The State of the Sublime: Aesthetic Protocols and Global Security

My latest article (with Anna Leander) ‘The State of the Sublime: Aesthetic Protocols and Global Security’ is now forthcoming at Millennium: Journal of International Studies. You can download a pre-print of the article here (or below).


Security politics is everywhere, its tendrils entangled with every aspect of life. Nonetheless, this hyper-securitized 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 generalized 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 whilst 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 hierarchized, depoliticized, and militarized ‘state of the sublime’ within global security politics.


We thank Claudia Aradau, Marieke de Goede, Pierre Guillet de Monthoux, Jef Huysmans, Iver B. Neumann, Mathias Leese, Emma Mc Cluskey, Didier Bigo, Sven Opitz, Thomas Bonacker, Delf Rothe, Dagmar Rychnovska and Sam Weiss Evans for their comments on earlier versions of this argument.


Austin, Jonathan Luke and Leander, Anna. (2022). “The State of the Sublime: Aesthetic Protocols and Global Security,” Millennium: Journal of International Studies, in press.


You can read The State of the Sublime below or download a copy here.