Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor William Walters, Carleton University, Canada

Profile picture of Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor William WaltersSecrecy and (in)security: developing a research agenda

4 - 7 November 2018


William Walters is a Professor at Carleton University, with a crossappointment in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Sociology/Anthropology. Trained as a chemist (BSc, Imperial College, Univ. of London) before switching into politics (MA, CUNY Graduate Sch.; PhD York Univ., Toronto), Prof. Walters has published widely in the areas of citizenship studies, the political sociology of states and international government, the geopolitics of borders and migration, and most recently, power and secrecy. His major publications include the book Unemployment and Government: Genealogies of the Social [CUP 2000], a co-authored volume (with J.H. Haahr) Governing Europe [Routledge 2005], and the coedited collection (with Wendy Larner) Global Governmentality [Routledge 2004].

More recently, he has published Governmentality: Critical Encounters [Routledge 2012]. His work has been translated into French, Italian, German, Polish, Japanese and Finnish. Presently he sits on the international advisory boards of Economy & Society; International Political Sociology; Palgrave Communications; Foucault Studies; and Materiali Foucaultiani. He also co-edits the series Mobility & Politics for Palgrave Macmillan.

Professor Walters is presently engaged in two major research projects. First, he leads the Air Deportation Project. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and with French collaborators at EHESS in Paris and Aix-Marseille, this five-year project will provide the first systematic account of the relationship between aviation and deportation. In so doing it will map the hitherto invisible aerial geographies of forced deportation in and from Europe. Second, Prof. Walters is completing a monograph on theories, concepts and cases in secrecy research.

Forthcoming with Routledge, The Production of Secrecy argues for giving secrecy a more central place in security studies. At the same time it insists that secrecy is a far more ambiguous and elusive phenomenon than we have
presumed and therefore calls for new concepts and methods if we are to understand how it shapes power relations within the security field.

Project Summary

In an era of ‘shadow wars’ and counterterrorism, heightened tensions over secret nuclear weapons programmes, renewed interest in conspiracy cultures and fake news, and strained international relations connected to cybercrimes and targeted killing, the power and politics of secrecy within security discourses warrants renewed investigation. Drawing together scholarship on secrecy studies, state formation and security theories, Professor Walters’ work extends collective understanding of how secrecy functions as a complex set of practices and is productive of new ways to interpret the social and political worlds around us.

Working with researchers at the Secrecy and Security Working Group in the Global Insecurities Centre (GIC) at the University of Bristol and with the network of secrecy researchers across the GW4 research community,
Professor Walters will present his latest research and help to develop a new international research agenda and grow the network of international experts exploring the complex relationships between secrecy and security.

His visit to the University of Bristol will therefore include a public lecture, a research seminar with academics from the GIC and across the GW4, and a graduate seminar. During this time, Professor Walters will share his expertise to help explore and further understandings of the interconnections between secrecy and practices of concealing, deceiving, lying, obfuscating, ignoring and de-sensing, as well as deepen current understandings of secrecy within historical and contemporary security practices.

His presentations will include his ongoing study of everyday secrecy at Orford Ness in Suffolk, one of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment’s main testing sites during the Cold War. Drawing on a rich but unpublished archive of interviews with former employees, scientists, officials, and military personnel at Orford, Walters will advance our understanding of how secrecy is modulated by relations of time and place, gender, status and profession.

During his stay in Bristol, Professor Walters will be hosted by Dr Elspeth Van Veeren (SPAIS).