The art of constructing (in)security: probing rhetorical strategies of securitisation

  • Martin Senn
Original Article


Scholars advocating a sociological view of securitisation have criticised the Copenhagen school for its overemphasis on the grammar of security and its neglect of the social situatedness of securitisation. Accordingly, these critics have also pointed to the relevance of rhetorical strategy, that is, how agents tailor their securitising moves to specific audiences and contexts. This article advances our knowledge of rhetorical strategies of securitisation in two ways. First, it introduces the four rhetorical appeals of authority, fidelity, presence, and emotionality as text-level factors that facilitate the success of securitising moves. Second, the article focuses on rhetorical assemblage and argues that narrative theory enables us to gain a nuanced understanding of how securitising actors seek to create the four rhetorical appeals by selecting and combining discursive resources. To illustrate the added value of this theoretical framework, I use the documentary movies Countdown to Zero and Nuclear Tipping Point. These documentaries are securitising moves that seek to persuade a public audience in the United States of the existential threat that nuclear weapons pose and to mobilise this audience to support the cause of disarmament.


narrative theory nuclear disarmament rhetorical strategy securitisation 



This article received valuable input from presentations at the 2012 ISSS/ISAC Annual Conference in Chapel Hill, NC, and the 2014 Annual Convention of the ISA in Toronto. I also thank Ulla Jasper, Rens van Munster, Juha Vuori, three anonymous reviewers, and the editors of JIRD for their very helpful comments on earlier versions of the article, as well as Participant Media and the Nuclear Threat Initiative for granting me the permission to use still images of Countdown to Zero and Nuclear Tipping Point.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Senn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political Science, University of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria

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