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09 Feb 16

Security and secure borders preoccupy current public debates. But do we know what security means? Michèle Lowrie, Professor of Classics and the College, University of Chicago, notes that Securitas first occurs in Cicero meaning “tranquility,” in a strictly psychological sense. A century later the “security of the Roman Empire” had become a political slogan. Recognition of the concept’s origins in the collapse of the Roman Republic helps to clarify its potential for ideological manipulation. Ancient philosophy makes the blessed life, humanity’s highest aspiration, dependent on peace of mind. And when tranquility becomes a political imperative, it justifies Imperial governance and encourages depoliticization. Originally less a concept than a cluster of tropes, the evolution of “security” can be traced through a series of figurations, including the imagined embodiment of group safety in a charismatic leader. In her lecture, Lowrie will shed light on how security discourses have always sympathized with the maintenance of hierarchies, the centralization of power, and trade-offs in citizen rights.

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