Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies

Theme One: Fear/Safety

To an increasing extent, politics and sociality are being conceived and organised around the binary 'fear/safety'. Threats that can be considered external, with no direct effect on individuals, are internalised and made personal. Contemporary western societies often appear to be underpinned by an inherent insecurity, generating a lack of trust between citizens, denizens and racialized others, the adult world and the 'youth', or children and potential 'paedophiles'. The political sphere displays an ambiguous relationship to fear/safety. It promises both to protect us from the threat posed by undesirable others, most often 'terrorists', while at the same time urging risk-taking in a host of other (market-driven) spheres such as technology, the environment or food. The current financial crisis, for example, proffers short-term solutions to extremely fearful eventualities that remain within a capitalist framework that is assumed to be safer than its unimaginable alternative(s).

In reaction to this uneasy and paradoxical relationship between the fears we are told we must have and what we do to protect ourselves, we are particularly interested in the following topics:

  • The politics of 'terrorism' as it plays out in everyday life worlds;
  • The intersections of surveillance, monitoring and state violence;
  • The paradoxes of scientific and technological citizenship - including the GM debate, climate change and animal rights;
  • Contemporary formulations of 'risk', 'trust' and 'faith';
  • The individualisation of the market, debt and economic collapse;
  • How does inequality and prejudice contribute to feelings of fear, and in what ways do different cultures seek safety?