Enclosing Critique: The Limits of Ontological Security

Christopher Rossdale

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The concept of ontological security has received increased attention in the security studies literature over the past ten years. This article develops a critical perspective toward ontological security and its mobilization by IR scholars, arguing that substantive ethical and political resources are produced by resisting the terms of ontological security/insecurity. It argues that the aspiration to ontological security, to contiguous and stable narratives of selfhood, can (violently) obscure the ways in which such narratives are themselves implicated in power relations. Furthermore, it argues that attempts to order political life into an ontological/security episteme disciplines or marginalizes modes of subjectivity which resist the closure of ontological security-seeking strategies. The article engages queer figurations of subjectivity as mobilized by Judith Butler, Donna Haraway, and Jack Halberstam, as well as examples from anti-militarist social movements, to demonstrate traditions which refuse and resist the framework of ontological security. It does this both in order to highlight particular practices and strategies that are written out by an epistemology oriented around ontological security/insecurity, and to show how a resistance to such ordering can enliven political action in various ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369–386
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Political Sociology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2015

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