Though the acquisition of knowledge is viewed as an epoch-defining aspect of the current era (Gross and Mcgoey, 2015), debates and controversies across a range of issues and social spaces in the news in recent times demonstrate how much of our global and local conversations are driven by encounters with the secret, including the role that inscrutable technologies are increasingly playing in those encounters (Walters, 2014, 2021; Balmer and Rappert, 2016; Introna, 2016; Ziewitz, 2016; Kearns, 2017; Leonelli, Rappert and Davies, 2017; Van Veeren, 2019). Despite the intense circulation of information and data in contemporary technologized societies, secrecy, ignorance, and the promises of revelations abound (Dean, 2002, 2004; Bratich, 2006; Galison, 2010; Galison et al., 2010; Birchall, 2011, 2014; Horn, 2011; Aradau, 2017).
Many scholars have treated the inscrutability of technologies, secrecy and other unknowns as moral challenges that can be resolved through transparency and openness, while academic and popular coverage of debates and controversies surrounding new or old technologies also tend to contain an implicit theory of power and knowledge in which information is conceptualised as largely apolitical and self-explanatory (Leonardi, 2012; Fenster, 2015; Flyverbom et al., 2016; Stampnitzky, 2020; Best, 2021). This workshop instead wants to explore how we can understand the productive, strategic but also emancipatory potential of secrecy and ignorance in the development of security and technologies (Vermeir, 2012; Walters, 2021).
This workshop therefore aims to ‘thicken’ the understanding of secrecy and technologies within security discourses and International Studies, disrupting and overturning binaries that continue to reproduce secrecy as absent and unproductive, that continue to focus on intentional and strategic 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 and technologies as connected to secrecy. This workshop means to help scholars who want move from understanding secrecy as the absence of knowledge to part of its production; and therefore treats secrecy itself as contested, political and productive (Moffette and Walters, 2018). Building on emerging literatures that have each demonstrated the productive power of secrecy and ignorance in isolation, this workshop seeks contributions from researchers working at the intersection of literatures of IR, security studies, STS, and agnotology, critical secrecy and intelligence studies, to develop frameworks that can recognise how secrecy, ignorance, technologies and power are entangled. Contributors are invited to reflect on the ways that secrecy and forgetting, ignorance and knowledge (un)making function as essential parts of the structures of power/knowledge in technological systems, including through resistant and dissenting practices. This can include, but is not limited to reflections on the following:
By recognising the unique contribution of an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the entanglements of secrecy, ignorance, technologies, security and power, the workshop means to create a welcoming and inclusive forum where interdisciplinary discussion can take place, new directions and approaches explored, and creative approaches collaboratively investigated.
We invite PhDs and junior post-docs to send an abstract (250 words) and short bio (150 words) by 13th May 2021 to Clare Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please direct any questions to this email aswell.
Participants will be asked to submit a short piece of 1500-2000 words by 1 September 2021. Although the workshop will take place prior to, and is part of, the EISA PEC, participants are not required to register for the EISA 2021 conference.
Early career workshop participants will receive a discount on their conference registration costs, making the conference fee €100 instead of €140.