Insecurity and the Invisible: The Challenge of Spiritual (In)Security

Jonathan Fisher, Cherry Leonardi

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The search for security has become an almost permanent feature of the contemporary lived experience and an ‘operative logic’ for states across the globe (Massumi, 2015). The modern study – and practice – of security has, nonetheless, been largely concerned with the protection, preservation and sustaining of the material, the tangible and the visible. For many people around the world, however, feelings of security also derive from understandings of an individual or community’s relationships with invisible and spiritual forces. Religious devotion and divine protection represent a central plank of security for many, just as fears of divine retribution, demonic possession or witchcraft feature as a central dimension of insecurity for many others. This remains, however, a significant blindspot in much of Security Studies – and, indeed, often eludes and challenges state authority as much as it intersects with and edifies it. Drawing on fieldwork undertaken in northwestern Uganda, this study reflects critically on the provenance and implications of this and argues for an expanded understanding of what “counts” as (in)security. In doing so, the article emphasizes the global character of spiritual (in)security and the challenges such an understanding of (in)security poses to longstanding scholarly and practitioner associations of (in)security with state authority.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Early online date21 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Dec 2020


  • Human security
  • insecurity
  • international security
  • South Sudan
  • spiritual insecurity
  • Uganda


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