Security Technologies Versus Citizen Roles?

Govert Valkenburg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The idea of securitization holds that perceived threats and the ensuing need for security measures are mobilized in speech acts to legitimate bypassing of normal practices of democratic politics and justification. Citizens, as members of the political community, are thus effectively deprived of their agency. Attempts at securitization gain clout from the severity of the mobilized threat: the more convincingly a threat is argued to cause disruptions in the functioning of society and ultimately the loss of human life, the more acceptable it will become to bypass democratic governance in order to prevent the threat. Accordingly, security technologies can be conceived of as those technologies that are constructed and mobilized in such attempts at securitization and depoliticization. However, security technologies can also be thought of as technologies that are mobilized in face of existential threats more generally, regardless of whether their mobilization has a depoliticizing effect or not. Yet, as case studies on airport security scanners and security in smart grids show, not all implementations of security, even against existential threats, show this tendency of depoliticization as essential in securitization and in technologies of security. This article further demonstrates that the agency of citizens in the governance of these technologies importantly depends on whether or not the threat is perceived as internal or external to the referent object of the security programme.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-329
Number of pages23
JournalScience as Culture
Issue number3
Early online date14 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • securitization
  • citizenship
  • security technologies
  • airport security
  • smart grids


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