Guest Lecture: Everyday (counter)terrorism: normalising threat, risk, and hostile vehicle mitigation in Birmingham at CY Cergy Paris Université
On 16 May, 2023, Carrie Benjamin presented findings from her fieldwork in Birmingham, UK on hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) – bollards, planters and other devices designed to securitize public spaces against vehicular attacks – at the PLACES Laboratory at CY Cergy Paris Université. Since 2017, English cities have seen a proliferation of material infrastructure aimed at protecting crowds, buildings, and transportation networks from potential terrorist attacks. While these visible manifestations of geopolitical crisis and domestic insecurity—including bollards, barriers, CCTV, and counterterrorism police patrols—often appear near the sites of attacks, they’ve proliferated in many cities that do not have a recent experience with terrorism. In the context of this heightened sense of threat, counterterrorism has become both an omnipresent and unremarkable part of the urban landscape, which is altering the felt experience of public space in cities. Drawing on ethnographic research in Birmingham and interviews with local and national security officials, police, private vendors, and residents, Carrie’s research demonstrates how various actors have sought to normalise this militarisation of urban public space, and how the banalisation of threat has been met with a reluctant acceptance and civil inattention by city centre visitors.