Security Media: Speculative Fictions and Technologies of Preparedness
My dissertation explores the media and technologies of preparedness. Preparedness, a national security paradigm that moved to the center of U.S. policy after September 11, 2001, simulates future catastrophes in the present to plan for their eventual emergence. My project focuses on three specific “threat domains,” or contemporary areas of concern for preparedness: cyber security, global health security, and climate security. I analyze the governmental media and computational technologies of these threat domains – including policy documents, training scenarios, databases, automated surveillance systems, and modeling platforms – as well as popular films and novels, examining them all as speculative fiction. I argue they produce the catastrophic futures with which preparedness is concerned to manage political imagination in the present. They train us to expect preconceived futures we “know” are likely to occur, extending state power and foreclosing possibility by making some futures seem more authoritative than others.
“Security Media” advances previous work on security and governmentality by attending to the specific formal structures of the media and technologies that make preparedness possible. Closer examination of these formal structures reveals how they construct and enact preparedness, opening up opportunities to build alternative futures. My dissertation also joins recent scholarship in placing studies of American cultures in global contexts. Although usually discussed within national frameworks, I see preparedness as a global security paradigm, emphasizing how “global” security is founded on the protection of wealthy countries and the asymmetric distribution of risk and violence. In addition, my project expands the boundaries of speculative fiction as a genre. I examine how media and technologies of preparedness, like speculative fiction, imagine and enact certain futures, and I emphasize what possibilities are left unimagined and why.