The Politics of Whitelisting: Regulatory Work and Topologies in Commercial Security

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This article looks closely at the politics of whitelists in commercial security. It argues that whitelists are essential for the current transformations in regulatory politics in which Codes of Conduct, Best Practices, Benchmarks and Standards are replacing more conventional, legally binding forms of regulation. The article traces how whitelists are tied to these transformations. The account is organized around how the practical, pragmatic and poetic character of lists (Umberto Eco) fashion the work and topological imprint (Manuel DeLanda) of whitelists in commercial security specifically. The article directs attention to the politics of the work and topological imprint of whitelists. This politics is neither hidden nor invisible yet it remains largely unnoted. It is dispersed, mundane and unspectacular. The whitelists are akin to minions whose activities are turning softly regulated commercial security into an infernal alternative (imagery borrowed from Pignarre and Stengers). As minions, whitelists appear insignificant when looked at in isolation. However, by describing their work as a decentralized, disjointed and disorganized group, this article shows their significance for the politics of regulation in commercial security. It advances a conceptualization of this politics and a theorization of its dynamics of relevance for engaging the politics of lists also elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)48-66
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Lists
  • Commercial security
  • Material agency
  • Topology
  • New materialism

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