Feminist International Relations and intelligence in a high-tech age

Gillian Youngs

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


In this chapter I engage in a broad discussion of the area of intelligence in the context of both feminist perspectives on international relations and the hi-tech nature of contemporary times. The latter area is likely to appear more obviously pertinent than the former to most readers. So, part of the purpose of what follows is to reflect on how feminist International Relations (IR) might help us think differently and perhaps more critically about intelligence and diverse ethical considerations linked to it. This forms the first part of the chapter and involves some exploration of the ontological challenges presented by feminist IR to conventional understandings of intelligence and the state-centred politics it is framed by. The technological configuration of intelligence practices is a familiar and perhaps fetishized domain. It is one of the areas that connects the world of hidden security operations with popular discourses and culture. We have only to think of the iconic figure of ‘James Bond – 007’ and the extent to which not only his ‘licence to kill’ but most of his antics are facilitated by an ever-increasingly complex and exotic, not to mention deadly, array of technological weaponry and gadgetry. The recent BBC television series ‘Spooks’ is another more current and seemingly less fictionalized illustration of the array of technologies that enable intelligence gathering, not least those used for surveillance purposes. The discussion of this area that follows concentrates on two particular and inter-related concerns. The first is the functions of technologies in mediating experience, including the expression of and subjection to power, and the second concerns the saturation of technologies in different areas of contemporary life and the ‘normalization’ of such processes as surveillance. This examination forms the second part of the chapter and includes some probing of ethical implications. The information society debate (see, for example: Castells 2000; Webster 2006; Youngs 2007) is of assistance here. It directs our attention to the expanding roles of information and computerized data in social structures and relations , whether we are thinking about virtual (digital or data) identities or commodities such as databases, which are relevant to many intelligence processes, including profiling (Lyon 2001 and 2002). The third part of the chapter discusses feminist perspectives on technology, and some ways in which they can contribute to generating fresh potential for political critique.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWar, Ethics and Justice: New Perspectives on a Post 9/11 World
EditorsA. Bergman-Rosamund, M. Phythian
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9780415552349
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2011


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