Putting security culture and experimentation into context: Towards a view from the field(s) of rule of law reform

Deval Desai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mary Kaldor's recent work on security cultures is rooted in a puzzle: if the term security is by its very nature complex and ambiguous, why do we keep doing the same things and making the same mistakes? Her answer: security cultures, or shared styles of doing security. She argues that we need to find 'nodal points'- or experts in their context-and disrupt their way of operating through 'security experiments'. This reflects recent arguments in my field of rule of law reform and elsewhere. Drawing on these arguments, my experiences of rule of law reform and theory from the sociology of knowledge, I ask whether Kaldor's call for security experiments may actually contribute to the reproduction of the same mistakes. I argue that the indeterminacy of the core idea distinguishes fields such as rule of law reform and security. It also makes it difficult to change them, as any statement that orders these fields is subject to being captured by experts and mobilized as a resource in their contests. I then look at the training curriculum of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law in Malta to explore how experimentation might be conservative, rather than disruptive, arguing that experts may inoculate themselves against critique by using the sophisticated rhetoric of experiments, while hiding their agency and decisions behind the veneer of being responsive.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberkrv023
Pages (from-to)135-150
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Conflict and Security Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


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