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The modern study – and practice – of security has been largely concerned with the protection, preservation and sustaining of the temporal, the material and the tangible. Although the longstanding, Cold War ‘traditional security’ focus on weapons, armies, territorial integrity and insurgent groups now sits alongside a wider concern for ‘human security’, the latter has tended to neglect non-secular understandings of security. For many in both the North and the South, however, feelings of security also derive from understandings of an individual or community’s place and relationships within the invisible realm. Religious devotion and divine protection represent a central plank of security for many, just as fears of divine retribution, demonic possession or witchcraft feature as a central dimension of insecurity for many others. These phenomena remain a largely unexplored dimension of what might be considered ‘everyday’ or ‘vernacular’ security, across the globe.
Drawing on fieldwork conducted on everyday understandings of in/security in the northern Ugandan borderland, this seminar reflects on these issues and the place of ‘the invisible’ within critical debates on security, in theory and in practice. In doing so, it not only questions the limits of in/security as a concept but also the compatibility of non-secular understandings of in/security with the practice of security itself.
Dr Jonathan Fisher is a Reader in African Politics in the International Development Department, and Academic Director in the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, at the University of Birmingham.