From Non-places to Non-Events: The Airport Security Checkpoint

Pütz O (2012)
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 41(2): 154-188.

Journal Article | Published | English

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Abstract
In this article I raise the question of how individuals avoid interaction in spite of bodily proximity. I consider the empirical case of the airport security checkpoint. Drawing on participant observation of nine different airports, my research focuses on the security checkpoints of a small German airport. I suggest that the security checkpoint functions as a junction of security and mobility where screeners and travelers cannot avoid physical contact. Guided by the insights of Goffman and Augé, my analysis reveals that practices akin to civil inattention, which are based on the avoidance of interaction, create the experience of a non-place through “non-events.” A precondition for non-events is the standardization of procedures at the checkpoint, which creates a visual and sequential order. Strict procedural rules allow screeners and travelers to disconnect the body of the traveler temporarily from the traveler as an individual. Screeners and travelers practically achieve this disconnection by minimizing face-to-face interaction, thereby avoiding problematic definitions of the situation. This practice, however, results in discrimination against travelers who are unable or unwilling to present their body as a normalized and passive body. My findings thus point to the ability of organizationally framed settings, like the security checkpoint, to deviate from public life, while also addressing the limits of such a deviation. In concluding, I discuss the utility of the concept of non-places along with the merits of interactional analysis for understanding consequences of technological and procedural change. I also consider the efficiency of security practices from a dramaturgical perspective.
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Pütz O. From Non-places to Non-Events: The Airport Security Checkpoint. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 2012;41(2):154-188.
Pütz, O. (2012). From Non-places to Non-Events: The Airport Security Checkpoint. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 41(2), 154-188.
Pütz, O. (2012). From Non-places to Non-Events: The Airport Security Checkpoint. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 41, 154-188.
Pütz, O., 2012. From Non-places to Non-Events: The Airport Security Checkpoint. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 41(2), p 154-188.
O. Pütz, “From Non-places to Non-Events: The Airport Security Checkpoint”, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol. 41, 2012, pp. 154-188.
Pütz, O.: From Non-places to Non-Events: The Airport Security Checkpoint. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 41, 154-188 (2012).
Pütz, Ole. “From Non-places to Non-Events: The Airport Security Checkpoint”. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 41.2 (2012): 154-188.
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