The sacred, the secular, and the profane: introducing Agamben’s ‘profane philosophy’ to security studies and the case of Israel’s natural gas discoveries

  • Alexei TsinovoiEmail author


In security studies, the dichotomy between ‘security’ and ‘regular’ politics has been effectively challenged in recent years, both theoretically and empirically. To address this challenge, the article develops Giorgio Agamben’s concepts of the sacred, the profane and the secular into three ideal types of power relations, which can provide a basis for critical re-formulation of the concepts of securitisation and desecuritisation. The article illustrates the analytical purchase of these ideal types through an analysis of the politics of Israel’s natural gas discoveries. Due to neoliberal reforms, Israel’s national security has been treated increasingly through the ‘regular’ rules of the market, while the market has been elevated beyond the ‘regular’ rules of politics. The article analyses how formerly separated domains merge, raising questions about what ‘regular’ politics is today, how it is different from security, and how their exclusionary practices can be contested effectively. The article demonstrates how Agamben’s concepts improve our understanding of contemporary configurations of security and politics, highlighting that what is at stake today in security analysis is not only the shifting of issues from security to ‘regular’ politics, but the recovery of their Political essence by means of profanation.


Agamben desecuritisation Israel profanation secularisation securitisation 



I am grateful to the following for their detailed feedback and support: the three anonymous reviewers, the editors of JIRD, Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Line Bahner, Simone Molin Friis, Lene Hansen, Bertel Teilfeldt Hansen, Johan Spanner, Jeppe Strandsbjerg, and Michael C. Williams. This article was carried out with the support of the project ‘Images and International Security’ funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research—Social Sciences, Grant number DFF–1327-00056B.


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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark

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