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Understanding prevent policing through dispositif and reflexive risk

Dresser, Paul (2015) Understanding prevent policing through dispositif and reflexive risk. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

In June 2011, PREVENT, as part of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST, was reformatted around the notion of ‘risk’. Despite this, there is a paucity of empirical enquiry which has examined the relationship between PREVENT and risk. The objective of this thesis is to analyse PREVENT policing, in terms of how risk is understood, as well as how PREVENT police operations are delivered, perceived and experienced by those tasked with counter-terrorism. This thesis is a single-embedded case study in a geographical area defined by government funding structure as ‘low risk’. Through conducting qualitative interviews with PREVENT police officers and individuals drawn from security disciplines and interconnecting institutions, three key themes were identified. First, risk was understood to be interrelated with the concept of trust. Specifically, there was an emphasis on increasing trust with both internal and external partners given that PREVENT is now deployed through a multi-agency approach. Second, PREVENT was conceptualised as “safeguarding” rather than counter-terrorism, counter-radicalisation and/or de-radicalisation. Third, risk was linked to the notion of “gut feeling” at the referral (identification) stage of counter-radicalisation in the absence of radicalisation knowledge. As well as the fieldwork data which are empirically driven, a second objective of this thesis is to use a theoretical framework of Foucault’s concept of ‘dispositif’, emanating from analyses of governmentality, as well as ‘reflexive’ risk, in line with the works of Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens’ ‘risk society’, as measured against the interview data. Drawing attention to the effects of both risk positions at local level, this thesis argues that PREVENT policing cannot be reduced to a single factor risk perspective. Moreover, this thesis provides a more nuanced account of counter-terrorism through risk by illuminating the messiness, complexity and empirical reality of PREVENT policing on the ground.

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