Tracing the political history of the global concept of ‘security’ through a variety of national and regional inflections in Indonesia, this paper argues for the analytical usefulness of the concept of ‘vernacular security’. Entailed in this is a proposal to treat the concept of security as a socially situated and discursively defined category that needs a politically contextualised explication rather than as an analytical category that needs refined definition and consistent use. While the securitisation of global governance that we have witnessed in recent years is built on new ontological ideas about what it means to be safe, global governance is not seamless in ist global extension. The apparent universalism of the ontology and politics of global governance therefore breaks down into a more complex pattern upon closer inspection. Based on material from Indonesia, the paper suggests that the ‘onto-politics’ of security have global, national and local refractions, the interplay between which might be worth a second look.