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Public Lecture
‘Situational Awareness’: On the Ethics of Uncertainty in the Face of New Forms of Terrorism

  • Room 102, Melbourne Law School 185 Pelham Street Carlton, VIC, 3053 Australia (map)
Giorgio de Chirico,  Mystery and Melancholy of a Street  (1914).

Giorgio de Chirico, Mystery and Melancholy of a Street (1914).

As contemporary terrorism seems to be increasingly unforeseeable, the ‘situation’ itself has become a focus of security practices. ‘Situational awareness’ is characterised as a particular mode of attentiveness that requires sensitivity, smartness and prompt reactivity in the here-and-now of security professionals and ordinary citizens alike. The rise of situational awareness can be read as a response to the faltering promise of security in liberal democracies where recurring episodes of violent attacks have entered the heart of metropolitan life.

This lecture discussed the implications of the turn to ‘situational awareness’ for the governing of urban security. It explored how situational awareness, as an ethics of uncertainty, folds into the future-oriented logic of preparedness and pre-emption and modifies our understanding of security; how it appears as a concretisation of the otherwise elusive call to resilience and shapes urban subjectivity and collectivities; and, not least, how it refreshes our view of the social nature and operational mode of legal norms. 

Susanne Krasmann is a Visiting Professorial Fellow with the Laureate Program in International Law at Melbourne Law School. She is Professor of Sociology at the Institute for Criminological Research, University of Hamburg and was previously a Fellow at the Straus Institute, New York University School of Law. Her current work is on ‘Politics of Truth and Practices of Secrecy’ and on ‘Situational Awareness as a New Paradigm of Governing Security’.