Parrhēsia Today: Drone Strikes, Fearless Speech and the Contentious Politics of Security
Foucault is more often used to theorise political logics of securitisation than to understand the contestation of security policies. Yet Foucault's work offers a wealth of conceptual tools and ideas pertinent to the study of the contentious politics of security. In his lectures on parrhēsia in Ancient Greece, Foucault explored the practice whereby individuals choose at great risk to confront rulers or publics with uncomfortable truths. This article argues that a refashioned concept of parrhēsia can illuminate certain elements of the contentious politics of security today. The article develops this claim through an examination of the photojournalism of Noor Behram, a man who has spent four years photographing and exposing US drone strikes in the region of Waziristan in Pakistan. The article analyses Behram's activity in terms of parrhesiastic exposure, a concept that is intended to capture aspects of the changed circumstances under which fearless speech can be exercised in mass-mediated, globalised societies. The article concludes by observing how further engagement with parrhēsia might contribute to our understanding of political action, the relationship between emotions and political struggle, and the politics of secrecy.