Red-zoning: Spatial logics, the prototype and colour-coded cartographies of insecurity

Ari Jerrems, Nicolas Lemay-Hébert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Red-zoning emerged as a key security practice in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, with colour-coded security zones defining the spatial dimensions of diverse restrictions. However, red-zoning, understood as the cartographic practice of ascribing the colour red to a geographically defined area, has a long history. Prior to the pandemic, red zones were already being established and delimited in diverse locations around the globe. The spatial form of the red zone has recently been taken as paradigmatic of specific conceptions of security and insecurity in the present. However, as we demonstrate in this article, red zones operate in diverse ways across a wide array of fields including policing, military intervention and hazard and disaster risk analysis. This article seeks to make sense of the contemporary use of red zones and analyse the logics of security and politics underpinning them, without reducing the rationality of red zones to a singular overarching narrative or wallowing in their irreconcilable complexity. Rather than encountering the logics of red-zoning fully formed, we suggest that it is more fruitful to track their formulation through transversal connections and contested situations. We provide a conceptual framework for doing so through the notion of the prototype. In contrast to accounts that take spatial forms as paradigms of the security logics of the present, the prototype allows us to explore how ideas and practices develop through dispersed and contested interventions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2024

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