Territories of Secrecy: Confidentiality and Inquiry in the Plural Worlds of Security

s it possible to question specialists of discretion? In the plural worlds of security where secrecy is an internalized rule of conduct as well as an ordered and regulated administrative dispositif, this question becomes acutely relevant.  Secrecy, in all of its forms, is often evoked as one of the principle difficulties encountered in sociological investigations, especially those that adopt qualitative approaches: research is essentially arrested there where secrecy imposes itself with force, in a non-negotiable manner. Instead of bending to methodological defeatism, which holds secrecy as an incommensurable obstacle that determines the objective limits of research in security worlds, this special issue of Cultures & Conflits shows how, on the contrary, it remains possible to question interactions within these hard-to-reach sites and to make these professionals of confidentiality talk. Through original empirical work, this issue presents research strategies used by the authors while offering a more ordinary reading of secrecy and confidentiality, that takes into account their effects on the studied actors and institutional spaces.

Special issue of Cultures & Conflits – Grégory Daho, Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet and Julien Pomarède (eds.)


We need to remove free movement from the vicious circle of security

While freedoms, such as the principles of equality and non-discrimination, the presumption of innocence and respect for privacy, undoubtedly still exist, they have been relegated to the margins. A Post written by Didier Bigo and Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet, published on Open Democracy.

Freedom is that possession which permits the enjoyment of all other possessions”, wrote Montesquieu. Yet, today we are led to believe that the only way to enjoy personal safety within society, and guarantee our individual and collective freedoms, is through preventive security and reinforced controls. How have we arrived at a situation where our reasoning has been so thoroughly turned on its head that the movement of millions of people is now being brought into question in case it might – owing to the way it is organised and its great speed – lead either to the departure of combatants abroad (so called foreign fighters) or the entry of clandestine groups with violent intentions? How is it that, instead of regarding freedom as a principle on the basis of which state interference in terms of security needs to be limited, we have, like in a game of ‘Othello’, witnessed the development of a topsy-turvy rhetoric in which freedom has become nothing more than the limit-point of security, which has itself been redefined as a necessary and indeed vital level of suspicion? (read more on Open Democracy)