Investigating private security organisations in South Africa and the UK

Monday, 10 April 2017

Research investigating private security organisations in South Africa and the UK

Private security companies constitute a growing, billion dollar global industry. The British security industry has an emerging reputation as a global leader. There is growing support of the government for exporting security, while South Africa is among the countries with the fastest growth of private security organisations.

Research by Dr Juliette Koning, in cooperation with partners named below, will focus on how private security organisations are organised internally and externally and the impact of this developing sector on perceptions and experiences of security in both the UK and South Africa.

The Research Excellence Award will support Dr Koning to strengthen research partnerships and in expanding the pilot into more substantial research. This will include a focus on the impact of this growing sector on wider society and changed perceptions and experiences of security in both the UK and South Africa.

This research builds on an international and interdisciplinary pilot, during which Dr Koning and Professor Noortmann (Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University) conducted interviews with a representative of the sector in South Africa (March 2016) and the UK (April/May 2016). The South African research partner is the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership in Africa (SIGLA), Stellenbosch University.

The pilot research has been very positively received by the sector because it addresses interdisciplinary questions - combining organisation studies, military and security sciences, and law and politics - which are rarely combined in one study.

These questions also guide the follow-up research:

  • the codification and regulation of the sector
  • the ethical and social responsibilities of private security companies
  • public-private partnerships in security governance
  • stigmatisation of the sector and its image of ‘mercenaries’
  • organisational practices and cultures of private security companies.

An underlying and politically relevant question is to what extent this sector should be ‘allowed’ to regulate itself and how this growing sector impacts on the idea of secure societies?

Dr Koning, Readerin Organisation Studies at Oxford Brookes Business School, isone of the recipients of the University’s Research Excellence Awards. TheAwards were launched last year as part of Oxford Brookes’ commitment to supporting research-active academics and in meeting the aims of the recently revised Research and Knowledge Exchange Strategy 2016-2020.

Research Excellence Awards 2016

After a career in social anthropology, Dr Koning turned her academic interest to organisation studies, in particular the study of small business and private security organisations in Asia, UK and South Africa. Her research focuses on the complexities and dynamics of how things work in organisations as well as on the relationship between organisations and the external environment. Dr Koning combines anthropological theories and concepts with business, organisation and management issues.

The Research Excellence Award will support Dr Koning to strengthen research partnerships and in expanding the pilot into more substantial research. This will include a focus on the impact of this growing sector on wider society and changed perceptions and experiences of security in both the UK and South Africa.

Further information on Dr Juliette Koning is available on her profile webpage.