This article illustrates the multiple ways in which anthropology graduate students crossed the boundaries of educational discourses by encouraging themselves, other students, activists and community leaders to speak in dialogical contexts (Giroux 2005: 73). They did this through the organisation of the Interrogating Diversity Conference. The authors organised this conference in March 2007 at the American University, Washington, DC, to expand scholarship on surveillance and policing in an egalitarian forum. We discuss how students can engage their departments and faculty in building the students' knowledge of both anthropological theories and methodology through shared scholarship. We show how students can 'apply' anthropology to audiences, which will in turn influence policy decision making. In addition, the authors explore how academics can transform knowledge sharing into tools that shape broader political and social dialogue.
Maria-Amelia Viteri and Aaron Tobler
Ira J. Allen
Surveillance now is ubiquitous—each of us is decomposed along multiple axes into discrete data points, and then recomposed on screens and in combinatory algorithms that organize our life chances. Such surveillance is directly screened in popular culture, however, quite rarely. It is hard to see ubiquitous surveillance, and the harder something powerful is to see, the more powerful it tends to be. The essays of this Screen Shot offer perspective on various concrete instances of contemporary surveillance, both ubiquitous and granular, and in so doing offer tools for negotiating its suffusive presence in and organization of our lives.
Damien Smith Pfister
In the wake of the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, the Trump Administration floated the creation of a new governmental agency named HARPA, the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency, modeled after DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, that could explore novel ways of curtailing gun violence. For an administration unwilling to entertain serious legislation to address the problem of gun violence in the United States, HARPA offered a way to appear to be doing something about gun violence. HARPA, advocates maintained, could house a project called SAFEHOME, an acronym for “Stopping Aberrant Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes.” SAFEHOME would use “breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence”; the proposal would draw on data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo, and Google Home to predict when someone might be on the cusp of mass violence (Alemany 2019). The guiding assumption of SAFEHOME is that surveillance of this biophysical data, combined with extant surveillance of textual messaging, search patterns, social networking sites, and discussion boards would alert law enforcement officials to a prospective shooter. Think Minority Report (2002, Steven Spielberg) with digital surveillance technology playing the role of psychic precogs. SAFEHOME is probably (hopefully) a nonstarter in serious conversations about gun violence, given the tenuous link between mental health, physical disposition, and violence; the inevitability of data-profiling being articulated to minoritized subjects and false positives (imagine the first time SAFEHOME flags a SWAT team on someone having sex) and obvious concerns about such an invasive surveillance regime. But the very fact that a program like SAFEHOME is posed as a potentially credible solution points to a dimension of surveillance that complements this forum’s discussion of ubiquity: granularity.
Laura A. Sparks
Relying on select US government Torture Memos, this article develops the term “surveillance time” to highlight the ways in which surveillance practices, in this case within the material confines of post-9/11 detention centers, come to threaten humans’ subjectivities through temporal disruption and manipulation. While surveillance has lately been understood in digital terms, such as in corporations’ data-mining practices and in technologies like facial-recognition software, we should not neglect its material, embodied dimensions. Surveillance time ultimately asks us to reconsider how monitoring and information-harvesting practices blur the boundaries between human bodies and data. Attention to the relationship between torture and surveillance also opens up new possibilities for understanding the now-ubiquitous monitoring strategies integrated into everyday life.
Political Rhetoric at the Center of a Technological Project
This article gives a detailed account of the political processes and stages involved in the implementation of video surveillance devices in two major Portuguese cities, Oporto and Lisbon. It seeks to draw two main conclusions regarding the introduction of these systems in public areas and the developments that they have undergone over the period under analysis. The first is that installing these devices reflects a political response designed to provide a hasty solution to a social phenomenon—fear—that is largely subjective. The second is that the generalized perception as to the uncertainty of the effectiveness of these systems explains the lack of consistency and coordination in their implementation. The article concludes by discussing fear and insecurity in the context of concerns for a more efficient justice system.
Neoliberal policies in teacher education marginalise faculty voice, narrow conceptions of teaching and learning and redefine how we know ourselves, our students and our work. Pressured within audit culture and the constant surveillance of accountability regimes to participate in practices that dehumanise, silence and de-form education, teacher educators are caught between compliance and complicity or the potential and risks of resistance. Written from my lived experience within the neoliberal regime of teacher education, this article examines the vulnerabilities, fears and risks that shape our choices, as well as the possibilities for ethical, answerable action.
The origin story is an important element for any superhero/villain, as it provides context for a character’s seemingly out-of-this-world abilities. A radioactive spider bit Spiderman, and the Penguin was bullied in his youth. It can also be beneficial for surveillance scholars, inasmuch as it provides context for a once invisible but superhuman body of digital information that circulates as a proxy for us in digital milieus. This body is best understood through contemporary surveillance practices, yet metaphors of the panopticon and George Orwell’s 1984 proliferate in the surveillant imagination. I argue here that mapping an origin story onto a view of our data as a superhuman body not only creates a tangible representation of surveillance, but it also emphasizes and animates alternative surveillance theories useful for circulation in the surveillant imagination.
A. James McAdams
Intelligence and law enforcement agencies in western democracies are turning increasingly to electronic surveillance tools in their efforts to identify and combat new terrorist threats. But this does not mean that they are equally equipped to undertake these measures. As the author shows by comparing surveillance activities in three countries—Great Britain, the United States, and Germany—the Federal Republic's more restrictive legal norms and institutions provide its government with much less freedom of maneuver than its allies.
A Political Experiment with IBM Machines during the Algerian War
The Paris police faced considerable problems in trying to identify migrant workers who, during the Algerian War, provided a support base for the Front de libération nationale. In order to overcome the failings of manual card-index systems (fichiers) the Préfecture of Police experimented in 1959-62 with IBM punch-card machines. The origin of these powerful identification techniques can be traced back to the inter-war statistical services headed by René Carmille. Although such methods were banned after the Liberation because of their repressive potential, they were discretely revived to track Algerians. Although the experiment proved successful, the proliferation of numerous decentralized fichiers continued to make the process of identifying wanted Algerians slow and cumbersome and this enabled FLN clandestine networks to survive intact to the end of the Algerian War. However, while rapidly superceded by true computers, the punch-card experiment was a precursor of contemporary, high-speed "Panoptican" systems and the computer driven" "révolution identitaire".
Amateur Radio and the Politics of Aural Surveillance in France, 1921-1940
Derek W. Vaillant
As France wrestles over the uses and societal impact of digital media and the Internet, it is instructive to recall another era of communications innovation, namely the introduction of interwar radio to the French public, and the government's reaction to controversial applications by the citizenry. Recent scholarship has underscored the importance of interwar radio broadcasting to France and its territories. Less explored, however, is the work of amateur user/developers who shaped the radio medium as an instrument of speaking, as well as listening. Determined to manage applications of radio, the French Interior Ministry formed a Police de l'Air to monitor France's airwaves, including the activities of amateur radio users (i.e., hams), whose lawful (and sometimes unlawful) use of point-to-point and broadcast communication had begun to significantly disrupt the government's effort to dictate the future forms and uses of radio. Against a backdrop of political crisis and attempts to manage print and electronic communication and dissent, the skirmishes between the Police de l'Air and amateur radio users reveal historical aspects of contemporary debates over use, access, and qualifications to speak and be heard in mediated cultural and political settings.