Promoting Security Imaginaries: An Analysis of the Market for Everyday Security Solutions

  • James Alexander

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is centred on the question of the effect security technologies, and the imaginaries associated with them, have on the formation of the present security doxa. With a more nuanced understanding of technology as process, and the role of imagination reintroduced into the nexus, this thesis aims to enable an understanding of how technological security solutions are deployed in everyday life and how this contributes to a reformulating of politics in a world gripped by anxiety about an uncertain future. Of primary interest is the way in which seemingly mundane technologies can enter the dominant security narrative and achieve deployment in everyday life, not only as the prime solution to concerns of risk, but as something to actively be desired in themselves. A vital and understudied arena for the dissemination of specific imaginaries of mundane security tools as the ultimate solution to a risky future - as an end in and of themselves - are the spaces of promotion for such technologies. The centrepiece of promotion is found at the trade fairs and exhibitions where one can witness the marketing and sale of the 'latest and greatest' tech fixes from an ever increasing range of private sector security entrepreneurs whose living is made from promoting security. By offering both a mapping of the wider expansion and logic of the security fair world, and an ethnographic study of interactions within the exhibition walls of the International Fire and Security Exhibition and Conference (IFSEC) over the course of three years, this thesis makes it possible to develop a better understanding of both the makeup and relations between these elements, and expose these gatherings as more than just sites of commerce and consumption, and much more than simply a metaphor for the wider security world. Instead, they can be thought of as hotspots of intensive exchange of knowledge, new ideas and network building. Thus, this thesis aims to demonstrate how international trade fairs and exhibitions are more than just an ever more important means of distributing security technologies. It is not a question of the relationship between visitors and exhibitors, or the particular effectiveness of marketing strategies deployed by individual firms. It is about the underpinning logic of a particular mind-set regarding what it means to consume security as a commodity, and a specific imagining of a secured future with such solutions as the ultimate end-in-themselves and how these spaces are pivotal in the dissemination, propagation and reformulation of changing attitudes towards security.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMaja Zehfuss (Supervisor) & Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet (Supervisor)


  • Security
  • Technology
  • Imagination
  • International Relations

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