Memory and Securitisation in Contemporary Europe, Vlad Strukov and Victor Apryshchenko.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, pp. 306, $100; ISBN 1349952680. Language: English
In the summer of 2016, a white billboard around the corner from my home was emblazoned with graffiti declaring that ‘Boris Johnson is a pure fanny’. Now, if you walk five minutes in the other direction, you will find the hoarding of a building site tagged with ‘free Tommy Robinson’ in golden, capitalised letters. These two pieces of graffiti are emblematic of our turbulent times, where it feels that the planet is decisively divided between those who oppose conservative, right wing politics and those who support them. In this context, Memory and Securitisation in Contemporary Europe provides an important contribution to making sense of the current moment.
Memory and Securitisation in Contemporary Europe provides an empirically rich and theoretically grounded collection of essays that integrates the study of security, memory, media and Europe. Situated in the area of Critical Security Studies, the book contributes to our understanding of securitisation by positing that memory is integral to how certain issues and identities are constructed as threats. In their introduction, Vlad Strukov and Victor Apryshchenko expand the notion of securitisation beyond a narrow focus on speech acts. This leads to an approach that ‘employs a poly-centric, multi-agent construction of securitization and its context’ (p. 10), and the subsequent chapters draw this out: providing insights into a diverse range of cases from Ukrainian social media, to artistic commemorations of WWI in the UK.
Ultimately, the edited collection recognises that Europe is a concept and project that exists because of how it is remembered. This involves an attention to media, because media expresses forms of memory and securitization, and supplies publics with ways of making sense of the world, its past, present and future. The implications of mediated forms of remembering are made explicitly clear in each chapter. For example, Marianna Poberezhskaya highlights how media representations of climate change serve to securitise the issue in Russia and the UK, and lead to certain political outcomes.
The case studies and methods employed in Memory and Securitisation in Contemporary Europe are diverse, providing insightful analyses into how the securitisation-memory nexus can be studied. Often, the chapters highlight a need to go beyond the conventions of traditional securitisation research, and this is highlighted clearly in Stephen Hutchings’ and Kenzie Burchell’s exploration of how the securitization of Islam in Europe is driven, not by elite speech acts, but by ‘broader socio-political, technological and geopolitical phenomena’ (p. 181).
This returns us to the ‘free Tommy Robinson’ graffiti near my home. This graffiti is not an elite speech act, yet it is bound up with the securitisation-memory nexus, supporting a man who constructs a memory of Europe as Christian and white, under threat from a foreign, Islamic other. What makes someone express support for this type of sentiment? How and why do such problematic understandings of identity, memory, and security resonate with people? These questions are of great importance, and the site of audience interpretation and engagement is one that remains somewhat underdeveloped in Memory and Securitisation in Contemporary Europe. This limited engagement with audiences is, however, a feature of securitisation research as a whole rather than with this book alone, and such analyses are the next logical step for research to explore in the wake of Memory and Securitisation in Contemporary Europe.
Strukov and Apryshchenko have brought together a fascinating range of essays into a coherent, yet diverse collection, one that brings together and furthers insights into security, memory, media and Europe. Overall then, Memory and Securitisation in Contemporary Europe will be an important resource for students, scholars and anyone who wants to understand the complex milieu of memory and security in modern Europe.