The state of the sublime aesthetic protocols and global security

Jonathan Luke AUSTIN

Security politics is everywhere, its tendrils entangled with every aspect of life. Nonetheless, this hyper-securitised status quo has not interrupted the flow of everyday life, nor the circulation of people, goods, or ideas. For the privileged of the world, a paradox has emerged: war, terrorism, ecological disaster, pandemics, and many other ‘monstrous’ forms of insecurity are now experienced as mundane and manageable phenomena in spite of the exceptional political measures, and more generalised affective states of fear and anxiety, that they have proliferated. How has this occurred? This article argues that aesthetic processes and politics are fundamental to the maintenance of this paradox. To do so, we draw on Bruno Latour’s concept of ‘transfrayeurs’ (trans-fears) to understand how modes of aesthetic design are deployed to simultaneously locate sublime imaginaries of insecurity in our midst while also allowing us to live with, accept, and forget their presence. More specifically, we suggest that trans-fearing is achieved through ‘aesthetic protocols’ that specify principles for designing material, affective, and discursive forms into our lives in ways that allow for the careful ‘calibration’ of how we (unequally) experience a hierarchised, depoliticised, and militarised ‘state of the sublime’ within global security politics.