Ontological counter-securitization in asymmetric power relations: Lessons from Israel

Amal Jamal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article seeks to enhance the understanding of ontological counter-securitization and the constitution of securitized subjects in the context of asymmetrical power relations. It builds on the available critique of the conceptualization of counter-securitization and the differentiation between physical and ontological securitization in order to facilitate a better understanding of the identity formation of securitized subjects as resistance. It argues that whereas the current literature deals with the differentiation between physical and ontological dimensions of securitization and recently with the meaning of counter-securitization, nonetheless the treatment of the later as a resistance is limited. It remains in the realm of the physical dimensions of securitization, rendering ontological ones unaddressed. The article argues that ontological counter-securitization emerges as an analytical category when the mismatch between the physical and ontological securitization policies is utilized as a structural opportunity for resisting asymmetrical power relations. The article exemplifies its theoretical arguments through exploring the complicated securitization policies of Israel toward its Palestinian citizens and the resistance of the latter to such policies. It argues that despite the fact that the Israeli physical and ontological securitization of its Palestinian citizens have not matched, they have been constructed as complementary and therefore have not been morally justifiable. This lack of moral justifiability has had repercussions on the legitimacy of the securitization policy, leading to the rise of the securitized subject as a securitizing agency that is able to practice counter-securitization. Since the power relations between the state and its Palestinian citizens has been asymmetrical, the latter limited their counter-securitization to the ontological dimension, manifested through politicizing their indigenous identity. The conceptualization of politicizing indigeneity as an ontological counter-securitization strategy of resistance has not been addressed in the available literature on securitization theory. Thus, exploring its analytical merits is a central goal of this article.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)932-956
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Studies Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Asymmetric power relations
  • Counter-securitization
  • Ontological securitization


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