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Dossier coordinated by Frédéric OCQUETEAU and Sébastien-Yves LAURENT

This call for proposals of the journal Champ Pénal / Penal Field focuses on the issues of a better knowledge of the activities and practices of the intelligence services in Western democracies. It seems that the dominant values of liberal democracy impose strong constraints on states, mainly around the control / advertising / transparency tryptic. Intelligence services, a major component of the "secret state", are part of a singular state rationality that is now being worked on by new categories and disciplines. The presuppositions were largely formulated at the 15th congress of the AICLF in Versailles in May 2016, in the continuation of which this appeal intends to take place.
For a long time the blind spot of the social sciences, the "secret state" began to emerge from its opacity in the French-speaking world, while the "anglosphere" had accumulated a certain number of achievements on this subject, without the interrogations on the State were at the heart of their subject. While law and administrative science have remained relatively dogmatic in France in their analysis of its contours, it is historians, now questioning abundant archival materials, who were the first to break the essentialist representations of the "secret state".

Many historical researches, far from being exhausted, show now rather successive sedimentation phenomena within the dedicated administrations. They introduce and highlight, within each national space, important phenomena of feedback, both from the point of view of the progressive shifts of the "clandestine secret state" to the "legal secret state", and of the renewal of their clandestine practices, in the changing play of their perpetual overlap.

Faced with the risks and threats of an increasingly open and interconnected world, new scientific challenges are on the agenda for analyzing the functioning of "secret bureaucracies", which require us to ask ourselves new epistemological questions.
To what extent, for example, can the critical social sciences decrypting the modalities of contemporary international policing (securitization in particular) be constructive in the search for better military, police and societal resilience when the vulnerabilities of networks are affected from bottom to top?

In addition to the immense question of the management of so-called "natural" and / or "accidental" risks, intelligence studies (most often from politicians, internationalists and criminologists of the Anglo-Saxon world) especially mobilized by the objectives of the fight against terrorism, and often annexed by lobbies of "experts" or think tanks associated with powerful industrial interests. However, it is not certain that the critical social sciences know how to resist these temptations themselves. It is important, at least, that they question their own assumptions of neutrality towards States or NGOs, and make a special effort to better position their knowledge within the governance of global security at sub-national and supra-national levels.

Faced with the emergence and expansion of a confrontational cyberspace in which a fierce fight against cyber terrorism, cybercrime, destabilization of vital enterprises, industrial espionage, or sabotage, the critical social sciences not only whether there is still a thought in possible action around the innumerable attacks on the privacy of the civilian populations that these threats seem to allow (at the time of the "bulk access" and of an information now algorithmic), but also what the notions of "private spheres" mean. As regards the fight against cybercrime, for example, if international bodies have played their role early enough as alerts on the dangers involved, critical scientific research has appeared to be falling behind in this the difference of other contexts, American, Canadian and British.

It is important to bridge this relative lag by also asking us whether the disenchantment associated with the lifting of the veil linked to the practical functioning of "secret bureaucracies" and / or intelligence polices helps to make them more effective, because less opaque, less partitioned, more discussed. And at what price?

In summary, three main entries structure this call for proposals:

1 / When "intelligence" is increasingly understood by national security issues, how are "intelligence bureaucracies" recombined with other police agencies or military agencies (border police, criminal police, military peace strategists, etc.)?

2 / What is known about the current functioning of intelligence bureaucracies and secret action today, and what is the meaning of ethical and accountability issues among members of the "intelligence community"?

3 / What is the role of intelligence in an open environment today through the media and social networks? A destabilization linked to a greater transparency on the inflation of threats and / or new strategies for adaptation and strengthening of national security? Which ones?


Proposals may be submitted in English or French.

Proposals for contributions

The expected size for an article is between 8,000 and 15,000 words, or between approximately 45,000 and 85,000 characters. The articles must conform to the rules of presentation of the journal which can be consulted at the following address:

How and when to submit articles

A title and abstract of the proposed article (+ 5 keywords) must be submitted no later than November 15, 2017 (approximately 500 signs).

A proposal for an article must be submitted by 15 March 2018 at the latest.

In both cases, please send the texts to the following two addresses:

  • cnrs
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