New publication – Everyday secrecy: Oral history and the social life of a top-secret weapons research establishment during the Cold War

January 24, 2020

SPIN are delighted to announce the first release in our special collection of critical secrecy – critical security articles to be appearing over the next year in Security Dialogue.


Author: Prof. William Walters (Carleton University)


Despite the welcome turn within security studies towards a more material- and practice-oriented understanding of state secrecy, the ways in which security actors experience, practise and negotiate secrecy in their everyday work lives has been rather overlooked. To counter this neglect the article calls for attention to everyday secrecy. Focusing on a former top-secret weapons research facility in the UK called Orford Ness, it uses oral history to give an account of ex-employees’ memories, experiences and practices concerning secrecy. Such a focus reveals that subjects make sense of procedures and rules of secrecy in ways that are sometimes surprising and unexpected. Ultimately this perspective emphasizes that secrecy is not just what governments and organizations prescribe and proscribe; it is also shaped by subjects who negotiate these rules. Everyday secrecy matters: as a perspective it shows that secrecy is not simply imposed by states and organizations from ‘above’; it is also made from ‘below’, albeit very asymmetrically.


Orford Ness, Photographer: William Walters
Orford Ness, Photographer: William Walters


You can listen to William Walter’s presentation on this paper as Meaker Visiting Professor, read the associated blog published last year, or download the article via the Security Dialogue website.



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