Sight Unseen: Our Neoliberal Vision of Insecurity

Cultural Studeis Review 24 (2):130-149 (2018)
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Abstract

Is security seen? Is security seen in images of peace and safety, or is it perceived in the troubled images of the horrors of violence and suffering? Vision has played a crucial role in shaping the modern Western preoccupation with, and prioritisation of security. Historically, security has been visually represented in a variety of ways, typically involving the depiction of its absence. In Medieval and Early Modern Europe especially, security and insecurity were presented as coterminous insofar as each represented separate conditions – their shared boundary envisioned in representations of the temporal threshold separating human mortality from divine salvation. This ocular demonstration of thresholds has been heightened by the ‘war on terror’ conducted by neo-liberal states since 2003. Neoliberalism operates as a discourse of constant global circulations premised on a perpetual anticipation and pre-emption of insecurity. In the neoliberal scheme, security and insecurity are no longer coterminous, but mutually sustaining in perpetuity. In that sense, neoliberal security is ‘sight unseen’ - an uncanny presence that is not there. In the reiterated troubled images of horror amplified by the seemingly endless 'war on terror', neoliberal security operates as a terrifying visual reflex: we cannot see it but in new horrors.

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Bruce Buchan
Griffith University

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Liberalism and fear of violence.Bruce Buchan - 2001 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 4 (3):27-48.

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