Reassembling security technologies
: police practices and innovations in Rio de Janeiro

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis’s objectives are twofold. On the one hand it contributes to the literature on critical security studies by advancing an empirically-grounded narrative on security innovations, particularly the making of policing technologies, which questions the idea of neoliberal policy diffusion and accounts for the role of materiality. On the other hand, it explores the potentialities of different ontological perspectives and methods in the field of International Relations theory. By deploying the concepts of translation, mediation and controversies while focusing on the immanent properties and connections that hold socio-technical assemblages together, I offer different accounts for some of the basic dichotomies within mainstream IR theory, such as local and global, public and private, culture and nature. I address such objectives through the analysis of police innovations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in preparation for the FIFA World Cup (2014) and the Olympic Games (2016). In a short period, authorities and private entrepreneurs invested in variegated digital technologies which promised to enhance police efficiency and accountability, while also raising awareness among locals and tourists on the spatialisation of crime and insecurity. I carried out fieldwork with security professionals engaged in everyday operations in Rio’s Integrated Centre for Command and Control (ICCC), and followed a Brazilian-based think tank which developed a crime prediction app (CrimeRadar) to inform citizens on risk levels across the city. The thesis offers empirical insights into the transformation of security practices in Rio de Janeiro, and theoretical contributions to the literature on critical security studies and international political sociology, increasing the repertoire of critical methods and the analytical vocabulary for productive intervention. By understanding the power struggles that build technologies up and hold them together, it is also possible to delineate strategies to disrupt or hack them in our benefit. We can then move from critique to composition, from debunking to (re)assembling.
Date of Award1 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorClaudia Aradau (Supervisor)

Cite this