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The Rise of Informal Policing in Europe: Security, Space, State

Photo: Ivasiuc, Rome 2015 (anonymized)

This project, inscribed interdisciplinarily within critical security studies, social anthropology, and urban studies, examines the enabling conditions and the effects of informal policing in Europe, combining archive research with comparative ethnography. It sheds light on the articulation between urban transformation, the growth of insecurity, and the spread of far-right ideologies, exploring whether the latter may find roots in the materiality of urban transformations over the last decades. Since practices of informal policing such as civilian defense groups or neighbourhood patrols challenge the monopoly of the state in matters of protection, they also shed light on the transformations of imaginaries of the state and conceptions of citizenship.

By means of two case studies – one in Germany, and one in The Netherlands – the project aims to identify the enabling conditions and the effects of the current multiplication of neighbourhood patrols, charting the local factors contributing to perceptions of a security deficit. It examines the role of urban transformations over the last decades, together with the transformations of socialities and discourses of urban and national (dis)order and (in)security, linking the local scale to the national and supranational politics of insecurity. By analyzing how notions of ‘self-help’ security legitimize informal policing while simultaneously delegitimizing the state as purveyor of protection, the project will also afford a critical understanding of how discourses of crisis and cultural and social conflict are coproduced and circulated, and how they impact perceptions of (in)security. Theoretically, the project aims at conceptualizing the security-space-state assemblage under the current rise of the far-right.

Project Period: 2020-2022
Funding: Gerda Henkel Foundation, Special Programme Security, Society, State
Principal Investigator: Dr. Ana Ivasiuc