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Voluntary Surveillance



Politics that are concerned with willful submission reinforce the worst form of gender violence by denying its existence


Dubrofsky & Wood 2015 [Rachel Dubrofsky Associate Professor (and Affiliated Associate Professor, Departments of Humanities & Cultural Studies and Women's & Gender Studies) critical/cultural studies, media studies, gender, race, digital media, reality TV, surveillance , and Megan Wood Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, my research focuses on critical/cultural studies of communication and feminist surveillance studies, with particular attention to how surveillance functions in and through online social spaces. "Gender, Race, and Authenticity." Feminist Surveillance Studies (2015): 93-106.//KHS]

As discussed in the introduction to this volume, the rich body of feminist scholarship on practices of looking has been concerned for quite some time with the implications of surveillance practices for gendered and racialized bodies, though the term surveillance is not explicitly used. Building on Laura Mulvey’s influential work on the gaze (1975), John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972), Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright’s Practices of Looking (2001), and Shoshana Amielle Magnet’s (2007) work, the framing of Twitter activities of celebrity women by tabloid magazines can be usefully theorized using Mulvey’s notion of the male gaze in film. The male gaze regulates and structures its object within a social-historical system of gendered domination, tying “woman down to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning” (Mulvey 1975, 6). Anne Kaplan notes that even though one does not literally or necessarily have to be “male” to own and activate the gaze, the male gaze functions as “masculine” (1983, 30): it occupies a masculine subject position—one that objectifies the image gazed upon. We pick up Magnet’s (2007) work examining the activities of users on the website suicidegirls.com, which looks at what happens when the “objects” of the gaze are also the producers of the gaze, also what we look at when examining the ways in which the activities of women celebrities on Twitter are framed in the tabloids. The celebrity Twitter user is a “prosumer” (blurring between the roles of consumer and producer: a consumer who is also a producer of the product being consumed) (Tapscott and Williams 2007), and because what celebrities tweet is presented as under their control—not an image produced by a filmmaker, for instance—one cannot assert that they are being wrongfully objectified by others. This instantiates claims to authenticity and agency, since the celebrity creates her own image. Unlike in conventional notions of the gaze, where the object of the gaze is not part of the production process, the women posting photographs of themselves on Twitter are framed by the tabloids as active participants in the process of producing the images (even if, in fact, their accounts may be managed by a pr team). This is similar to what Magnet (2007) observes with respect to suicidegirls.com. What does it mean that these women are presented as the subjects and objects of their own desiring: “owning” the gaze and explicitly aiding in reproducing it? Mulvey situates the image produced on the film screen as part of a “hermetically sealed world . . . indifferent to the presence of the audience, producing for them a sense of separation and playing on their voyeuristic phantasy” (1975, 9). On Twitter, this is not the setup: users bring others—in real time—into their private (ostensibly “real”) worlds. As well, the position of viewer and of the person gazed at can change (a gazed at person becomes a viewer when he or she looks at a photograph another person posts on Twitter, for instance). However, because we are looking at how tabloids, in their stories about celebrities, discuss photographs posted by celebrities, the dynamic outlined by Mulvey remains: readers gaze upon the photographs reproduced in the tabloids, producing a setup akin to a “hermetically sealed world” with a separation between the imag and the audience. But unlike in the scenario outlined by Mulvey, the people being looked at are real people—not actors performing a role in a film. As well, while Mulvey notes that in scripted films the spectator is given “an illusion of looking in on a private world” (ibid.), on Twitter and in the tabloid stories about celebrity use of Twitter this illusion is reconfigured, since the private world looked at is populated by real people doing real things (rather than actors performing a role). The setup may be contrived and orchestrated by the celebrity and a team of pr workers, but similar to reality tv, there is what Dubrofsky (2011a) has elsewhere termed a “call to the real.” The call to the real pinpoints the idea that despite the constructed context of surveillance on reality tv shows, and the fact of editing and labor by tv workers to shape the final product, the element of real people filmed doing real things animates a sense that underneath it all there is something “real”: “real, authentic, surveilled selves are constructed” (ibid., 22) at the same time as the genre denies this claim by declaring that reality tv can access the real. Megan M. Wood (2013) coins the term “call to authenticity” to describe, with particular emphasis on notions of authenticity, how Twitter animates the same paradox: the more one is seen as disclosing via surveillance technologies like Twitter, the more one is constructed as being “real.” People who are authentic despite surveillance are presented as most authentic. For instance, when a tweeting celebrity gets “in trouble” because of what she tweets, she is seen as more authentic because, despite the context of surveillance, she was completely herself and behaved as if she were not under surveillance; or she is presented as overcome by real, strong emotion—feelings so real that she expressed them despite the context of surveillance (and possible negative consequences). The call to authenticity pinpoints the correlating relationship between the extent of personal disclosure (including “slipups”) and perceived authenticity: the more one is seen as disclosing in ways that belie the structure of surveillance of Twitter, the more one is presented as being “real” (authentic). Another noteworthy difference between Mulvey’s theorizing about the gaze in film and how celebrities are configured in tabloid stories about their Twitter activities is in how the feminine is framed. Mulvey positions the feminine onscreen as passive, though inviting of the gaze, but in tabloid articles women celebrities are constructed as specifically active and agentic in putting their images on display via Twitter and in their invitation of the gaze (they post pictures themselves—they are not unknowingly captured in a paparazzi shot or passively filmed by a film camera). In her essay on body scanners, Rachel Hall explains that willfully submitting to airport security “is coded as ‘hip’ in the postfeminist spirit of agency and empowerment via preparation of the body in anticipation of the male gaze” (this volume, 00). Similarly, celebrities displaying their bodies on Twitter are presented as willing and self-aware participants in creating images to put on display and as actively fashioning the body for consumption (through exercise). We bring into the conversation feminist scholarship on postfeminism to highlight the ways Twitter is used in the tabloid articles to forefront hypersexualized femininity as a form of agentic empowerment through the call to authenticity.3 Briefly, postfeminism is a discourse as well as a popular cultural context where gender inequality is no longer an issue (McRobbie 2008), leaving a space for intensified and troubling stereotypes of femininity to thrive (Ringrose and Barajas 2011). The current cultural context of postfeminism implies that women self-representing online is empowering, giving them agency over their identity making.4 The call to authenticity in this context animates the idea that one “practices” female celebrity successfully by disclosing on Twitter (Marwick and boyd 2011), enabling representations of women who willingly subject themselves to the gaze as a form of agency. In so doing, women are both lauded (empowerment in self-representation) and responsible for the consequences of this display

Willful submission to surveillance practices normalizes white supremacist heterosexist patriarchy that renders black women as always-already submissive


Dubrofsky & Wood 2015 [Rachel Dubrofsky Associate Professor (and Affiliated Associate Professor, Departments of Humanities & Cultural Studies and Women's & Gender Studies) critical/cultural studies, media studies, gender, race, digital media, reality TV, surveillance , and Megan Wood Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, my research focuses on critical/cultural studies of communication and feminist surveillance studies, with particular attention to how surveillance functions in and through online social spaces. "Gender, Race, and Authenticity." Feminist Surveillance Studies (2015): 93-106.//KHS]

Twitter enables writers of tabloid articles to imbue white female celebrities with a particular kind of strategic postfeminist agency whereby they willingly put themselves on display and in so doing can be positioned as authentically desirous of the gaze through the work they do to cultivate this gaze. Kardashian, on the other hand, framed as a woman of color, is not afforded the same agency, her body articulated as naturally inviting the gaze regardless of her actions or desires. Nevertheless, in discussing photographs posted on Twitter by women celebrities, tabloid articles consistently reference the agency of each woman in inviting the gaze: they choose to post the photographs, they do so willingly. This rhetoric is not unlike “rape myth” discourse, in which a woman who previously consented to sex or a woman who dresses provocatively “asked for it” (Tazlitz 1999; Torrey 1991). In this case, the act of posting pictures of oneself on Twitter naturalizes white supremacist heterosexist patriarchy. The images are always already part of a misogynist culture, making it difficult to pinpoint the ways in which the visual display of women’s bodies is consistently problematic in a culture where women are disenfranchised. This enables a logic whereby women celebrities are agents in the stories produced about them, dislocating them from a cultural context in which women’s bodies are fetishized and obfuscates the demands to perform female celebrity in particular ways—authentic-seeming sexualized displays—facilitated by the use of social media. Underlying this presentation is the idea that feminism is obsolete for white women, since they have full control over the means of objectification: they are not being objectified by patriarchy (or the press); they are freely opting to fashion the images they put on display. For women of color, the picture is bleaker: they do not fully participate in their own objectification, but rather are always already there to be gazed upon with desire, regardless of their actions.


A2: Permutation

The state won’t solve sexual violence—calls to use the state maintains imperialism by controlling the way in which to speak about violence against women


Smith 2015 [Andrea an intellectual, feminist, and anti-violence activist. Smith's work focuses on issues of violence against women of color and their communities, specifically Native American women. A co-founder of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, the Boarding School Healing Project, and the Chicago chapter of Women of All Red Nations, Smith centers the experiences of women of color in both her activism and her scholarship. Formerly an assistant professor of American Culture and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Smith is currently an associate professor in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside.. "Not-Seeing." Feminist Surveillance Studies (2015): 21-38..//KHS]

Similarly, many native activists who organize around sexual violence in native communities frame their activist work from a decolonization perspective, yet the solutions that emerge from that work usually result in increased federal intervention in native communities, such as the recent Tribal Law and Order Act that was passed in the wake of Amnesty International’s report on sexual assault in Indian country, Maze of Injustice (K. Robertson 2012). Of course, native activists who engage in such policy work are not ignorant of the risks of advocating for changes in federal policies (Smith 2005b). They are aware of the contradiction of trying to further the long-term project of decolonization while attempting to secure some measure of safety for survivors of violence in the short term. They constantly struggle with the question of whether relying on state surveillance even as a short-term solution to violence diminishes the possibilities of developing alternative strategies which refuse settler colonial logics in the long term. It is important to note that the apparatus of settler colonial surveillance does not impact only native peoples. The “normalizing” society must necessarily inflict the logics of normalization on all peoples, not just on those who are “oppressed.” If it were only the oppressed who were subjected to normalizing logics, the logics would not seem “normal.” This is why the intent of genocide is not just to destroy native peoples, but to eliminate alternatives to the settler state for nonnative peoples. If alternatives to the white supremacist, capitalist, heteropatriarchal settler state were to persist, the settler state’s status as the prototype for normal would be at risk. Settler logics inform both how violence against native women is addressed, as well as how gender violence in general is addressed. Furthermore, the mainstream antiviolence movement relies on a settler framework for combating violence in ways that make it complicit in the state’s surveillance strategies. These strategies then inform how the mainstream movement manages and “sees” gender violence, while simultaneously preventing it from seeing other approaches to ending violence. For example, at an antiviolence conference I attended, the participants supported the war in Afghanistan because they believed it would liberate women from the violence of the Taliban; their reliance on statedriven surveillance strategies for addressing violence through the military and criminal-justice systems prevented them from seeing that militarism itself perpetuates violence against women. One of the reasons for the antiviolence movement’s investment in the state derives from its concerns with the private sphere. As Lyon notes, much of the focus of surveillance studies is on “privacy”—how the state monitors the individual lives of peoples.3 Of course, as feminist scholars argue, the assumption that the protection of privacy is an unmediated good is problematic, since the private sphere is where women are generally subjected to violence.4 And, as feminists of color in particular have noted, not all women are equally entitled to privacy. Saidiya Hartman points out that, on the one hand, the abuse and enslavement of African Americans was often marked as taking place in the private sphere and hence beyond the reach of the state to correct. And yet, paradoxically, the private space of black families was seen as an extension of the workplace and hence subject to police power (Hartman 1997, 160, 173). Anannya Bhattacharjee similarly recounts an incident in which a domestic worker complained to her social-justice organization that she was being abused by her white employer.5 When Bhattacharjee on behalf of the organization contacted the police to report the incident, she was told that “if her organization tried to intervene by rescuing this person, that would be trespassing: In this case, the privacy of these wealthy employers’ home was held to be inviolate, while the plight of an immigrant worker being held in a condition of involuntary servitude was not serious enough to merit police action. . . . The supposed privacy and sanctity of the home is a relative concept, whose application is heavily conditioned by racial and economic status” (Bhattacharjee 2000, 29). As Patricia Allard notes, women of color who receive public assistance are not generally deemed worthy of privacy—they are subjected to the constant surveillance of the state. Of course, all women seeking public services can be surveilled, but welfare is generally racialized in the public imaginary through the figure of the “welfare queen.” Andrea Ritchie (2006), Anannya Bhattacharjee (2001), and other scholars document how women of color, particularly those who are non-gender conforming, who seek police intervention in cases of domestic violence often find themselves subject to sexual assault, murder, and other forms of police-inflicted brutality. If the private sphere is not a place of safety and refuge, what then becomes the source of protection from violence in the home? The antiviolence movement has generally relied on the state. As a result, there is often a disconnect between racial-justice and gender-justice groups. Racial-justice groups focus on the state as an agent of violence from which they need protection. Largely white antiviolence groups, and for that matter, many women-of-color groups, have seen the state as the solution to addressing intercommunal gender violence (Richie 1996). As Bhattacharjee (2000) notes, this has put antiviolence groups in the problematic position of marching against police brutality while simultaneously calling on the police to solve the problem of sexual/domestic violence as if it were two different institutions. As one example, I attended a meeting of tribally based antiviolence advocates who were discussing the need to address gender violence from the perspective of tribal sovereignty, and when the time came to develop actual strategies for addressing violence, the response was to call for more fbi agents on the reservation. Gender violence thus stands as the exception to the rule of opposing state surveillance. In this setup, the state becomes the solution to violence, so antiviolence programs must adopt the surveillance strategies of the state when they provide services. For instance, many domestic violence shelters screen out women who are not documented, who have criminal histories, who are sex workers, or who have substance-abuse issues. One advocate told me that her program did background searches on potential clients and had them arrested if they had any outstanding warrants!6 This, despite the fact that these women have warrants out for their abusers and are trying to escape abusers who have forced them into criminal activity. Moreover, shelters are often run like prisons. As Emi Koyama brilliantly notes, women in shelters are constantly surveilled to make sure they conform to the behavior deemed fitting by the shelter staff. Koyama describes her experience in a shelter. I am a survivor of domestic violence. I am someone who has stayed in a shelter, back in 1994. My experience there was horrendous; I constantly felt the policing gaze of shelter workers across the half-open door, and feared “warnings” and punishments that seemed to be issued arbitrarily. No, to describe the practice as “arbitrary” would be inaccurate; it was clearly selective in terms of who gets them most frequently: the poor Black and Latina women with children, especially if they are in “recovery” from alcohol or drug “abuse.” Snitching on other residents was actively encouraged: residents were rewarded for reporting rule violations of other residents and their children, even when the allegations were not exactly accurate. I did not know whom to trust. Eventually, the feeling of constant siege by shelter staff and all the “crazymaking” interactions pushed me over the edge, and I cut myself with a knife. Not surprisingly, they put me in a mental hospital, effectively ending my stay at the shelter before I could find a permanent, safer space to live. Eventually, Koyama became involved in the antiviolence movement, where she worked for a shelter and found herself, against her politics, sometimes engaging in the same policing activities. When a woman who spoke Arabic called the shelter asking for services, Koyama’s supervisor told her to tell the survivor that she needed to find another shelter. Koyama complied. This episode marked my last day working at the domestic violence shelter, which is more than two years ago now, but I continue to ache from this experience. Of course, this was not the first time that I questioned how shelters were being ran. I questioned everything: its “clean and sober” policy regarding substance use, its policy against allowing women to monitor their own medications, its use of threats and intimidations to control survivors, its labeling of ordinary disagreements or legitimate complaints as “disrespectful communication,” its patronizing “life skills” and “parenting” classes, its seemingly random enforcement of rules that somehow always push women of color out of the shelter first. I hated just about everything that went on in a shelter, and I refused to participate in most of these. I never issued formal “warnings” against any of the residents, preferring instead to have dialogs about any problems as casually as possible. I pretended that I did not smell the alcohol in the women’s brea\\\ths so long as their behaviors did not cause any problems for other residents. I never ever walked a woman to the bathroom and watched her as she peed into a little cup for drug tests, as the shelter policy expected of me to do. I did everything I could to sabotage the system I viewed as abusive: I was disloyal. But in many other situations, I failed. To this day, I ask myself why I did not simply ignore my supervisor’s order on that day, let the woman come to the shelter and deal with the consequences later. (Koyama 2006, 215) Essentially, shelter staff take on the role of abusers or prison guards in the lives of survivors. Women-of-color advocates are in the difficult position of trying to dismantle the structures of settler colonialism and white supremacy in the long term, while securing safety for survivors of violence in the short term. Under these conditions of immediate threat, women of color will often become preoccupied with addressing immediate short-term crises. In addition, these state-driven surveillance strategies for addressing violence force us to see violence in specific ways that foreclose the possibility of seeing violence in other ways. In particular, these strategies frame survivors of violence as themselves the problem: survivors are “sick” and require healing from a professional who will monitor their behavior to ensure that they are healing properly. Those who do not “heal” are no longer deemed worthy of this “antiviolence” project. Thus, by seeing gender violence through the lens of the state, we can only see survivors as clients who need services, rather than as potential organizers who might dismantle social structures of violence. Indigenous feminism reshapes the manner in which we engage surveillance studies, demonstrating that focus on the surveillance strategies of the state obscure the fact that the state is itself a surveillance strategy. There is not a pure or benign state beyond its strategies of surveillance. Yet, the state, rather than being recognized for its complicity in gender violence, has become the institution promising to protect women from domestic and sexual violence by providing a provisional “sanctuary” of sorts from the now criminally defined “other” that is the perpetrator of gender violence (Richie 2000). As I have argued elsewhere (A. Smith 2005a), the state is largely responsible for introducing gender violence into indigenous communities as part of a colonial strategy that follows a logic of sexual violence. Gender violence becomes the mechanism by which U.S. colonialism is effectively and pervasively exerted on native nations (A. Smith 2005a). The complicity of the state in perpetrating gender violence in other communities of color, through slavery, prisons, and border patrol, is also well documented (Bhattacharjee 2001; Davis 2003, 1981; A. Smith 2005b). The state actually has no interest in gender or racial justice, since state laws are often, in practice, used against the people they supposedly protect. For instance, the New York Times recently reported that the effects of the strengthened anti-domestic violence legislation is that battered women kill their abusive partners less frequently; however, batterers do not kill their partners less frequently, and this is more true in black than in white communities (Butterfield 2000). With mandatory arrest laws, police officers frequently arrest those being battered rather than batterers. Thus, laws passed to protect battered women are actually protecting their batterers! Many scholars have analyzed the ineffectiveness of the criminal-justice system in addressing gender violence, particularly against poor women, women of color, sex workers, and queer communities (Richie 1996; A. Smith 2005b; Sokoloff 2005). The mainstream antiviolence movement’s reliance on policies embedded in state violence to solve the problem of gender violence depends on what David Kazanjian (2003) refers to as the “colonizing trick”: the liberal myth that the United States was founded on democratic principles that have eroded through post-9/11 policies, which obfuscates how the state was built on the pillars of capitalism, colonialism, and white supremacy. Reliance on state surveillance prevents us from seeing other possibilities for ending violence, such as through communal organization that might be able to address violence more effectively. This is apparent in the mandate of much surveillance studies, which tends to focus on curtailing state surveillance without questioning the state itself. Consequently, this work does not explore possibilities for different forms of governance, ones not based on the logics of patriarchal and colonial surveillance. The work of indigenous activists to develop indigenous nations that are not based on the principles of domination, violence, and control cannot be seen—even by antiviolence activists (A. Smith 2008). An evocative example is an experience I had working with the group Incite! Women of Color Against Violence. I was conducting a workshop on community accountability. We were discussing the following question: if there was violence in your community, is there anything you could do that would not involve primarily working with the police? During this discussion, one woman stated that she lived in an apartment complex in which a man was battering his partner. She did not know what do to do, because she did not trust the police, but she also did not want the abuse to continue. Her comment made me realize how much our reliance on the state has impacted not only survivors of violence but also people who might think to intervene. It did not occur to this woman—nor might it necessarily occur to many of us in a similar situation—to organize in the apartment complex to do something. The only potential interveners in this situation seems to be ourselves as individuals or the state. It seems like our only response is either a privatized response to violence or a communal one that is statedriven. The result is that not only do we not “see” other solutions to the problem of violence, but we also become absolved from having to see the violence in the first place. Essentially, the apparatus of state surveillance, which allows the state to see violence, absolves us from the responsibility of having to see it. A feminist approach to surveillance studies highlights not only the strategies of the state, but how people have internalized these same strategies, and it asks us to rethink our investment in the state. Without this intervention, the state is presumed to be our protector; we should only modify the manner in which the state protects. For example, during a survey I conducted for the Department of Justice on tribal communities’ response to sexual assault, I found that most communities had not developed a response, because they assumed the federal government was taking care of the problem. In fact, as Amnesty International later documented, the federal government very rarely prosecuted sexual assault crimes in Indian country (Amnesty International 2007). Because of an investment in the state, tribal governments had not invested in their own possibilities for addressing violence. When one asks the question “What can I do?,” the answer is likely to call the police or to do nothing. But when one asks the question “What can we do?,” a whole range of other possibilities arises. In fact, groups around the country have asked that question and have developed a variety of community-accountability models that do not rely primarily on police involvement (Chen et al. 2011).7 Similarly, many native activists, such as Sarah Deer (2009), are active in organizing tribal communities to develop their own responses to sexual violence. Of course, all of these models have their own challenges. For example, will community accountability models simply adopt the same strategies used by the state to address violence? How might these models develop without a romanticized notion of “community” that is not sexist, homophobic, or otherwise problematic—or the potentially problematic assumption that a “community” even exists in the first place? How might they address the immediate needs of survivors who may still require state intervention, even as they seek to eventually replace the state? These questions and others continue to inform the development of the community-accountability movement (Chen et al. 2011). After 9/11, even radical scholars framed George Bush’s policies as an attack on the U.S. Constitution. According to Judith Butler, Bush’s policies were acts against “existing legal frameworks, civil, military, and international” (2004, 57). Amy Kaplan similarly describes Bush’s policies as rendering increasingly more peoples under U.S. jurisdiction as “less deserving of . . . constitutional rights” (2005, 853). Thus, Bush’s strategies were deemed a suspension of law. Progressive activists and scholars accused him of eroding U.S. democracy and civil liberties. Under this framework, progressives are called in to uphold the law, defend U.S. democracy, and protect civil liberties against “unconstitutional” actions. Surveillance studies often carry similar presumptions. That is, this field is concerned with the “rapidly increasing influence of surveillance in our daily lives and in the operation of very large-scale operations” (Lyon 2007, 9). It is concerned with what is presumed to be the increasing erosion of civil liberties and the loss of privacy that this surveillance entails. It takes the state for granted, but is concerned that the state not overstep its proper boundaries. And yet, from the perspective of indigenous peoples, the eye of the state has always been genocidal, because the problem is not primarily the surveillance strategies of the state, but the state itself. If we were to employ a settler colonial analytic, we would see the growth in surveillance strategies less as a threat to the democratic ideals of the United States than as a fulfillment of them. As these surveillance strategies grow, they impact everyone, not just native peoples, because the logic of settler colonialism structures the world for everyone. In particular, surveillance strategies not only allow the state to see certain things, but prevent us from seeing the state as the settler colonial, white supremacist, and heteropatriarchal formation that it is.

A2: X community IS violent

Their focus on the violence that happens within colonized communities maintains the actuarial gaze that allow those in power to moralize individual actions while ignoring the structural position where violence in embedded


Jiwani 2015 [Yasmin Jiwani BA, Psychology, University of British Columbia MA, Sociology, Simon Fraser University PhD, Communications, Simon Fraser.; interests focus on the intersecting influences of race and gender within the context of media representations of racialized groups and violence against women. "Violating In/Visibilities." Feminist Surveillance Studies (2015): 79-92.//KHS]

Within surveillance studies, Foucault’s conceptualization of panopticism remains a central framework of analysis for scholars. While there has been much criticism of the overextension of this “paradigm” (see Haggerty 2006), my use of the concept of panopticism concerns the “circuits of communication” (Foucault 1995, 217) and their cumulative knowledge, which serves as a benchmark for how one “knows” the world and others within it. According to Foucault, panopticism is, “a functional mechanism that must improve the exercise of power by making it lighter, more rapid, more effective, a design of subtle coercion for a society to come” (ibid., 209). This power is evident in contemporary society with its pervasive mechanisms of surveillance ranging from identity cards and passports at borders to the security and traffic cameras populating urban landscapes (see Lyon 2006). It was these kinds of surveillance mechanisms that allowed the authorities to apprehend and arrest the Shafias and to decipher how the victims were murdered. Soon after the family reported that the women were missing, the police installed devices in the Shafia’s vehicle, which allowed them to wiretap the private conversations between Mohammad and Tooba Yahya; cell-phone towers were used to locate Hamed Shafia’s whereabouts on the night of the murders; and his laptop was examined for incriminating evidence. Similarly, forensic technology established that the women had been drowned, but it was unclear how or where. But it was the panoptic power of the mass media—especially the mainstream and commercial media that captured the murders—that marked the murders as an exceptional case signifying an impending Muslim threat. The sheer amount of coverage of the Shafia trial through numerous media platforms ensured that it became instantaneously available to all. Individuals loaded videos of the murder scene, courthouse, and commentaries on honor killings onto social-media platforms such as YouTube. These sites constitute what Thomas Mathiesen (2011) has called synopticons—allowing the many to see the few. In other words, the synopticon inverts the relation of the gaze inherent to the panopticon, resulting in what Mathiesen calls a “viewer society,” wherein the acts of seeing and being seen, surveilling and being surveilled are coupled. Through the mass media, viewers are able to perceive actors across the social spectrum. In this case, the media coverage allowed Canadian audiences to view the Shafia trial, hear and read the witness testimonies, see the perpetrators, and know the victims. As one columnist opined, “We’ve come to know such intimate and tender things about these girls and women, their belly button studs, their purple nail polish, the lushly romantic texts their forbidden boyfriends sent. . . . So-called honor killings are a crime against nature, against humanity, against family love and, above all else, against females” (Timson 2011, L3). The continual focus on the Shafia case—both in print and electronic media—suggests that it operated within a field of visibility that promoted an actuarial gaze. Allen Feldman defines the actuarial gaze as the “visual organization and institutionalization of threat perception and prophylaxis, which cross cuts politics, public health, safety, policing, urban planning and media practice” (2005, 214). He contends that through the scopic regimes of the media, the carceral lattice enmeshing different subject populations is recrafted and visualized in a manner that “screens, repeats, and screens off shock and trauma” (ibid., 212–13). According to Feldman, issues of visibility and invisibility are structured into the actuarial gaze. As much as it exposes and classifies, [the actuarial gaze] also creates zones of visual editing, structural invisibility, and cordon sanitaire, resulting in the decreasing capacity of surveilled, stigmatized and vulnerable groups, classified as risk-bearers, to make visible their social suffering, shrinking life-chances and human rights claims in the global public sphere. To the very degree that the traumatic realism of the state and media monopolizes truth-claiming about hazard, threat and violence over and against the everyday life experience of populations and spaces objectified as affected and infected by risk, human rights violations are rendered invisible or marginal. (Ibid., 213) While Feldman describes the actuarial gaze in reference to the repeated and continuous circulation of images from the collapsing Twin Towers on September 11 to the widespread propagation of the tortured victims at Abu Ghraib, his analysis is also applicable to the gendering of surveillance. Using “shock and awe” tactics, the actuarial gaze makes visible violations of the moral order, acts of criminality, and other transgressions, but it erases from the public eye everyday violations of human rights, human suffering, and structured inequalities. In the Shafia case, the young women and Rona Amir (Mohammad Shafia’s first wife) had, on numerous occasions, sought help. The young women had called on the authorities at school, and one of them had even sought refuge in a shelter for a time so as to escape the abuse. Similarly, Rona Amir had continuously asked for help from a woman she knew in the United States, but nothing came of it (Appleby 2011b, A10). These instances of violence were rendered invisible in terms of media attention at the time they occurred. They didn’t surface until the court trial, at which point they became fodder feeding into the stereotypical construction of the Muslim patriarch as an angry, oppressive tyrant.
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