Panel 10 – The politics and performance of civil preparations for crisis and war

Conveners: Oscar Larsson (SLU Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) and Christine Agius (Swinburne University)

Abstract: There is a current trend in Sweden and other welfare states to promote individual preparations as a way to build societal resilience. The ongoing shift of transferring responsibility for security and wellbeing in extraordinary circumstances stand in need of critical analyses of why, when and how politics of responsibility emerge. Thus, understanding and explaining how states prepare for war and crisis management and how they engage and involve their citizens in the overall preparation requires critical attention and analysis. Military exercises and recruitment, civil contingency plans and simulated performances becomes intimately interrelated in policy. In addition, discursive configurations and metaphors play an important role in the communication and powerful images provided by the state that advances feelings of insecurity and self-reliance rather than collective responses. Obviously, individualizing security requires a specific logic or rationality and the panel explores different routes and trajectories to how such a specific reading of security have come to emerge. The overall purpose of the panel would thus be to initiate a critical discussions on the content, logics and arguments for increased preparedness among the population and not least the implications of preparations that seem to reinforce militarized notions of sovereignty, implicate gender roles, identities that operates on capability or vulnerability and not least opens up questions for state-citizen relationship in the face of crises, disasters and wars.

Long Abstract:There is a current trend in Sweden and other welfare states to promote individual preparations as a way to build societal resilience. The ongoing shift of transferring responsibility for security and wellbeing in extraordinary circumstances stand in need of critical analyses of why, when and how politics of responsibility emerge. Thus, understanding and explaining how states prepare for war and crisis management and how they engage and involve their citizens in the overall preparation requires critical attention and analysis. Military exercises and recruitment, civil contingency plans and simulated performances becomes intimately interrelated in policy.

In addition, discursive configurations and metaphors play an important role in the communication and powerful images provided by the state that advances feelings of insecurity and self-reliance rather than collective responses. Obviously, individualizing security requires a specific logic or rationality and the panel explores different routes and trajectories to how such a specific reading of security have come to emerge. The overall purpose of the panel would thus be to initiate a critical discussions on the content, logics and arguments for increased preparedness among the population and not least the implications of preparations that seem to reinforce militarized notions of sovereignty, implicate gender roles, identities that operates on capability or vulnerability and not least opens up questions for state-citizen relationship in the face of crises, disasters and wars.

This panel aims to explore the multiple and varied ways in which “preparedness” operates and speaks to dominant discourses of security provision. The individual papers together either comprise or adopts an interdisciplinary approach, examining various kinds of materials, including texts (such as pamphlets issued to the public on threat and preparedness), informational movies and podcasts produced by public authorities, as well as other images and performances of preparedness in both civil and military frameworks of meaning. This shows that fear, uncertainty and war preparedness enters the everyday experience of citizens and is further advanced in the form of popular culture and consumption. From these cases, the panel aims to critically explore what civil and war preparedness means and how it operates in the spaces between war and peace.