Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Political Research Exchange - PRX

The Politics of Security Knowledge Negotiation

Workshop Number
Workshop Director
Elisa Lopez Lucia
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Workshop Co-Director
Maria Martin De Almagro
Université de Montréal

IR and knowledge production:

The connections between the politics of knowledge production and governance are increasingly acknowledged in the study of international politics. It now informs analyses of international environmental politics (e.g. Jasanoff and Long Martello 2004) and international political economy (e.g. Seabrooke 2014; Broome and Quirk 2015).

In the study of foreign and security policies, poststructuralist analyses have, since the 1980-90s, drawn on Michel Foucault’s work to show the importance of language, knowledge and power in the production of agencies, rationalities and hegemony in international relations (Walker 1992; Campbell 1998; Der Derian and Shapiro 1998). Later on, scholars have built on these contributions and added an emphasis on the role played by actors’ practices and struggles, expertise, and technology in the production of security knowledge. Understanding the politics of security – struggles over the definition of threats, their label and categorisation, and who should be protected – has become central in critical security studies (Bigo 2008). It has become clear that security policies are not merely adapting to the ‘reality’ of their environment but are also the product of the negotiation and (re)definition of knowledge on security.

Researchers in security studies and on peacebuilding have sought to provide insights on the negotiation of security knowledge, as well as on knowledge production in and on conflict. Many have drawn on Science and Technology studies (STS), a discipline that seeks to explore ‘how knowledge-making is incorporated into practices of state-making, or of governance more broadly, and, in reverse, how practices of governance influence the making and use of knowledge’ (Jasanoff 2004, 3). A variety of topics has been explored such as: the impact of epistemic communities on security policies (Howorth 2004; Davis Cross 2013); the role of experts, expertise and security professionals (Bigo 2002; Leander 2014; Bueger and Villumsen Berling 2015); the mechanisms and actors involved in knowledge production (Stepputat 2012; Bueger 2015; Guevara 2017; Kostić 2017). How the use of data and technology relates to the issue of knowledge has also become a topic of interest (see: the special issue on ‘Peacekeeping and Data’ edited by Robert Mac Ginty (2017); Jeandesboz 2017). Furthermore, researchers have investigated the interactions between academic and policy practice (Ish-Shalom 2016; Biersteker 2010; Eriksson and Norman 2011; Bueger and Bethke 2014).

The mechanisms of knowledge negotiation:

However, while this literature is expanding, analyses that focus on the practicalities, mechanisms and effects of processes of knowledge production in the elaboration of specific security policies are still rare (see: Autesserre 2012; Bueger 2015; Sending 2015). This workshop will thus aim to bring together empirical studies investigating how the knowledge informing and framing security policies is evidenced, negotiated and contested in practice, by whom, for which purpose and with what effect. We are particularly interested in how complex coalitions of actors, interests and ideas that cut across the ‘North’/’South’ divide shape these policies. Security policies are understood here in a broad way. We include policies dealing with organised crime and terrorism, as well as peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

Hence, the contributions will examine questions such as: How is evidence on security constituted as policy knowledge? How does knowledge become legitimate and authoritative? Which actors participate in this negotiation of knowledge: the police, the military, development agencies, think tanks, consultants, academics, the population of the countr(ies) concerned, civil society organisations, etc.? What are the educational, institutional and geographical trajectories of these actors and how does this affect their position in this negotiation? What systems of knowledge do these actors mobilise? How do the settings and locations of knowledge negotiation influence who is legitimately involved, who speaks and who gets heard? What are the socio-political impacts of these processes?

Researching security knowledge negotiation in conflict settings - Methodological challenges and opportunities:

All of the contributions that study knowledge production in IR start from an understanding of knowledge as socially constructed and as the result of the contemporary conditions of dominant discursive and material practices. We are also interested in analysis on the way researchers produce knowledge about knowledge production in conflict and intervention (Bliesemann de Guevara and Kostic 2017). In particular, we are interested in reflecting on methodological challenges, and the strategies that scholars develop when studying the logics, practices and dynamics of knowledge production in security-related policy development.

How do we take into account on the one hand, the conditions of access to information and the limited physical access to conflict zones; and, on the other hand, the messiness, uncertainty and ambiguity of knowledge produced about conflict when current academic standards value efficient, to the point of simplified ways of knowledge dissemination? How the demand for verifiable, objective ‘facts’ is negotiated in the translation of multiple perceptions and narratives that can be inconsistent or incompatible? How do we work with the "difficult-to-verify data" (Perera 2017)? How do researchers deal with the moral ambiguities that they encounter during fieldwork? In particular, papers will reflect on methodological challenges, and the strategies that scholars develop when studying the logics, practices and dynamics of knowledge production in security-related policy development.


Autesserre, Séverine. "Dangerous tales: Dominant narratives on the Congo and their unintended consequences." African Affairs 111, no. 443 (2012): 202-222.

Bigo, Didier. "Security and immigration: Toward a critique of the governmentality of unease." Alternatives 27, no. 1_suppl (2002): 63-92.

Bigo, Didier. “International Political Sociology.” in Paul D Williams, ed. Security Studies. An Introduction, 116–129, Routledge, 2008.

Biersteker, Thomas J. “Interrelationships Between Theory and Practice in International Security Studies.” Security Dialogue 41, no. 6(2010): 599-606.

Bliesemann de Guevara, Berit, and Roland Kostić. "Knowledge production in/about conflict and intervention: finding ‘facts’, telling ‘truth’." Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 11, no. 1 (2017): 1-20.

Bueger, Christian, and Felix Bethke. “Actor-networking the “failed state” — an enquiry into the life of concepts.” Journal of International Relations and Development 17, no.1(2014): 30-60.

Bueger, Christian, and Trine Villumsen Berling. eds. Security Expertise. Practice, Power, Responsibility. Routledge, 2015.

Bueger, Christian. “Making Things Known: Epistemic Practices, the United Nations, and the Translation of Piracy.” International Political Sociology 9, no. 1(2015): 1–18.

Broome, André, and Joel Quirk. "Governing the world at a distance: the practice of global benchmarking." Review of International Studies 41, no. 5 (2015): 819-841.

Campbell, David. Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity. University of Minnesota Press, 1998.

Davis Cross, Mai’a K. “Rethinking epistemic communities twenty years later.” Review of International Studies 39, no. 1(2013): 137-160.

De Guevara, Berit Bliesemann. “Intervention Theatre: performance, authenticity and expert knowledge in politicians’ travel to post-/conflict spaces.”, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 11, no. 1(2017): 58–80.

Der Derian, James, and Michael J. Shapiro, eds. International/Intertextual Relations: Postmodern Readings of World Politics. Lexington Books. 1998.

Eriksson, Johan, and Ludvig Norman. “Political utilisation of scholarly ideas: the “clash of civilisations” vs. “Soft Power” in US foreign policy.” Review of International Studies 37, no.1(2011): 417-436.

Howorth, Jolyon. “Discourse, Ideas, and Epistemic Communities in European Security and Defence Policy.” West European Politics 27, no. 2(2004): 211–234.

Ish-Shalom, Piki, “Theory as a Hermeneutical Mechanism: The Democratic-Peace Thesis and the Politics of Democratization.” European Journal of International Relations 12, no. 4(2016): 565–598.

Jasanoff, Sheila, and Marybeth Long Martello, eds. Earthly politics: local and global in environmental governance. MIT press, 2004.

Jeandesboz, Julien, “European border policing: EUROSUR, knowledge, calculation.” Global crime 18, no. 3 (2017): 256-285.

Kostić, Roland, “Shadow peacebuilders and diplomatic counterinsurgencies: informal networks, knowledge production and the art of policy-shaping.”, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 11, no. 1(2017): 120–139.

Perera, Suda. "Bermuda triangulation: embracing the messiness of researching in conflict." Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 11, no. 1 (2017): 42-57.

Seabrooke, Leonard. "Epistemic arbitrage: Transnational professional knowledge in action." Journal of Professions and Organization 1, no. 1 (2014): 49-64.

Sending, Ole Jacob. The politics of expertise: competing for authority in global governance. University of Michigan Press, 2015.

Stepputat, Finn ‘Knowledge production in the security–development nexus: An ethnographic reflection’, Security Dialogue 43, no. 5(2012): 439–455.

Walker, R.B.J. Inside/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory. Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Paper List

Title Details
Constructing Threats and Constructing Public Problems: Mobilisations in Favour of 'Walls' in Arizona View Paper Details
Extremism Studies and Anti-Extremism Policy in Contemporary Russia View Paper Details
How to Find Out: Bunkerisation and NATO’s Knowledge Production in Afghanistan View Paper Details
Indicators and Success Stories: Understanding Knowledge Production on Gender, Conflict Mediation and National Reconciliation in Liberia View Paper Details
Is New Zealand a Good International Citizen? How New Zealand Political Elites Justified and Legitimised the Use of Force in Afghanistan View Paper Details
Knowledge, Narratives and Resistors of Change View Paper Details
Making Sense of Violence: Practice and Authority in Conflict Prevention Expertise View Paper Details
Negotiating Counterterrorism at NATO: Constructive Ambiguities, Surveillance and Collective Defence in the Mediterranean Sea View Paper Details
Negotiating Foreign and Security Policy at the “Heart of Society”? Evidence from Germany View Paper Details
Negotiating History in Post-Conflict Situations: Bilateral Historical Commissions and Peace-Keeping View Paper Details
Repost and Like: Securitisation Theory in a Globalised World View Paper Details
Security Expert Influence as Ideational Persuasion: The Case of the Early RAND Corporation View Paper Details
Security Politics and the 'Remaking' of West Africa View Paper Details
Studying the Balkans: Theory and Method of Discourse Analysis View Paper Details
The Politics of Silence View Paper Details
The Representations of Russia in Expertise: a Comparative Analysis of the Narratives Regarding Russia’s Accountability on the International Stage View Paper Details
Tracing War Correspondents' Stories on Syria: Expertise for Whom? View Paper Details
Share this page