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Elbe (2008). Risking lives: AIDS, security and three concepts of risk

Bibliographic details:

Elbe, S. (2008). Risking lives: AIDS, security and three concepts of risk. Security Dialogue, 39(2-3), 177-198.‏‏


This article analyses the conjunctures of risk and security that have recently emerged in the securitization of HIV/AIDS. Although these partially corroborate Ulrich Beck's notion of risk society, important elements of the securitization of HIV/AIDS resist his understanding of risk as a 'danger of modernization'. The article therefore turns to François Ewald's alternative theorization of risk as a 'neologism of insurance', and shows that insurance is a risk-based security practice widely used to manage the welfare of populations. Such a biopolitical approach to risk is also valuable for analyzing the securitization of HIV/AIDS, which, even though it is unfolding outside the domain of insurance, similarly draws upon multiple risk categories ('security risks', 'risk groups' and 'risk factors') in efforts to improve the collective health of populations. Analyzed through a wider concept of risk as a 'biopolitical rationality', the conjuncture of risk and security in the securitization of HIV/AIDS thus emerges as a principal site where the institutions of sovereign power in international relations are being absorbed and integrated within a wider biopolitical economy of power.