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The geography of pre-criminal space: epidemiological imaginations of radicalisation risk in the UK Prevent Strategy, 2007–2017

Critical Studies on TerrorismJournal abstract

This article explores geographical and epistemological shifts in the deployment of the UK Prevent strategy, 2007–2017. Counter-radicalisation policies of the Labour governments (2006–2010) focused heavily upon resilience-building activities in residential communities. They borrowed from historical models of crime prevention and public health to imagine radicalisation risk as an epidemiological concern in areas showing a 2% or higher demography of Muslims. However, this racialised and localised imagination of pre-criminal space was replaced after the election of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010. Residential communities were then de-emphasised as sites of risk, transmission and pre-criminal intervention. The Prevent Duty now deploys counter-radicalisation through national networks of education and health-care provision. Localised models of crime prevention (and their statistical, crime prevention epistemologies) have been de-emphasised in favour of big data inflected epistemologies of inductive, population-wide “safeguarding”. Through the biopolitical discourse of “safeguarding vulnerable adults”, the Prevent Duty has radically reconstituted the epidemiological imagination of pre-criminal space, imagining that all bodies are potentially vulnerable to infection by radicalisers and thus warrant surveillance.