Workshop CFP: Secrecy and (In)Security: New Perspectives

January 1, 2018
The Secret, Felix Nussbaum (Brussels, November 1939). Oil on canvas, 61 x 74 cm.

Date: November 5, 2018  

Venue: Pervasive Medio Studio,

Watershed, 1 Canon’s Rd, Bristol BS1 5TX

Convenor: Elspeth Van Veeren –

Hosted by the Secrecy and Security Working Group, Global Insecurities Centre, University of Bristol  


This workshop explores the ways in which the study of secrecy adds to our understandings of the causes and legacies of violent conflict. Contributors are invited to reflect on the ways secrecy functions as an essential part of the structures of power/knowledge in state and security-making, including through resistant and dissenting practices, and as connected to practices of concealing, deceiving, faking, lying, obfuscating, ignoring and de-sensing.  In particular, with reference to a growing body of work within secrecy studies and critical security studies, including on absence, disappearance, on the limits of visibility, on the materialisation of secrets, on ignorance and on silence; and the work of Marxist, queer, feminist and postcolonial scholars, this workshop therefore aims to ‘thicken’ the understanding of secrecy within security discourses, disrupting and overturning binaries that continue to reproduce secrecy as absent and unproductive, that continue to focus on state level secrecy practices, that reproduce the association of knowledge with vision and virtue, and that ignore the contributions of feminist, critical race and queer theorists and their contributions to understanding power/knowledge as connected to secrecy. This workshop will therefore look to engage with areas of investigation that include, but are not limited to:


  • studies of secrecy practices from physical and rhetorical strategies of deception to the cultural and ideological, such as the generation of wilful ignorance and cultural commonsense;
  • accounts of how secrecy, security and state-making intersect with racial, gendered, ableist and queer discourses;
  • work focused on representations and materialities of the secret in order to understand how they form part of security and state-making discourses;
  • analyses of security theories as premised on conceptions of the secret;
  • arguments for secrecy as resistance and dissent, in addition to secrecy as control and domination;
  • investigations into the interconnections between personal and intimate forms of secrecy and the national, state, international and/or global in security discourses; 
  • explorations of the intersection between the concept(s) of secrecy and, for example, the uncanny, mystery, invisibility, or the converse, revelation, transparency; and
  • examinations of the (dis)continuities in discourses between state, secrecy and security across time. 


Confirmed speakers include: Nadya Ali (University of Sussex), Mike Bourne (Queen’s University Belfast), Cameron Hunter (University of Bristol), Oliver Kearns (University of Edinburgh), Benoit Pelopidas (Sciences Po), Brian Rappert (University of Exeter), Lisa Stampnitzky (University of Sheffield), Owen Thomas (University of Exeter), Elspeth Van Veeren (University of Bristol), William Walters (Carleton University), Jutta Weldes (University of Bristol). This workshop is funded with generous support from the University of Bristol’s Global Insecurity Centre and Gender Research Centre, the Faculty of Social Science and Law, and the Brigstow Institute; as well as from the British International Studies Association’s Colonial, Postcolonial, and Decolonial Working Group, the Gendering International Relations Working Group, and the Post-structural Politics Working Group.