The Securitization of Fear in Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka

Authors


Correspondence: Department of Geography, Syracuse University, 144 Eggers Hall, Syracuse, NY 13244; e-mail: jhyndman@maxwell.syr.edu.

Abstract

Fear is a potent political resource that is at once an expression of vulnerability to geopolitical threats and a rationale for security measures against them. It is produced through tropes of nationalism rooted in economic marginalization, loss of territory, and anxieties about invasions of home. Such anxieties give rise to the securitization of fear used to underwrite the allocation of resources to fortify borders and manage risk. The securitization of fear and its geopolitical uses and abuses in the context of disaster, conflict, and human displacement demand further attention. This article examines two expressions of fear that have significant implications for broader research agendas in political geography. First, in post-tsunami Sri Lanka, the implementation of “buffer zones,” or no-build setback areas along the affected coastlines after the tsunami vividly illustrates how efforts to enhance public safety can stir feelings of discrimination, tension, and fear. Humanitarian remedies that are not cautiously conflict-sensitive can unwittingly generate fear and mistrust. Second, the politics of fear intersect with the provision of international aid, which is increasingly premised on vulnerability “at home” in donor countries to make it politically relevant. Once created, such crises are offset by aid to locations that represent geopolitical threats. Unraveling the ways in which fear is produced and framed to justify violence, exclusion, and hatred is a pressing political and intellectual task within geography.

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