Urban and Urbanization

Never mind the bollards: The politics of policing car attacks through the securitisation of crowded urban places

This paper follows an example of security bollarding in response to car attacks, now widely offered as a solution to the ‘new normal’ use of motor vehicles as weapons for terrorist attacks in crowded urban places. We examine the relations between the specificities of an attack in Melbourne in 2017, where bollards were presented as regrettable but necessary. We explore how improvisations softened the political impact of this target hardening through an aesthetic harm reduction called bollart, and we give attention to how bollarding is aligned with global logistics, governing social complexity by securing circulation. Finally, we analyse how the bollard minded the concerns of its publics by establishing an agentic relay of responsibilisation. In policing car attacks by securitising, the dream of security and the nightmare of catastrophe were patiently translated back into ‘business as usual’ through a set of measures that deflected risks and costs: by hedging, through building resilience, by absorbing semiotic flak and preventing responsibility from resting with any ‘one’. The bollard provided a way to govern complexity by policing terror in public spaces – in the absence of the police, or a shared vision of justice.

more articles from

Volume 37 Issue 6

Explore our Topics

Though not an exhaustive list, these are many of the main areas we cover.