Compositions

The ‘compositions’ that make up the World Political Compositions project are divided by the five traditional senses of human perception: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.

Following the inaugural compositions workshop in San Francisco, supplementary materials for each of the compositions produced by the participants will be made available on this portal.

The compositions will be based on the following abstracts. (Click to read abstract)

  1. Senses of data: sounds, imaging and the like Rocco
    Bellanova and Gloria Gonzalez
  2. Power and Protest in Korea: Memory as Visual and Sensual Politics
    Roland Bleiker
  3. Sensing the Ocean: The thalassopolitics of liquid ethnography
    Charmaine Chua
  4. Painting for Palm: A film about Art and Resistance, Memory and Aboriginality
    Charlotte Epstein
  5. The Smell of Hope: The Sensorium of post-eastern bloc nostalgia
    Penny M. Von Eschen
  6. Sound and Sight[lessness]: Stevie Wonder and World Culture
    Kevin Gaines
  7. Beach Vacation in Sperlonga (Italy): the insecurity of deep relaxation
    Naeem Inayatullah
  8. Commercialized Composing: The Politics of Advertising Wearable Tracking Devices
    Anna Leander
  9. The Besotted & The Beloved: Decolonizing the Mesmerized
    L. H. M. Ling and Alisha Perrigoue
  10. (Re)composing the planet: Visuality, knowledge, and security in the Anthropocene
    Delf Rothe
  11. A beautiful mess: making sense of and with military techno-vision
    Rune Saugmann
  12. Architectural Violence: Practices of Securitization and Resistance
    Michael J. Shapiro
  13. ‘We are war photographers’: militarization as an aesthetic experience in the city of Rio de Janeiro
    Ana Clara Telles
  14. Secrecy as security composition: The Arcanum
    Elspeth Van Veeren







World Political Compositions

 

  1. Senses of data: sounds, imaging and the like
    Rocco Bellanova and Gloria Gonzalez Fuster

    Making sense of global data-driven security practices requires making sense of data, which are at their core. It needs thinking up how data are composed and re-composed, and what are the roles of/for individuals in these digital compositions. This contribution approaches data as things, questioning them from and by the senses, in search of a refined understanding of contemporary data-driven security and the spaces they leave (or do not leave) for contestation. Does sensing data differently could contribute to conceiving and contesting surveillance-driven rationales of security? To address this question, we first inquiry into data as sound. The sounds of data include the background noise of the cooling systems of data warehouses, but also algorithmically-generated music recommendations, or artistic interpretations such as the work of Ryoji Ikeda, and concretely the Datamatics series and their interrogation of ‘raw’ computer data. Second, we discuss the relationships between data, imaging and imagining fiction – how data look like (their possible visualizations) and what they do make us look at (the narratives of (big) data, notably in data-driven online audiovisual content). Throughout this two-fold inquiry, we question how sensing the data (that are supposed to make sense out of people) may help us to reclaim them, or at least to resist the erasure of their political meaning. In a specular move, this contribution explores what diverse digital compositions tell us about the political conditions of individuals vis-à-vis the things that are data.


  2. Power and Protest in Korea: Memory as Visual and Sensual Politics
    Roland Bleiker

    The purpose of this article is to engage one of the key moments in South Korea’s history: the popular uprising that brought down dictatorial regime of general Chun Doo-Hwan in 1987. Situated in one of the world’s most tense security environments, South Korea was a military dictatorship that ruthlessly suppress dissent. But student protests emerged in the spring of 1987 and over the following weeks spread across the country to the point where hundreds of thousands of people rose up in protest, eventually forcing General Chun to resign and announce the first presidential elections in twenty years. This is not only a key event in Korean history but also an important instance of civil disobedience that is of larger political relevance. I engage the issues at stake through a combination of conventional scholarly analysis, autoethnography and aesthetic politics. I draw on my own participation in the events, as well as my own photographs, to examine how a range of aesthetic sensations – from vision to sounds and smells – form a key part of representing, understanding and remembering the event.


  3. Sensing the Ocean: The thalassopolitics of liquid ethnography
    Charmaine Chua

    The world’s oceans transport over 90% of world trade by value, and have long been extraordinary sites of both violent extraction and contestation, and cosmopolitan exchange. Yet, oceanic spaces have largely slipped out of focus in studies of world politics, too often relegated to the spaces that lie beyond territory, rather than that which constitutes and challenges its stability. This presentation uses multimedia representations of the sea – a video and sound project and collaborations with two visual artists, Mari Batashevski and Gabby Miller – to call into question conceptions of geopolitics that privilege telluric phenomena over the maritime. Drawing from the author’s 2014 fieldwork on board a container ship traveling from Los Angeles to Taipei, this presentation invites workshop participants to ‘sense’ the ocean as a vivid, felt space of politics, inviting them to consider how sea-based forms of life offer a “thalassopolitical” spatial imaginary of transpacific crossings that privilege a politics of solidarity over territory.


  4. Painting for Palm: A film about Art and Resistance, Memory and Aboriginality
    Charlotte Epstein

    Palm Island is a stunningly beautiful Great Barrier Reef island and Australia’s second largest aboriginal community. It was established as a penal settlement for aboriginals in 1914 and was the experiment for what would become the apartheid regime in South Africa.

    This film follows a group of four ‘untraditional’ aboriginal artists, Vernon Ah Khee, Judy Watson, Gordon Hookey and Richard Bell, for whom Palm has become both a powerful motive and motif in their art, following the events that have unfolded on the island over the last decade: In 2004, the young Mulrunji was arrested as he ambled home from fishing, for singing a song, ‘Who let the dogs out’. Within half and hour of being ushered into the police station, Mulrunji was dead. The impact of the injuries on his body was found to be equivalent to him having been hit by a truck. In 2007, and for the first time in Australia’s history, an officer of the law was prosecuted for killing an aboriginal in custody. The officer, however, was found not guilty. Instead, another Palm Islander, Lex Wotton, was jailed for ‘instigating’ the uprising that was triggered by the coroner’s report being read out to the community on the market square.

    The film explores the relationships between art and resistance and the role that art can play in helping a community find its voice. It is about the place of art in ‘the process of processing’ a traumatic history. It begins by mapping the recent events on Palm island onto a long history of repression and a system of indentured servitude through which the island, and Australia, were built, using original interviews with Palm Island elders and historians; a rich archival footage documenting life on the island throughout the century; and court materials from the 2004-2007 trial.

    The film’s topic, however, is the power of art to break this cycle of repetition and the never-ending return of the repressed. It considers how art stepped in where the law fell short to prevent this miscarriage of justice from being, once again, buried away. In reaction to the events these four artists held a collective, multi-media exhibition at the Milani Gallery in Brisbane in 2008 entitled ‘Palm’, a piece of which was purchased by the Tate Modern in 2016. The film follows the artists as they make art and reflect on the relations between their practices and the aboriginal history they hail from. It reconstructs through, their recollections, the run-up to the exhibition. The film ends on two parallel events in the realm of arts and of the law. The former is the installation of Vernon Ah Khee’s Tall Man at the Tate Modern in London. It thus follows the arrival of a piece on resistance and the enduring effects of colonization, created by a former colonial subject, to the heart of the former British Empire. In the realm of the law, it follows the successful outcome of the recent class action lawsuit led by Lex Wotton. In 2016 the Australian Supreme Court determined that the Queensland government was guilty of ‘systematic, institutionalised racism’ and Lex was duly compensated. Memory and the transformative power of art are at the heart of this film.


  5. The Smell of Hope: The Sensorium of post-eastern bloc nostalgia
    Penny M. Von Eschen

    This paper will take up the sensorium of post-Eastern bloc nostalgia, considering the inherent instability of nostalgia and suggesting that smell, taste, and sight can powerfully provoke “critical nostalgia,” a theme that has emerged in the burgeoning literature on Cold War memory as an expression of loss; not for a particular political formation of the Cold War, but for a sense of vanished hope itself. In 2005, Thorsten Jahn marketed canned exhaust fumes of the defunct Eastern German car, the Trabant, on the website Osthits, selling cans of “Trabi Scent” for 3.98 euros.   Detailing the process of holding a cotton wool next to the exhaust pipe of a Trabant and then placing the cloth into cans, Jahn explained, “The smell is something very special and scarce nowadays.” Despite the fact that the car was notorious for its polluting fumes, Jahn insists that “It doesn’t make people sick” as the cotton wool filters out toxic particles. Jahn dismisses any suspicion that his Trabi scent is a marketing gimmick for cashing in on the latest fad: “It is political, there are real differences in Germany, and people want to remember the old times.”

    Among the many Soviet ear themed restaurants in the former Eastern bloc, St. Petersburg presents the opportunity to dine in Soviet themed restaurants, Dachniki or Soviet Café Kvartirka, the latter meaning “little apartment.” Both recreate the décor, dishes, and ambiance of 1960s and 1970s Russia. Soviet life, Kvartirka owners explain, consisted not only of working in a “military industrial complex, great ballet and hockey. There were people behind the system who loved, loved, and died like anywhere else on the planet. These people also cooked food –rich, solid, simple dishes that satisfy every taste possible.” Here, nostalgia is not simply for the might and prestige of empire, but for the culinary comforts of Soviet style cosmopolitanism. Serving Soviet barbeque –shaslyk – from the Caucasus Republic, Ukrainian borsch, and Russian pelmeny – a meat dumpling – “all the elements come from a different Soviet Republic and are united on the table of Kvartirka customers.

    ”Moving from the smell, widely documented to have a close relation with memory, and taste, I consider sight and touch as one encounters museums and the marketing of original or reproduced objects of the Soviet era. In thinking about these sites and consumption, I reject any notion of passive reception. People actively see, hear, smell, and engage the sites; encounters may subtly or dramatically reinforce, challenge, or alter prior assumptions and beliefs. As visitors participate and react, sites engage and produce knowledge and subjectivity in ways that may or may not have been intended by the producers.   At stake in these contested visions of the cold war, within the power to reshape public spaces and rename streets, is the power to open or foreclose possibilities to imagine the future.

    “The Redstar Store,” of Szorborpark Park in Budapest sells everything from parodic T-shirts and coffee mugs that revel in irreverence toward once sacred communist symbols, to straightforward replicas of a communist past, including toy models of the East German Trabant, a car once ubiquitous not only in East Germany but throughout the eastern bloc, and medals of honor from the Red Army prominently featuring such Soviet icons as Lenin and Stalin. Playing off the satirical U.S. cartoon, a coffee mug displays South Park inspired caricatures of Marx, Engels, and Stalin under a red sign with black letters: “East Park.” T-shirts available in multiple color choices similarly featured South Park style trios of Marx, Engels and Lenin under the sign “Marx Park.” Such merchandise is in keeping with the sense that the park has safely contained communism within its borders. Others items are more ambiguous.   A dilapidated Trabant sits close to the shop; a visitor can sit in it to experience the ripped seats and insubstantial cardboard-like interior. In one sense, the Trabant is another demonstration of communist ineptitude. Yet a few steps away, the shiny new toy Trabant models are available in four colors; displayed next to Communist Party and Red Army memorabilia and Red Star coffee mug. The mug replicates the Starbucks logo but replaces green with red and the Nordic-inspired woodcut image with Lenin. On the opposite side, bold letters declare: “I’m from the old School: I like my coffee BLACK and my communism RED.” Do these objects, in keeping with the objectives of the park’s organizers, assure the observer and purchaser that the past is past? Do they provoke sentimental longing for the familiar and predictable in an often frighteningly unpredictable world?   In 2007, when rising health care, food and housing costs prompted a rally of thousands in Budapest demanding that features of the old regime were brought back, are these objects a fetish upon which unresolved social contradictions have been projected? Perhaps Marx hasn’t been contained in the park after all, but is instead, haunting the park, conspiring with the miniature Trabies and Lenin mugs as they go off to their secret social life of things, mischievously wreaking havoc on any comfortable or settled sense of history.

    Certainly, nostalgia can be turned to inward looking xenophobic movements; Victor Orbán, elected Hungary’s Prime Minister in 2010, has tapped into widespread structural economic uncertainly and feelings of having been the losers in the global economy. And certainly, all memory, including critical nostalgia, entails forgetting. But I would like to investigate whether a broader experience across the sensorium might mitigate against, disrupt, highly simplified forms of memory and narratives about the past.


  6. Sound and Sight[lessness]: Stevie Wonder and World Culture
    Kevin Gaines

    Stevie Wonder’s rise to international fame as a pop artist during the 1960s coincided with the U.S. civil rights movement, and the high tide of African national liberation struggles. The African American musician’s ongoing engagement with international affairs was shaped by many factors, including the aforementioned historical processes, the global marketing of U.S. popular music, specifically, the Detroit-based “Motown sound,” and his own experiences as an internationally touring musician. Blinded in infancy, Wonder (the stage name of Steveland Morris) often and from his earliest tours in the U.S. and abroad, visited schools for the blind, hoping to offer inspiration to sightless young people like himself. Both at home and overseas, Wonder consistently performed benefit concerts for schools for the blind and other charities. In doing so, Wonder raised to the forefront the issue of blindness, or disability, as a site for international engagement, collective identity, and humanitarianism.

    International consciousness also shaped Wonder’s musical and artistic expression. Likely as an outgrowth of his international touring, Wonder envisioned a global and universal appeal for his music. For Motown, he recorded Spanish and Italian language versions of some of his hit songs. Wonder’s ambitious sense of his own international appeal reflected his view of the universal appeal of African American music and expressive cultures, as a contribution to world culture. Wonder’s compositions embraced Afro-diasporic performers and musical styles from all over the world. In 1975, Wonder performed at a benefit concert for the Jamaica Institute for the Blind in Kingston, Jamaica, at one point sharing the stage with reggae superstars Bob Marley and the Wailers. His engagement with Jamaican reggae inspired his own songs that paid homage to that style, incorporating international commentary as well, as in his 1980 hit song “Master Blaster (Jammin).”

    My paper will discuss the international dimensions of Stevie Wonder’s career, musical aesthetics, political statements, and his reception abroad, including his efforts at supporting the popularization of reggae music for U.S. and African American audiences, and his 1979 album “Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants,” whose compositions were inspired by musical styles from Japan, France, and Africa, and which represented an intersection of African-American culture with a burgeoning ecological consciousness.


  7. Beach Vacation in Sperlonga (Italy): the insecurity of deep relaxation
    Naeem Inayatullah

    Our recent vacation in Italy centered on the Mediterranean beaches of Sprelonga, Italy. Our family of four was able to shut down completely. We read novels, waded in the sea, napped in the sun, shifted our beach chairs in time with the moving shade of our umbrella, ate fresh Italian food, and grounded ourselves in together doing nothing whatsoever. And yet the outside world blatantly commanded our attention. We shared our 30-minute, 1.50 Euro bus ride from Fondi to Sperlonga with immigrant hawkers. Once at the beach, we separated: we with our plans to turn off; they with a full day’s work of selling their wares: fresh coconut, sunglasses, bathing suits, scarves, kites, gelato, sun tan and sun block lotions, massages, hear weaving, watches, batteries, phone connectors and cases, and sandals. We set in one spot for six hours; they walking kilometer upon kilometer, up and down the beach. We planning to shut down; they hoping to open our wallets. Then, as the sun lowered itself on the horizon, we all walked back to share the bus stop.

    Questions escaped and ran through me: How did they make any money doing this? Which countries are they from – West African? East African? North African? South Asian? Southeast Asian? Working class Italian? How many are legal? How many illegal? How many came on rafts and boats? Where do they live? How much rent do they pay? How much does the cost of the bus cut into their daily profits? Have they stayed in camps? What is my relationship to them? Should I buy anything from them? Where might I apply to get a grant to produce an ethnography of this beach life? These questions were like thieves trying to steal my peace and like friends trying to enrich my stay. These are the questions I suppressed. For how else could I enjoy a rare vacation after a lifetime of competing in the race of life? I will not write directly about this division in my consciousness. Rather, I will write short tales about the colors, textures, smells, sounds, tastes, and feelings of beach life in Sperlonga. I will write vignettes that express how deep relaxation is possible and impossible within the insecurity and inequality of everyday life. I will intimate, suggest, and hint rather than tell.


  8. Commercialized Composing: The Politics of Advertising Wearable Tracking Devices
    Anna Leander

    Commercial military/security markets have become ubiquitous. Here I focus on one of the many aspects of their politics: their import for composing global security as addressed in this special issue. I build on the aesthetic turn in International Relations / security studies as well as on the aesthetic / phenomenological theoretical traditions at its core. However, following the lead of scholars such Donna Haraway, David Howes and Michael Taussig I direct attention away from the aesthetic politics of different kinds and genres of art and instead concentrate on its place in mundane and lowly practices. I focus on the pervasive advertising of commercial military/security markets as exemplified by advertising of wearable tracking devices. My core ambition is to show how — by what mechanisms — advertising is composing global security but also to highlight the politics of this composing. After arguing for the need to concentrate on the politics of mundane advertising aesthetics generally, I therefore proceed to show how commercial military/security advertising mobilizes sensemaking and imagination. I show that advertising conjures affective engagement and investment through its language, images and forms of circulation. In the final section I analyze the political consequences of this, arguing that it is militarizing in the sense of making military concerns more central and more diffuse. I conclude that it is therefore essential to engage the politics of advertising and perhaps indeed to reflect on forms of regulation that takes the politics of aesthetics into account.


  9. The Besotted & The Beloved: Decolonizing the Mesmerize
    L. H. M. Ling and Alisha Perrigoue

    How can we awaken the mesmerized? This article takes the concept of ‘besottedness’ as a conceptual looking glass through which to explore “epistemicide.” This refers to the erasure of knowledge perpetrated by five centuries of Eurocentric colonialism / imperialism and which can be seen to have created, for example, recruits enamored with creating an Islamic State through global terrorism; or more simply a blind belief in any kind of hegemonic system that claims to benefit all when it does so only for a few. Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman exemplifies such Besottedness in a capitalist-patriarchal Beloved as much as suicide bombers intent on destroying the Great Satan or Spanish conquistadores who landed on what they called the New World. Through poetry-food-art, this essay traces how the Besotted can awaken. Various voices are presented that offer solutions but with different, sometimes contradictory, results. These represent prevalent schools of thought in International Relations (IR): Realist, Liberal, English School, Marxist, Constructivist, Feminist, and Postcolonial. The Besotted is shown, however, to finally awake only when another choice (decoloniality) becomes possible. The paper achieves this by tracing a ‘Besotted’ who seeks affirmation from a ‘Beloved’ but never gets it. Neither gender nor culture nor even time matters, for the condition of besottedness transcends each. Hand-drawn sketches of key ingredients accompany the text. These give the reader a fuller sense of besottedness as an aesthetic and its awakening.


  10. (Re)composing the planet: Visuality, knowledge, and security in the Anthropocene
    Delf Rothe

    The contribution discusses the notion of composition through the lens of the Anthropocene. It holds that the notion of Anthropocene decenters the human subject in the work of (de- and re-)composition. For, the Anthropocene is populated by forces and objects, which are so abstract and distributed across time and space that they exceed human apprehension. To draw the manifold traces of the Anthropocene together and assemble them into a meaningful whole, a posthuman (sensatory) assemblage of planetary proportions, composed of remote sensing technology, computer models, meteorological databases, etc., is required. Such assemblages do not enact the Anthropocene as a single reality but as multiple worlds – each with their own set of ethical, normative, aesthetic conventions and implications. The first part of the intervention will describe these different enactments of the Anthropocene and show that they are linked to competing security projects (liberal-cosmopolitanism, biopolitics, post-liberal resilience). The second part of the intervention looks at one of these security projects in more detail, which revolves around an emerging technological assemblage of geospatial big data. Geospatial big data as a visual technology promises whole new ways of seeing and understanding the world. The compilation of massive amounts of satellite data in interoperable databases, combined with cloud computing, machine learning and automated imagery analysis, would allow for the detection of present and even future environmental risks. The intervention describes how this assemblage combines the aesthetic conventions of satellite imaging with that of data analytics to enable new forms of seeing environmental insecurities. The piece will be supported by visual and multimedia materials including satellite images and video-clips.


  11. A beautiful mess: making sense of and with military techno-vision
    Rune Saugmann

    Military techno-vision plays crucial roles in the assemblages that manage global politics, making sense of sociality and inscribing categorizations and lethal decisions in the ‘everywhere war’. In this paper, I ask how we can make sense of the sense-making activities of these ‘prosthetic devices’. I argue that while western publics are asked to place their trust in these devices, a cloak of invisibility shields military techno-optics from civilian oversight. To interrogate these sense-making prosthetics, I review two main access points through which we may be able to peer though military techno-vision: videos of precision strikes published by western militaries, a practice pioneered and perfected by the IDF; and leaked battlefield videos, amongst which the 2009 video leaked by Chelsea Manning and published by WikiLeaks with the title ‘collateral murder’ is by far the most prominent. While critical understanding can depart from promotional videos and the ‘collateral murder’ video did provide a strong indictment of the practices of warfare guided by techno-vision, in both cases what I call a ‘semiotic fog of war’ is deployed by authorities, rendering images transparent or opaque to disenable their visual critique. We have to look elsewhere, I argue, to decidedly non-documentarist images, to make sense of the sense-making agency of military techno-vison. In Richard Mosse’s ‘the enclave’, military film designed to reveal what is invisible to the unassisted eye portrays the little-known conflict in Congo. Rendering the conflict a beautiful and surreal mess, the images invite us to see the lethal interpretative work done through militarized techno-vision.


  12. Architectural Violence: Practices of Securitization and Resistance
    Michael J. Shapiro

    Central to the conception of this paper is the architectural theorist Bernard Tschumi’s dictum, “There is no architecture without action, no architecture without events, no architecture without program…no architecture without violence.” Inspired as well by Eyal Weizman’s conception of “forensic architecture” (a critical practice concerned with evidence of war crimes in urban contexts), the ultimate focus of the investigation is on Israel’s architecture of security – the Separation Wall that encloses Palestinian cities – and the corresponding Palestinian architecture of resistance, which creates an encounter of cartographies and characterizes the way Palestinians regain mobility to make life livable in response to the architectural violence they face. On the way to a treatment of that encounter, the paper analyzes a variety of popular culture texts – for example a Qui Ziaolong novel, When Red is Black (which focuses on breaches of security in traditional Chinese Shikumen housing projects) and Tomas Alfredson’s 2011 film version of the John le Carré spy novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974) in which the M16 building is a major protagonist and much of the drama occurs there and in other buildings that for security purposes utilize a variety of architectural barriers to access.


  13. ‘We are war photographers’: militarization as an aesthetic experience in the city of Rio de Janeiro
    Ana Clara Telles

    Militarization in the city of Rio de Janeiro has reached its peak in the last decade, when the global agenda of mega sports events boosted the military occupation of more than 40 favelas. The creation of the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) in 2007 is a contemporary manifestation of a broader history of militarization in the city of Rio de Janeiro that impacts, conditions and organizes the urban life at least since the 1980s. On the rise of the ‘new military urbanism’, as described by Stephen Graham, the ‘pacification’ project is currently fuelled by the global influx of war-like technologies of surveillance, repression and control of urban populations worldwide. This scenario has set the bases for a local dispute over the concept (or the metaphor) of ‘war’ – is Rio de Janeiro experiencing an ‘urban war’? This paper explores how favela-based photographers make sense of militarization in the city by photographing the everyday life of their militarized neighborhoods. When shooting tanks, rifles, flags, masks and soldiers, these photographers reveal an often overlooked feature of militarization: that militarization is ultimately an aesthetic experience – and a disputable one. By engaging in a war-like aesthetics of the urban life in the city, these professionals also show that disputing the concept/metaphor of ‘war’ can be used as a tool for building resistance to militarization.


  14. Secrecy as security composition: The Arcanum
    Elspeth Van Veeren

    Beyond recent developments in International Relations and critical security studies including the ‘visual turn’, the ‘aesthetic turn’, the ‘practice turn’ and the ‘material turn’, which have collectively extended and expanded understandings of what makes security in world politics, is the need to understand how secrecy relates to security. To date, these approaches have focused almost exclusively on knowledge/power understood as the power to make visible and material, to make ‘spectacle’ – whether documenting state or dissenting visual practices. Secrecy studies, a long established interdisciplinary sub-field in sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, however, offers a new way to approach security discourses and state-making. In what ways can thinking through secrecy develop our understanding of security sensemaking? How are power/knowledge in state and security-making, including resistance and dissenting practices, connected to practices of concealing, deceiving, lying, and obfuscating; to the unseen and unheard, the hidden, the opaque and the fake? As this paper contends, part of making sense of security always takes place through secrecy practices, the management of the senses, as part of individual and collective understandings of security on conceptual as well as empirical levels. To do so, drawing on a case study of secrecy practices and the Global War on Terror, this paper presents a new concept for making sense of security and its composition: the Arcanum. In contradistinction to the well-known concept of the panopticon, the Arcanum offers a way to understand the layered compositions of secrets in making security discourses make sense. Like the panopticon, the Arcanum is a material-visual architecture but one for managing and keeping secrets, that is itself coconstitutive of the values, norms and ideas that are core to security sense-making.

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