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Theorising the “suspect community”: counterterrorism, security practices and the public imagination

Theorising the “suspect community”: counterterrorism, security practices and the public imagination This article considers Hillyard’s first application of the term “suspect community” to the Irish in Britain in the era of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and its more recent application to Muslims in the global war on terror. A review of the application of the term “suspect community” and research in the field points to the problems associated with constructing an entire population and to problems of misidentification. Ethnographic and other evidence illustrate the stigmatisation, alienation and violence that results from its deployment. Given these difficulties and Greer’s objections to the use of the term “suspect community”, a redefinition of the concept of “suspect community” is proposed, borrowing from Anderson’s concept of the imagined community. The “suspect community” is not merely the product of legal and security apparatuses, but the product of a larger cultural apparatus or “imaginary”. It is redefined as “a community created in and by the securitised imagination and enacted in a processes of ‘othering’ through a range of security practices of counter-terrorism”. The “suspect community” is not an embodied community, but an imagined one, whose boundaries are permeable and shifting and in the eye of the beholder. Its operations are distinct from Islamophobia or anti-Irish racism, yet racism, Islamophobia and other forms of subordination may well be implicated in the process of “othering” the suspect. The effect of being “suspect” on the performance of identity and citizenship is indicated in the conclusion. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Critical Studies on Terrorism Taylor & Francis

Theorising the “suspect community”: counterterrorism, security practices and the public imagination

Critical Studies on Terrorism , Volume 7 (2): 18 – May 4, 2014
18 pages

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References (56)

Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
© 2013 Taylor & Francis
ISSN
1753-9161
eISSN
1753-9153
DOI
10.1080/17539153.2013.867714
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article considers Hillyard’s first application of the term “suspect community” to the Irish in Britain in the era of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and its more recent application to Muslims in the global war on terror. A review of the application of the term “suspect community” and research in the field points to the problems associated with constructing an entire population and to problems of misidentification. Ethnographic and other evidence illustrate the stigmatisation, alienation and violence that results from its deployment. Given these difficulties and Greer’s objections to the use of the term “suspect community”, a redefinition of the concept of “suspect community” is proposed, borrowing from Anderson’s concept of the imagined community. The “suspect community” is not merely the product of legal and security apparatuses, but the product of a larger cultural apparatus or “imaginary”. It is redefined as “a community created in and by the securitised imagination and enacted in a processes of ‘othering’ through a range of security practices of counter-terrorism”. The “suspect community” is not an embodied community, but an imagined one, whose boundaries are permeable and shifting and in the eye of the beholder. Its operations are distinct from Islamophobia or anti-Irish racism, yet racism, Islamophobia and other forms of subordination may well be implicated in the process of “othering” the suspect. The effect of being “suspect” on the performance of identity and citizenship is indicated in the conclusion.

Journal

Critical Studies on TerrorismTaylor & Francis

Published: May 4, 2014

Keywords: suspect community; counterterrorism; othering; racism; Islamophobia

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