Kanishka Jayasuriya, principal senior research fellow at the Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia
In the six years since 9/11, "security" has become the overriding
concern of national governments and of a wide range of international actors and
agreements. What do you see as the most important implications?
I am greatly concerned about the framing of counterterrorism legislation in the Western world in terms of the balance between security and liberty -- signalling a decisive shift in the conventional understanding of the constitutional relationship between states and their citizens. The "war on terror" has acted as a catalyst to a putative new constitutional order based on an enhanced role for security in political reasoning about constitutional values and practices. Security questions have become intertwined with the defence of "core political values." The upshot is a weakening of the power of political contestation and an enhancement of executive power. By explicitly appealing to values of legitimacy, our leaders have undermined the commitment to formal processes of legality and to the principles of political equality that supposedly underpin the liberal constitutional order. All of this raises an interesting question: Do these post-9/11 trends have echoes in earlier "law-and-order campaigns" in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia?
As a real and symbolic event, 9/11 instilled a sense of risk and
insecurity in the everyday lives of ordinary citizens. How has it affected
The most debilitating effect has been the anxiety arising from real or perceived terrorist threats -- accounting in large measure for the public endorsement or support for a range of security-related policies and programs. We have seen political leaders mobilize this anxiety into a politics of fear. We have also seen them use the politics of fear to pursue their political agendas. To reiterate the insightful argument of the distinguished legal theorist, Franz Neumann, when fear becomes the animating principle of democratic politics, then that politics is no longer about the contestation or the conflict of political interests but rather it is about the annihilation of an enemy. (Nowadays, of course, our anxiety is no longer directed at an ideological enemy as during the cold war but at a set of generalized threats to our way of life.) As a result, Neumann says, politics can no longer be geared towards social transformation.
Can you comment on the ways the 9/11 events influenced debates on
immigration in both United States and western European
The most evident effect of the 9/11 events -- along with cognate events such as the 7/7 London bombings, the 3/11 Madrid train bombings, and the 2002 Bali bombings -- has been an anti-immigration backlash. The past six years have brought a marked departure from nondiscriminatory immigration policies as well as the rejection of diversity and multiculturalism. I discern three broad trends worthy of note:
- Immigration and refugee policies have become securitized, leading to greater coordination with internal or "homeland" security policies. This is evident in the European Union where immigration and refugee policies are now seen in terms of a broader management of risk.
- Intriguingly, the securitization of immigration policy has led to a securitization of identity, such that some cultural identities are now thought to pose a threat to social and political order. One consequence of this has been a quixotic search for the moderate voices -- a search that is itself driven by the same "culturalist" logic.
- Finally, there has been a more active assertion of citizenship in terms of a nation's "core values." A good example of this is Australia's mandatory citizenship test, requiring applicants to demonstrate an understanding of the nation's core values, history, and traditions -- which has gained endorsement even from the opposition Labor Party.
As we all know, President Bush framed the 9/11 events as acts of war
and responded with a "war on terror" -- and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq,
as well as persistent rumors of a possible strike on Iran. Was another sort of
response possible? How might the last six years have been different if from the
beginning the attacks had been understood instead as criminal?
Responding to terrorism by categorising it as a criminal act would not necessarily be viable or effective. The significant challenge for democratic polities is how an emergency regime can be limited, monitored, and regulated by due process of law. The only way to achieve these limits is through strong political debate in our legislative bodies. Yet, and as explained above, the public sphere remains muted by the pervasive politics of fear and a disincentive to robust contestation. Representative institutions in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia have failed to contest the drift towards executive and administrative discretion over emergency powers. On the contrary, opposition parties in all three countries have readily conceded to the new policy regime. Moreover, in Australia and Britain we have seen a politicization of criminal law through such instruments as control orders. To monitor the legality of such counterterrorism measures will require a reinvigorated public sphere, as well as more assertive legislative institutions. Furthermore, responses merely at the national level will not be enough: 9/11 was a global emergency that led to the creation of extraterritorial prisons and legal categories such as 'enemy combatants' for terrorist suspects.
What books or studies have you read this summer or in the past six
months that have affected your thinking on any of the above questions (can be
anything at all: old or new works, for an academic or popular audience, etc.)?
In addition, are there any films, documentaries or Web sites you would
One useful book not directly connected to 9/11 but harking back to an earlier liberal empire -- that of Great Britain -- is A Jurisprudence of Power: Victorian Empire and the Rule of Law, by Rande Kostal (OUP, 2005). Kostal analyzes the consequences of Jamaican Governor Edward Eyre's brutal suppression of an uprising in 1865 and his decision to execute a prominent black leader under martial law. Eyre's actions reverberated in England with questions raised about the extent and limits of martial law. The political and legal controversy bears a striking similarity to the American government's treatment of "enemy combatants" at Guantànamo. While there are marked differences between Victorian times and our own, a common thread links Guantànamo and Jamaica in the 19th century: the way liberal empires negotiate the competing claims of martial law and the rule of law. This question demands further exploration -- perhaps a future project for the SSRC to consider.