Call for Papers: Panel “Analysing European Security Through the Concept and Practice of Tinkering”, EISA PEC, 06-09.09.2023, Potsdam, Deadline: 09.03.2023

Analysing European Security Through the Concept and Practice of Tinkering


There is a growing scholarly attention to practices and technologies of security. Certainly, this literature has produced more complex and messy accounts of security than most orderly and official versions would have us believe. Most notably, it refuted linear and deterministic accounts of technology, which would view technologies as the most obvious solutions to a security problem, or as the natural extension of prevailing ways of doing security.

At the same time, we acknowledge that approaching security practices in this manner leaves us with important conceptual and methodological questions. For instance: How do we make sense of this situated, material, fluid and experimental character of security? And if technoscientific practices are inherently messy, how can we – as researchers – deploy attuned, and yet consistent, research practices?

In this panel, we propose to start addressing these and other questions through the notion of ‘tinkering’ from Science and Technology Studies (STS). Challenging the official narrative of fact-making, Karin Knorr-Cetina used tinkering to describe the everyday practices of scientists as a creative, material and ad hoc. In recent years, tinkering as analytical sensitivity has also been discussed in terms of the need to adjust sociotechnical relations, for instance when an intrusive new medical technology is continuously adapted to a patient’s physical and emotional needs. We argue that these observations are consistent with the ongoing themes of critical security studies. While not so much care-oriented, they do for example highlight the fragility of large-scale data infrastructures for border security and the ongoing behind-the-scenes maintenance work to keep things working and ‘under control’.

Building on these everyday and experimental understandings of technoscientific work, we suggest embracing tinkering as a productive and critical analytical tool for making sense of security. Our ambition is to engage with those scholars focusing on the relation between security, technology, and knowledge to discuss with us whether and how tinkering can help us rethink and improve our analytical sensibilities. In this spirit, the panel discussion will revolve around two points:

  • How tinkering can provide a conceptual vantage point to study how complex, messy and even conflictual security practices often tend to be quite productive, thus allowing us to unpack how such ‘security tinkering’ transforms power relations;
  • How we could embrace tinkering methodologically in our own research practice, that is, develop and try out inventive forms of research engagement that brings us closer to the everyday frictions and practical solutions that security actors have identified as crucial.

If you are interested in participating in the panel, please send a 1800 characters long abstract with title by the 9th of March.

Jasper van der Kist | European University Viadrina (Germany) |

Rocco Bellanova | Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium) |