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This module introduces students to the area of surveillance studies, an exciting and interdisciplinary field of study that engages with the ways in which surveillance shapes, permeates, and impacts everyday life. Some topics that shape the study of surveillance centre on the management of everyday life, as well as spaces of exception, such as: gender, personal data, privacy, race, security, and terrorism. Students will engage with foundational theories, key concepts, and empirical studies of surveillance.
Almost every aspect of contemporary life is permeated by multiple forms of surveillance. These might be connected to security practices: such as airport security screening, to CCTV cameras, to ID cards. However, surveillance is increasingly occurring outside of the realm of security: from all kinds of data collection and online monitoring, to consumer loyalty programs, to fitness tracking devices. Many individuals willingly participate in surveillance, sacrificing their data and privacy for the seductive aspects of a given program or system. However, the constant collection of personal information has a profound effect on our social experiences, and our private lives. However, these systems form an information infrastructure that underpins and structures contemporary societies. Most profoundly, perhaps, is that while surveillance touches everyone, its hand is heaviest in communities already disadvantaged by their poverty, race, religion, ethnicity, and immigration status. Technology and stealth allow government watchers to remain unobtrusive when they wish to be so, but their blunter tools—stop-and-frisk, suspicion-less search, recruitment of snitches, compulsory questioning on intimate subjects—are conspicuous in the lives of those least empowered to object. From the mundane to the extraordinary, to domestic policing and international security, this course will cover the breadth of surveillance topics while providing foundational theory building in this interdisciplinary area.
Any aspect of this module may be changed in any given academic year, subject to the discretion of the module lecturer.