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Abstract

The notion that it is justified for states to violate individual rights in order to protect national security has sparked a furious debate amongst scholars and policymakers alike. Counterterrorism models in the post-9/11 era have infamously allowed a paradoxical invasion of the civic and human rights of the individual–such as freedom of protest and assembly, freedom from forced detention, and freedom from sexual and gender-based violence– all while in the name of defending the nation-state. This phenomenon, addressed within security theory as a matter of weighing the needs of the state against that of the individual, often leads to questions such as, “Should counterterrorism models focus more on security or human rights?” “How can international influence further limit national security agendas?” This paper argues that current security literature is misinterpreting the theoretical stakes, and thus the very nature, of the issue at hand– the basic conceptualization of “life to be defended” is woefully inadequate. By inserting notions of life and belonging from human rights discourse, I demonstrate that the required task is to move beyond bare life as the subject of the nation-state in a suspended state of emergency. Rather, we must find new ways to ascribe political life, or civic rights, to the individual within the paradigm of national security. The challenge is to grasp a political meaning which is not reliant on politics as produced by the securitization of the nation-state. By studying the case of the Egyptian Revolution and the larger Arab Spring, I show that merely merging the state-centered security with a personhood-based politics is not enough to form a balanced counterterrorism model; personhood must find a way to form separately from state-making, while remaining within the confines of its borders.

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