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Watching from Below: Racialized Surveillance and Vulnerable Sousveillance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020

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Abstract

By relying on Foucauldian panopticism as a universally explanatory theory, surveillance studies has collapsed two separate issues: the power relations between watcher and watched and the visibility or nonvisibility of the watcher. The presumption that the watcher's visibility or nonvisibility is irrelevant is especially dangerous for observers of color, who are already more vulnerable because of racial hypervisibility. This essay examines the simultaneous operation of surveillance (watching from above) and sousveillance (watching from below), both predicated on racial hypervisibility. To demonstrate the continuity of racial hypervisibility across a broad historical period, I compare the risks taken by sousveillants of color making smart‐phone recordings of police brutality in the twenty‐first century with the dangers faced by visible African American sousveillants in nineteenth‐century slave narratives by Charles Ball, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Jacobs. (KR)

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 2020

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