Secrecy and Security Working Group


The Secrecy and Security Working Group brings together academics and practitioners interested in the interconnections between secrecy and security at individual, societal, state and transnational levels. Drawing on a growing body of scholarship in secrecy studies and critical security studies, we are committed to furthering understandings of the causes of insecurity, to debates about the connections between transparency, publicity, knowledge, security and democracy, and to debates about new technologies within security discourses through the lens of secrecy.


Dr. Elspeth Van Veeren, Lecturer in Political Science, SPAIS

I am a Lecturer in Political Science in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) at the University of Bristol and a Resident at the Pervasive Media Studio at the Bristol Watershed. My current research focus is a study of secrecy: in relation to the second decade of the US Global War on Terror and the emerging US security doctrine of ‘shadow wars’ and 'manhunting', but particularly in the interconnections between personal and everyday secret keeping that takes gender and race as central to secrecy, and that is key to understanding power on national and transnational scales. My published work has appeared in a range of edited volumes and peer-reviewed academic journals including New Political Science, International Political Sociology, Review of International Studies, and the Journal of War and Culture Studies.

Professor Jutta Weldes, Professor of International Relations, SPAIS

I am a Professor of International Relations at the University of Bristol. My research interests centre around international relations and security theory and US foreign policy during and after the Cold War. I am also interested in interpretive and especially discourse analytic methods, including exploring the diverse relations between popular culture and everyday practices. I am the author of Constructing National Interests (Minnesota, 1998), over 40 scholarly articles and edited volumes, and co-editor of the Routledge book series "New International Relations" and the "Popular Culture and World Politics" book series.

Dr. Oliver Kearns, ESRC New Investigator Postdoctoral Research Fellow, SPAIS

I recently completed my PhD at the University of Edinburgh on secrecy and absence in covert counter-terrorism and I am now an ESRC Postdoctiral Research Fellow researching the interconnection between state formation, sound, secrecy and security. My research on the rumours and debris of U.S. drone strikes and the relationship between state secrecy and public assent has been published in Political Geography and Critical Studies on Security, and being developed into a book. Current research interests include the ethics of witnessing political violence and the role of Orientalism in state intelligence analysis.



  • We’re delighted to announce that Dr. Oliver Kearns has been awarded an ESRC New Investigator postdoctoral research fellowship to complete a 2.5 year project on sound and secrecy at SPAIS beginning July 2018.
  • Members of the Secrecy and Security Working group (Kearns, Van Veeren, and Weldes) will be part of two interconnected panels on secrecy and security at the forthcoming International Studies Association 2018 convention in San Francisco.
  • We’re delighted to announce that Dr. Elspeth Van Veeren and SSWG affiliate Sue Gent, a illustrator and designer, have been awarded funding from the Brigstow Institute to develop their project on ‘Secret Keepers’, an interactive object for exploring the complexities of keeping secrets in today’s world.
  • Dr. Elspeth Van Veeren delivered a talk at Ulster University on secrecy and art as critical method on November 17 2017 as part of their AHRC-funded ‘Blurring Boundaries’ workshop series.
  • Dr. Elspeth Van Veeren delivered a talk at the Global Insecurities Centre seminar series entitled ‘Secrecy and Security in 21st Century Conflict: Notes on the Arcanum’ on November 15 2017.


Sue Gent, illustrator and designer

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