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Identity and desecuritisation: the pitfalls of conflating ontological and physical security

Abstract

How can the Self move from a securitised to a non-securitised relation with the Other while its very identity depends on its relation to the Other? Within the existing critical approaches to security, this question, which encapsulates the complex interrelationship between identity and desecuritisation, has not been explored in a systematic manner. This article builds on the emerging literature on ontological security to develop a two-layered framework of security as both ontological and physical, wherein the relationship between identity and desecuritisation can be better analysed. I argue that the conflation of ontological and physical security within the existing critical approaches to security has generated an insufficient appreciation of how identity expands the possibilities for desecuritisation while imposing new limits. In particular, the framework offered in this article highlights the possibilities for achieving ontological security in the absence of securitisation and limits to desecuritisation that stem from ontological insecurity.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Critical approaches to security is a vast literature, divided into various approaches and ‘schools’ (C.A.S.E. Collective, 2006; see also Gad and Petersen 2011), but sharing a common critique of traditional approaches and concern with the politics and ethics of security (Browning and McDonald 2013). This article does not engage in a comprehensive analysis, but focuses in particular on the contributions of Michael Dillon, Maria Stern, Ole Wæver, Michael Williams, Paul Roe, Matti Jutila, Claudia Aradau, and Jef Huysmans.

  2. 2.

    There is also a vibrant debate on the applicability of the concept of ontological security to states. For critical appraisals, see Krolikowski (2008) and Croft (2012).

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Acknowledgements

Earlier versions of this article have been presented at the ISA (2008), Center for Advanced Security Theory in Copenhagen (2010), and at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (2011). I have benefitted extensively from the feedback of Pertti Joenniemi, Christopher S. Browning, Stefano Guzzini, Patrick T. Jackson, Iver Neumann, Ole Wæver, and the three anonymous reviewers and editors of JIRD. The usual disclaimer applies. I also gratefully acknowledge the support of Turkish Academy of Sciences’ Distinguished Young Scientist Program. The final revisions to the article were made during my sabbatical leave at the University of British Columbia (2011–2012), which was partially supported by an outgoing fellowship granted by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey.

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Rumelili, B. Identity and desecuritisation: the pitfalls of conflating ontological and physical security. J Int Relat Dev 18, 52–74 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/jird.2013.22

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Keywords

  • desecuritisation
  • identity
  • ontological security
  • self/other relations