Sabancı Üniversitesi


CULT Seminar: Amy Kaplan(University of Pennsylvania)





Speaker Series

A lecture by


Amy Kaplan

Edward W. Kane Professor of English

University of Pennsylvania



March, 19, 2008, Wednesday  
Sabancı Üniversitesi
Karaköy Kampüsü



 "In the Name of Homeland Security"


This lecture explores the multiple meanings of the keywords “homeland” and  “security” in contemporary political culture in the U.S. The word “homeland,” despite its ancient ring” is strikingly new in the post 9/11  political lexicon, and it has xenophobic and racial implications as well as gendered connotations that merge the image of the private home with the national homeland.  The ubiquity of the word “security” has come to encompass more and more realms of social, psychic, economic, existential, and political life. In contrast to “defense,” “security” breaks down the boundaries between the domestic and the foreign, between inside and outside, the private and the public as it enables the merging of the military, border patrol, and police.  How does security rely on the evocation of insecurity and reinforce the exercise of state violence?  This paper presents a historical and cultural genealogy of this concept starting with a brief consideration of its significance in 18th century political philosophy. I then ask about the relation between the idea of social security—in its broadest sense of common welfare—and the idea of  national security—with its emphasis on militarism and intelligence, and how these come together  in the recent creation of the Homeland Security Department. Whereas David Harvey has written of “freedom” as the keyword of neoliberalism, I argue that “security” has supplanted “freedom” as a discursive engine for U.S. imperialism in the response to the ravages of neoliberal globalization.  It does the work of projecting, blurring and combining perceived overlapping threats: “urban criminals,” “illegal aliens,” and “terrorists,” all of which have racial connotations. Some of my examples include:

·        Parallels between the language of Bush’s National Security Statement of 2002 and brochures for home security systems;

·        The shift from “Operation Iraqi Freedom” to the “Security Plan for Bagdad”

·        The relation between the new “Border Fence” between the US and Mexico and Israel’s “Security Fence” around Palestinian communities in the West Bank.  

In each case, I pay attention to the relation between language and space and suggest that security is about temporal as well as geopolitical expansion temporal as well as geopolitical expansion.


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