beyond the normal demands of everyday politics. In practice, however, the transformation of security and the consequent focus on immigrants is directly related to their own immediate interests (competition for budgets and missions) and to the transformation of technologies they use (computerized databanks, profiling and morphing, electronic phone tapping). The Europeanization and the Westernization of the logics of control and surveillance of people beyond national polices is driven by the creation of a transnational field of professionals in the management of unease. This field is larger than that of police organizations in that it includes, on one hand private corporations and organizations dealing with the control of access to the welfare state, and, on the other hand, intelligence services and some military people seeking a new role after the end of the Cold War. These professionals in the management of unease, however, are only a node connecting many competing networks responding to many groups of people who are identified as risk or just as a source of unease. (1)

This process of securitization is now well known, but despite the many critical discourses that have drawn attention to the securitization of migration over the past ten years, the articulation of migration as a security problem continues. Why? What are the reasons of the persistent framing of migration in relation to terrorism, crime, unemployment and religious zealotry, on the one hand, and to integration, interest of the migrant for the national economy development, on the other, rather than in relation to new opportunities for European societies, for freedom of travel over the world, for cosmopolitanism, or for some new understanding of citizenship? (2) This is the question I want to address in this essay.

Some "critical" discourses generated by NGOs and academics assume that if people, politicians, governments, bureaucracies, and journalists were more aware, they would change their minds about migration and begin to resist securitizing it. The primary problem, therefore, is ideological or discursive in that the securitization of migrants derives from the language itself and from the different capacities of various actors to engage in speech acts. In this context, the term "speech act" is used not in its technical Austinian sense, but metaphorically, to justify both the normative position of a speaker and the value of their critical discourse against the discourses of the security professionals. This understanding of critique reinforces the vision of a contest between ideas and norms, a contest in which academics can play a leading role. (3)

This essay tries to be critical in a rather different sense. It seeks to avoid presenting the struggle as an ideological one between conservative and liberal positions, or even as an "intertextual competition" between agencies in which academics have a key role. It examines why the discourses of securitization continue to be so powerful even when alternatives discourses are well known, and why the production of academic and alternative discourses has so little effect in either the political arena or in daily life. It emphasizes the work of politicization, of the mobilization of groups and technologies enabling some agents, especially political actors, the media, the security professionals and some sectors of the general population, to create a "truth" about the link between crime, unemployment, and migration, even when academics, churches, NGOs and some social policy--oriented institutions have made powerful claims to the contrary for many years.

My hypothesis is that the securitization of immigration is not only an effect of, even if it contributes to, the propaganda of the far right political parties, the rise of racism, a new and more efficient rhetoric convincing the population of a danger, or successful "speech acts" performed by actors coming from the state or from the society. (4) Securitization of the immigrant as a risk is based on our conception of the state as a body or a container for the polity. It is anchored in the fears of politicians about losing their symbolic control over the territorial boundaries. (5) It is structured by the habitus of the security professionals and their new interests not only in the foreigner but in the "immigrant." These interests are correlated with the globalization of technologies of surveillance and control going beyond the national borders. (6) It is based, finally, on the "unease" that some citizens who feel discarded suffer because they cannot cope with the uncertainty of everyday life. (7) This worry, or unease, is not psychological. It is a structural unease in a "risk society" framed by neoliberal discourses in which freedom is always associated at its limits with danger and (in)security.

The securitization of migration is, thus, a transversal political technology, used as a mode of governmentality by diverse institutions to play with the unease, (8) or to encourage it if it does not yet exist, (9) so as to affirm their role as providers of protection and security and to mask some of their failures. (10) The securitization of immigration then emerges from the correlation between some successful speech acts of political leaders, the mobilization they create for and against some groups of people, and the specific field of security professionals (which, in the West, and despite many differences, now tend to unite policemen, gendarmes, intelligence services, military people, providers of technology of surveillance and experts on risk assessments). It comes also from a range of administrative practices such as population profiling, risk assessment, statistical calculation, category creation, proactive preparation, and what may be termed a specific habitus of the "security professional" with its et hos of secrecy and concern for the management of fear or unease. (11)

The Success of Securitization of Immigration in the Political Realm

For a majority of antiracist and Human Rights associations, as well as for many scholars linked to these associations, the force of the securitization of migration comes from the "spontaneous" spread of intolerance and racist prejudice over large groups of people. The popular classes are "contaminated" by "law and order" visions about foreigners and accept them. Ignorance of the broader stakes combined with a populism calculated to please frustrated people creates a potential for security-oriented behavior against foreigners. (12) This analysis of the susceptibility of populations to populist rhetoric may be accurate in some respects. However, the ineffectiveness of critical discourses is not a consequence of a simple blindness on the part of politicians, the electorate, security professionals, and media. (13) Success will not come by repeating again and again reasoned argument about how useful foreigners could be for a society. So the refusal to take into account the critical discourses can be characterized not as a lack of knowledge but as a policy of forgetting, or as a denial. (14)

As Ayse Ceyhan and Anastasia Tsoukala show in this issue, claims that increases in insecurity can be attributed to the responsibility of migrants for crime, delinquency, and deviance have been successfully challenged by critical analysis without much effect on the prevailing political rhetoric. Analytical accuracy has not really undermined the consensus among political leaders and bureaucracies. It is not directly by arguing for migrants and against securitization that critical discourses can change the situation. (15) Details of the negative effects of government policies or international institutions will not change the situation for immigrants. They will still be framed in relation to statist practices of rejection or integration. Effective challenges can only be indirect, by analyzing the conditions under which the authority of truth is given to a discourse that creates the immigrant as an "outsider, inside the State." (16)

Security and Immigration: Seeing Like a State

Policies of denial, of active forgetting about migration role and status, draw their strength from...

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