Brown Bag: Packing for security: Investigating aeromobilities in the context of national security panics

When a plot to smuggle explosives on to an international flight was uncovered recently, authorities wasted no time in ratcheting up security screenings in Australian airports. It stands to reason that identified threats, based on credible sources, should lead to enhanced security measures. However, as with any such measure, there are consequences, such as lengthier than usual transit times, anxiety at receiving additional scrutiny from security agents, and confusion and uncertainty associated with waiting. Increased attention is paid to screening travellers and their luggage, with additional signage and instructions for manoeuvring travellers and the material they bring with them through security screening points. In this context, it is curious that travellers tend not to alter their packing practices in preparation for ease and speed of security clearance, where travelling with more material belongings creates inconvenience for the individual and requires closer scrutiny. While this would suggest that people are generally willing to endure enhanced security screening to ensure safe travel, we suggest something else is at play. In this paper, we interrogate the role of ‘national security practices’ on broader cultures of mobility, particularly the materiality of aeromobilities. We suggest these cultures of mobility are underpinned by a norm of ‘travelling heavy’, that is, with checked luggage and carry-on items, which have significant implications for the environmental impact and sustainability of the commercial airline sector. We argue that extraordinary national security measures in the context of acute threat and panic have contradictory effects, inasmuch as its focus on efficiency in scrutinising and shifting cargo and passenger load does little to confront the logistical, economic and environmental costs of travelling heavy. Instead, we consider the ways in which alternative cultures of mobility, based upon ‘packing light’ and moving nimbly, might help to bring about both secure and sustainable aeromobilities for all who take to the skies.

Time

09.11.2017 kl. 12.00 - 13.00

Description

Speaker: Kaya Barry (and Samid Sulliman), Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University, Australia, kayathiea@gmail.com.

Abstract: When a plot to smuggle explosives on to an international flight was uncovered recently, authorities wasted no time in ratcheting up security screenings in Australian airports. It stands to reason that identified threats, based on credible sources, should lead to enhanced security measures. However, as with any such measure, there are consequences, such as lengthier than usual transit times, anxiety at receiving additional scrutiny from security agents, and confusion and uncertainty associated with waiting. Increased attention is paid to screening travellers and their luggage, with additional signage and instructions for manoeuvring travellers and the material they bring with them through security screening points. In this context, it is curious that travellers tend not to alter their packing practices in preparation for ease and speed of security clearance, where travelling with more material belongings creates inconvenience for the individual and requires closer scrutiny. While this would suggest that people are generally willing to endure enhanced security screening to ensure safe travel, we suggest something else is at play. In this paper, we interrogate the role of ‘national security practices’ on broader cultures of mobility, particularly the materiality of aeromobilities. We suggest these cultures of mobility are underpinned by a norm of ‘travelling heavy’, that is, with checked luggage and carry-on items, which have significant implications for the environmental impact and sustainability of the commercial airline sector. We argue that extraordinary national security measures in the context of acute threat and panic have contradictory effects, inasmuch as its focus on efficiency in scrutinising and shifting cargo and passenger load does little to confront the logistical, economic and environmental costs of travelling heavy. Instead, we consider the ways in which alternative cultures of mobility, based upon ‘packing light’ and moving nimbly, might help to bring about both secure and sustainable aeromobilities for all who take to the skies.

Place and time: November 9, Rendsburggade 14, room: 4.411, 12:00-13:00