The Security Archipelago: Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism

The Security Archipelago: Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism

by Paul Amar

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In The Security Archipelago, Paul Amar provides an alternative historical and theoretical framing of the refashioning of free-market states and the rise of humanitarian security regimes in the Global South by examining the pivotal, trendsetting cases of Brazil and Egypt. Addressing gaps in the study of neoliberalism and biopolitics, Amar describes how…  See more details below


In The Security Archipelago, Paul Amar provides an alternative historical and theoretical framing of the refashioning of free-market states and the rise of humanitarian security regimes in the Global South by examining the pivotal, trendsetting cases of Brazil and Egypt. Addressing gaps in the study of neoliberalism and biopolitics, Amar describes how coercive security operations and cultural rescue campaigns confronting waves of resistance have appropriated progressive, antimarket discourses around morality, sexuality, and labor. The products of these struggles—including powerful new police practices, religious politics, sexuality identifications, and gender normativities—have traveled across an archipelago, a metaphorical island chain of what the global security industry calls "hot spots." Homing in on Cairo and Rio de Janeiro, Amar reveals the innovative resistances and unexpected alliances that have coalesced in new polities emerging from the Arab Spring and South America's Pink Tide. These have generated a shared modern governance model that he terms the "human-security state."

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Editorial Reviews

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"The Security Archipelago is a singular book by a unique scholar. Paul Amar works in English, Arabic, and Portuguese, and he studies security regimes in a comparative framework encompassing the Middle East, North and South America, and Europe. Combining research that he has done in Brazil and Egypt on the emergence of new forms of security and new grammars of protest politics with the unfolding stories of an economic boom in Brazil and political change in Egypt, Amar has written an up-to-the-moment account of the 'human-security state' and its opponents."—Jack Halberstam, author of The Queer Art of Failure

"An extraordinary book that revolutionizes the way to think about security, undermines conventional wisdom, and offers us a wonderfully lucid study of an obscure subject-matter, including detailed inquiry into state/society relations in Egypt and Brazil. Among many contributions is the brilliant depiction of the evolving interface between state security (its visible and invisible apparatus) and people subject to its control, including a fascinating account of the sexualization of politics as an emergent dimension of both oppression and resistance. A must-read!"—Richard Falk, coauthor of The Path to Zero: Dialogues on Nuclear Dangers

Powerlines - Jaime Madden

“Amar’s analysis of the politics and culture of the human-security state provides an alternative and declining history of neoliberalism. . . . He pushes critical security studies forward when he questions whether decisions to disregard the Global South contribute to the field’s tendency to legitimate securitization.”
New Political Science - Constance G. Anthony

“Amar traces the contradictory contours of state power, more interested in its own survival than that of its citizens. Especially for scholars of the changing global status of gender and sexuality, this is a book which expands the scope of the field.”
GLQ - Omnia El Shakry

"The Security Archipelago is based on extensive and original research in Egypt and Brazil, and traces transformations in statecraft and governance from the 1980s to the present day that reconfigured “humanity . . . through new forms of sexualized and moralized governance” (3)."
Journal of Middle East Women's Studies - Sherene Seikaly

“Through the lenses of the intensely overlapping realms of morality and urban politics, The Security Archipelago provides a new map that refigures how rule works and how it fails to work. … Amar poses the labor of the activist as a form of theorization. Dissidents and revolutionaries are, after all, the social theorists whomthe experts must finally listen to, as Amar does so carefully and attentively in this work.”

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Duke University Press Books
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a Social Text book
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New Edition
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6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.70(d)

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Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism

By Paul Amar

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2013 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-5384-3



World Summits and Human-Security Laboratories

Through which processes and in which kinds of sites can a new global model of governance emerge from the Global South? In the first decade of the 2000s, a new body of scholarship explored the governance innovations of leftist and populist regimes that had emerged since the late 1990s in South America. And more recently, a flurry of new analyses have weighed the causes and consequences of popular uprisings, in addition to new political assertions of military forces, mass movements, and religious political organizations in the Middle East during the so-called Arab Spring. But these studies, on the whole, have considered these shifts to be area-specific phenomena, that is, as local or regional revolts against "the global" rather than as manifestations of a new "global" overtaking the old. Global North-based observers have tended to discount or ignore the possibility that common structural positioning or sociohistorical links unite South America and the Middle East, tying together these two sets of political shifts. Rare acknowledgments of linkages between these regions have taken the form of caricatures, like that of Brazil's Lula meeting with the Arab League's Moussa, or queering representations of Lula's or Hugo Chavez's "romance" with Iran's Ahmadinejad (fig. 1.1). But do these curious encounters between the Middle East and South America have no historical context? Are these connections and convergences nothing but sideshows to a new balance-of-power drama that is largely scripted between Washington and Beijing?

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, examinations of shifts in world order and of the possible decline of Euro-American hegemony (for example, Halper 2010; Huang 2010) have tended to focus on China and the challenges posed to the Washington Consensus by what has come to be termed the Beijing Consensus. Beijing's model is defined as one that rejects the "roll-back the state" doctrine of neoliberal restructuring and instead advocates expansive state spending, public coordination of industrial planning, and a nationally orchestrated promotion of investment, resource extraction, and market expansion campaigns abroad. Analyses of other emerging world powers, India and Russia in particular, have tended to measure these countries' degrees of resemblance to or divergence from the Beijing Consensus (Ferdinand 2007; Humphrey and Messner 2009; Lukin 2009; Sinha and Dorschner 2010). And after the Global North financial crisis of 2008, it was consistently argued that the statist China model became even more appealing for these large states (Abad 2010, 46–47). But beyond the three powers of Russia, India, and China, do the regions of the Global South that some used to call the semiperiphery play any role in constituting new global-scale orderings? And what role do questions of security, sexuality, and the constitution of new subjects of "humanity" play in shaping the substance of emergent global orderings?

In this chapter I identify processes and types of sites, and recover certain transregional political histories of social struggle, in order to begin to build an alternative analysis that substitutes the current United States-versus-China lens with one that takes seriously the generative nature of linkages between what once was referred to as "semiperipheral" powers, in this case between the Middle East and South America. To begin to build a Global South–centered history of both neoliberalism and post-neoliberal orders, I replace the Sinocentric notion of the Beijing Consensus with a distinct and more broadly applicable heuristic device, that of the human-security state. This optic highlights structural resemblances, political-historical linkages, and circulating cultural identities formed around certain "humanized" security or military-humanitarian practices in Egypt and Brazil. In order to locate the origins of these human-security subjects and practices, I identify political processes, meetings and networks, and flows of norms and discourse that have shaped their articulation. Here I present findings on forms of urban-security operations, NGO cultural- and sexual-rights campaigns, and militarized repressive and humanitarian interventions as they came together in the contexts of UN world conferences and transregional diplomatic summits hosted in Rio and Cairo. I argue that the contentions around these events helped to catalyze human-security regimes in regards to specific subjects of entitlement and enforcement that I label "parahuman." These are parahuman since they are configured as constantly requiring the para—the supplement or prosthesis—of rescue intervention. They need rescuing, police discipline, cultural protection, and extraordinary military intervention; this human subject of governmentality is supposed to be necessarily securitized, always-already disabled or insecure, a victim needing parallel, emergency, paralegal, or extralegal protective action or recue intervention in order to assume the provisional status of citizen.

In this chapter, I also identify the spatial context and cultural mechanisms by which emerging parahuman subjects and human-security enforcement regimes were transferred from a particular local context in the Global South to the general, international-policy context of the UN system via the landmark spaces of world summits and securitized urban clashes in the 1990s. I will highlight patterns of actors, alliances, and mobilizations of transnational sexualized and racialized identities that converged in new ways around the staging of these world-scale events. I argue that these new movements and subjects of politics gradually reframed the meaning of new bilateral agreements and partnerships between South America and the Middle East in the 2000s. Rather than choosing between a global-scale method, such as an international-relations analysis of United Nations–level meetings, or a local-scale ethnographic or political-sociological account of transnationally linked networks and movements in the Global South, I mix both perspectives. Weaving together the global and local, the international-diplomatic and transnational-urban, I draw a new kind of map of relationships and identify transregional subjects whose significance will become more apparent in the chapters that follow.

I begin with an examination of emerging security regimes, participatory mechanisms, and humanization doctrines around the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, better known as the "Earth Summit" in English or "Eco '92" in Portuguese) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the UN Conference on Population and Development (which, due to the nature of the debates, virtually became the "World Sexuality Summit") in Cairo in 1994. Here, UN world conferences reveal themselves as nodal moments in time and space, where specific Brazil- and Egypt-based human-security practices "jumped scale" from the urban, Global South to the international level, shaping the terms and imaginaries of post–Cold War internationalism and beginning to sow the seeds of alternatives to neoliberalism. I then turn to the recent set of "South America-Arab States" (ASPA) summits between 2003 and 2009, and the Progressive States Summit and G-20 meeting of 2009, highlighting how these events articulated a new transregional family of racialized, sexualized, and moralized subjects that populated the emerging global order of human-security governmentality.

The studies presented here aim to build on discussions in transnational studies and global cities literatures that examine "mega-events" such as Olympic Games (Chalkly and Essex 1999; Surborg, Wynsberghe, and Wyly 2008), World Cup tournaments (Cornelissen 2008), World Expos (Lecardane and Zhuo 2003–4), and large international summits. UN conferences and social forums serve not just to create a new marketing image for a city or country (Gold and Gold 2008), and not just to make money or stimulate development for an "urban regime" coalition (Lauria 1997; Stone 2005), but as powerful and intensely productive envelopes of time and space that generate new governance, security, repression, participation, mobility, and migration norms and patterns (Doel and Hubbard 2002; Giulianotti and Klauser 2010; Harvey 1989; Michael Peter Smith 2001). At these mega-events, power struggles unfold and processes are concretized in real spaces that provide privileged access to technical experts, policymakers, security agencies, and the media, but usually very limited access to civil society, or they are notoriously lacking in participatory or accountability mechanisms. These high-status nodal events end up marking some practices, discourses, and identities as "global." They launch certain policies, practices, and networks into transnational circulation, where they assume world status and can then officially challenge predominant frameworks of order. These events also deploy police and planning practices that brand other spaces, social worlds, and cultural practices as "local," to be either captured and commodified to serve as symbolic markings of authenticity and difference, or detained and marginalized since they "pervert" these arrangements or are "out of place" in the cartography of newly defined local-global binaries.

From Summits to Streets

With the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, the international system ventured out from its diplomatic chambers in New York and Geneva onto the streets of major cities in the Global South. As argued by Sonia Correa, Rosalind P. Petchesky, and Richard Parker, "Since 1985, and with more intensity after 1990, the effects of the Washington Consensus were systematically criticized and civil society groups mounted demonstrations against the World Bank, IMF, and, later on, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Group of 7 (after 1994, the Group of 8) wherever these institutions held their high-level meetings. Concurrently, the un adopted a deliberate strategy to encourage the engagement of civil society in policymaking processes, in particular in a series of international conferences on its development agenda, known as the UN cycle of social conferences" (2008, 17).

In these UN world conferences, and in the NGO meetings and street protests that surrounded them, the international community and local social movements came together with the aim of generating a new planetary model for participatory global governance and new processes for transregional policymaking. As Michael Shechter has argued, the Rio summit of 1992 marked the debut on the world stage of a kind of NGO internationalism, wherein Global South NGOS pushed their northern counterparts to take "relatively radical positions on issues related to [the negotiations in] Brazil.... Another innovation of note connected to the Rio conference—this time at the counter conference—was to a so-called alternative treaties project [through which] NGOS can better cooperate with one another at how to shape relations with other social sectors such as the youth and women's movements" (2001, 195–97). Essentially, these un world conferences' political aims were to extend democracy and untangle the contradictions of liberalization, particularly around issues of the environment, sexuality, gender, and rights, and, in the case of Brazil, to openly commemorate the dismantling of military-authoritarian rule and the end of the Cold War. In the unfolding of these events, we can identify transformations in international security politics as they came to intersect with three varieties of "local state" enforcement practices, in particular, the militarization of urban public security, the humanitarianization of military interventions within domestic contexts, and the moralistic hypervisibilization of sexuality in the metaphors and logics of security.

The 1992 Earth Summit was explicitly concerned with articulating a new policy agenda for issues of biodiversity, sustainable development, and climate change (Schechter 2001, 3–7; Strong 1993). But issues of public security, cultural autonomy, and state militarization made at least as many headlines as those of climate change or biodiversity conservation. The street-level struggles occurring on the margins of the formal meetings between heads of state became the lead stories and often not only stole the show, but also redirected the policy discourses of the conference (William R. Long 1992b). This was the first major un summit to host a parallel conference or "counter summit," the Global Forum (Parson, Haas, and Levy 1992), with official consultative status. This forum included more than fifteen thousand participants representing NGOS from around the world, operating as a self-declared Planetary Peoples' Assembly (Van Rooy 1997, 94–95). The Global Forum demanded a democratization of international security and development institutions (Hochstetler and Keck 2007, chap. 3). In the Global Forum, issues of sexuality, culture, and policing often overwhelmed the original set of ecological issues (Parker, Petchesky, and Sember 2007, preface, chap. 2).

In the years immediately preceding 1992, international media representations tended to portray urban Brazil as a post–Cold War vision of both paradise and hell, with Rio providing spectacular displays of both the best of cosmopolitan progressivism and the worst of vigilante-supplemented authoritarianism. The practices through which the Brazilian police, the military, and civil administration secured and governed the spaces of the Rio Earth Summit brought to light the contradictions of neoliberal market states and began the fraught process of fusing movements to democratize world governance with campaigns to extend police and militarily deployed humanitarian interventions. On the eve of the UN conference, massive, coordinated Militarized Police and federal armed forces operations swept through the city, cleaning its streets for the arrival of the NGOS and heads of state (Arias 2006, 15). This security and pacification operation deployed more armed forces troops and tanks—backing up and overseeing the operations of the Federal Police and Militarized Police—than had the military coup in 1964 (fig. 1.2). The LA Times reported that "[the Federal Police chief Romeu Tuma] said more than 1,000 federal police are working on summit security, and, according to press reports, 35,000 uniformed police and army troops are assisting" (Long 1992a). Assault vehicles and troop brigades moved through the city to cordon off the slum neighborhoods, keeping much of the black population incarcerated in their homes, unable to arrive at their jobs or access services. Brutal and often deadly tactics were used to clean the city of thousands of homeless "street children" and families without shelter, and to eradicate the presence of transsexuals and prostitutes from the face of the city. The "iron fist" policing profile of the UN summits highlighted the paradox of liberalization and globalization: the fact that the militarization of urban governance and the targeting of sexualized and racialized groups by militarized policing practices had intensified, not diminished, as political liberalization proceeded after the end of the military dictatorship (Ungar 2002, 48–55). The treatment of certain racialized and sexualized populations as suspect groups or enforcement targets had become normalized within processes of neoliberalization and democratization in Brazil (Amar 2005; Paixão 2005). Meanwhile, the Global Forum for NGOS provided a spectacle of democracy, social movement, and participation. In this context, two sets of issues rose to prominence in the forum: sexual rights and cultural autonomy. These issues also animated a transnational social movement to democratize global governance that took the form of what could be called an "entitlement model."

Excerpted from THE SECURITY ARCHIPELAGO by Paul Amar. Copyright © 2013 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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