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Surveillance Dossier Editor Richard Maxwell
Surveillance: Work, Myth, and Policy Richard Maxwell 1
Every Move You Make: Bodies, Surveillance, and Media Michael J. Shapiro 21 Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia Kelly A. Gates 35
Surveillance in Decolonized Social Space: The Case of Sex Workers in Bengal Swati Ghosh 55 Resisting Surveillance John Gilliom 71
Global Citizens and Local Powers: Surveillance in Turkey Çagatay Topal 85 ˘ From Privacy to Visibility: Context, Identity, and Power in Ubiquitous Computing Environments David J. Phillips 95
Suppressing Grief: The Politics of “McCarthy”-Era Testimonies Margaret Morganroth Gullette 109 Copying Kill Bill Laikwan Pang 133
Rebecca Baron is a Los Angeles–based ﬁ lmmaker and faculty member at CalArts School of Film/Video. Her experimental and documentary ﬁ lms have been screened extensively in the United States and internationally at the Whitney Biennial, New York Film Festival, Cinémathèque Française, Oberhausen, Viennale, and in Rotterdam. She is the recipient of a 2002 Guggenheim Fellowship. More information about the Mass Observation movement can be found in her article in the fall 2004 issue of Cabinet. Kelly A. Gates is professor of media studies at Queens College of the City University of New York. She is the author of “Wanted Dead or Digitized: Facial Recognition Technology and Privacy,” in Television and New Media (Sage); “Authorship and Identity in the Genome Age,” in Information, Theory, and Society (James Nicholas); and “Technologies of Identity and the Identity of Technology: Race and the Social Construction of Biometrics,” in Race Identity and Representation in Education, vol. 2, ed. Greg Dimitriadis and Cameron McCarthy (Routledge). Swati Ghosh is a lecturer in economics at Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata. She publishes occasionally in Economic and Political Weekly and is a member of the editorial collective of from the margins, a journal of concerned writings on gender, coloniality, and postcoloniality. John Gilliom is a professor in political science at Ohio University. He is the author of Overseers of the Poor: Surveillance, Resistance, and the Limits of Privacy (University of Chicago Press) and Surveillance, Privacy, and the Law: Employee Drug Testing and the Politics of Social Control (University of Michigan Press). Margaret Morganroth Gullette is the author of Aged by Culture (University of Chicago Press) and the prizewinning Declining to Decline: Cultural Combat and the Politics of the Midlife (University Press of Virginia). She is also the author of Safe at Last in the Middle Years. Her articles have appeared in American Prospect, the Nation, American Scholar, Representations, Feminist Studies, New Political Science, Profession 2001, PEN American Journal, and many other literary quarterlies. She is a scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University.
and Cinema (RoutledgeCurzon). and the State. Shapiro is a professor of political science at the University of Hawai‘i. She is the author of Building a New China in Cinema: The Chinese Left-Wing Cinema.” in Information. Laikwan Pang teaches ﬁ lm and cultural studies in the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. and power in surveillance infrastructures. David J. Phillips is a professor of radio-television-ﬁ lm at the University of Texas at Austin.” His dissertation is titled “Surveillance over Migrant Workers from Turkey in Germany: From Disciplinary Society to Society of Control.” in Dissent. Canada. He studies the political economy and social shaping of information and communication technologies. identiﬁcation. Communication. and Society (Taylor and Francis).Richard Maxwell is a professor of media studies at Queens College of the City University of New York. He is working on a book exploring identity. and “Cell Phones. Michael J. most recently. of “Negotiating the Digital Closet: Online Pseudonymity and the Politics of Sexual Identity. For Moral Ambiguity: National Culture and the Politics of the Family (University of Minnesota Press). especially technologies of privacy. Among his recent publications are Methods and Nations: Cultural Governance and the Indigenous Subject (Routledge). Ontario. Piracy. Surveillance.” . Çag ˘atay Topal holds degrees from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara and is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at Queen’s University in Kingston. His recent publications include Herbert Schiller (Rowman and Littleﬁeld) and (as a coauthor) Global Hollywood 2 (British Film Institute). visibility. and Cinematic Political Thought (New York University Press). He is the author. His recent research papers include “The Proletariat of Empire or the CounterEmpire of the Proletariat” and “Surveillance over Life-Production: Turkish Migrant Workers in Germany. 1932–1937 (Rowman and Littleﬁeld) and Cultural Control and Globalization in Asia: Copyright. and surveillance.
Whatever the case. No.1 On top of the physical and psychological strain. the U. the humanity of the surveillance worker has always been a weakness of surveillance systems. irregular hours. ﬁeldwork in high crime areas. risk. considerable time spent on the feet. Copyright © 2005 by Richard Maxwell. Bentham ﬂ attered himself with a smug assessment of the key advantages of his Inspection House. 2. admiring above all how the “apparent omnipresence” of the all-seeing chief inspector kept the population of inmates from misbehaving. 2 It is well known that the ﬁ rst aim of the panoptical design was to Social Text 83. .Surveillance: Work. lethal hazards. in the remaining paragraphs of “Letter VI. to see a friend not a foe. In “Letter VI” of Panopticon. to perceive innocence instead of guilt. The problem of surveillance labor has been recognized in surveillance architectures at least since the 1780s when Jeremy Bentham modiﬁed his brother’s plans for his Krichev estate in Russia to conceive the panopticon. 23. —President George W. danger. a surveillance worker must also possess great self-discipline to control unproductive ethical impulses to look away. Summer 2005. Vol. especially in the eyes of those overseeing the work. Bush to the CIA workforce.” Bentham outlined further “fundamental advantages” that envision nothing less than a division of panoptical labor based on a coercive system that would restrain workers’ temptations to slack off or to moderate their judgment with forbearance toward the people they were watching. confrontations with angry or upset individuals. to accept the ineffable and resist the probable. Depending on the job. and Policy Go back to work. and a heavy toll on private life. monotony. 26 September 2001 Richard Maxwell The Problem of Surveillance Labor Surveillance is tough work. Myth. which for a surveillance worker could amount to the same thing as having an ethical moment. Such care for the person being watched may not be so tempting as screwing around on the job. Then.S. constant alertness to threatening situations. Department of Labor tells us that working conditions can include any combination of the following: stress. physical discomfort.
S. . as well as an estimated 82. Starting with public criticism of the interagency rivalries “built in” to President Truman’s 1947 National Security Act. the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003. in September 2001. private investigators. political crisis. the under keepers would be more responsive to those under their supervision. game wardens. and individuated cells. or Director. drug enforcement agents. U. Marshals. FBI agents. central inspection lodge. detectives. to one of the most puzzling of political questions—quis custodiet ipsos custodes? ” (who will watch the watchers?).S. government. and that a satisfactory one. Bentham could only promise to his interlocutors—the potential funders of his panopticon—that the Director would certainly see to it that the underlings did not succumb to such weakness: “In no instance could his subordinates either perform or depart from their duty. appealing to the humanity” of an inspector. as the prisoners or other persons to be governed are with respect to them. . but he must know the time and degree and manner of their doing so. secret service. and include nearly 1 million security guards. and The 9/11 Commission Report released in the summer of 2004.4 The Patriot Act was passed hurriedly in the aftermath of the 9/11 2 Richard Maxwell . who Bentham said would not only subject the inmates to more individuated inspections but who would themselves fall under the watchful eyes of the chief inspector.000 intelligence agents employed by the U.S. But it was precisely this close encounter that enhanced the possibility of a “prisoner . when the work of surveillance became a key problem for the management of the U. “will be under the same irresistible controul [sic] with respect to the head keeper or inspector.” wrote Bentham. Less commentary has been spent on the layer of under keepers. subsequent efforts to reorganize surveillance labor included passage of the USA Patriot Act in 2001. Today there are about 3 million people employed in the protective services in the United States. automating the effect of surveillance with its famous circularity. Virtually all of these jobs have come under greater scrutiny since the attacks on New York City and Washington. The “under keepers or inspectors. and tens of thousands of spies.” In Bentham’s plan. 3 These combined job categories involve varying amounts of surveillance work. commonly deﬁ ned as the continual observation of an individual or group of people. immigration ofﬁcers. customs agents. DC. the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Patriot Act II). over a million jailers and local police. as Bentham would subsequently call him in the postscript to Panopticon. as well as public-safety employees (so-called ﬁ rst responders working as police and ﬁ reﬁghters). the servants and subordinates of every kind. It presents an answer. border patrol agents.reduce the effort it took to watch over the carceral theater.
which the report argues resulted from technical.7 Presenting detailed reenactments of the training and surveillance work carried out by the 9/11 hijackers. were well aware of the activities of those under their watch. and allowed the DHS to reorganize the workforce in a way that made much of the surveillance work harder while also undermining the federal employee unions’ institutional support of the workers. the Federal Bureau of Investigation was granted wider power to subpoena personal information from insurance companies. travel agencies. The problem of compartmentalization became a crucial predicate for the report’s most widely publicized recommendation that the U. In this version. the U. Congress create a “single. The salient organizational problems were compartmentalization of surveillance work and poor information management. Postal Service. respectively. and other “ﬁ nancial institutions.5 The DHS was created at the urging of Congress in response to public pressure to do something about the crisis in the national security system. government created new problems of coordination. a combination that created informational blind spots that prevented inspection of the entire carceral theater of terrorism and counterterrorism. the DHS would unify and coordinate twenty-two separate agencies and the work of over 180. The Patriot Act II enacted in early 2004 was a modiﬁed version of a controversial set of proposals circulated in 2003 that were ﬁ nally rejected by Congress after widespread public resistance. jewelry stores. principle point of oversight of all surveillance work related to national security.000 federal employees. I consider in more detail The 9/11 Commission Report’s answers to the failures of surveillance work in the United States. car dealerships. Initially resisted by the Bush administration.attacks by a stunned Congress that did not pay close attention to the act’s content until civil liberties groups began to highlight its overreaching authority to snoop on Americans and the fact that it did little to alter the preexisting capabilities of domestic intelligence agencies to collect and share information.”10 Meanwhile. for the most part.S.S. and Policy 3 .” which were thus incorporated into a larger surveillance industrial complex. stockbrokers. By unifying the surveillance workforce under the massive umbrella of the DHS. (libertarian) Right and Left pundits attacked this recommendation. and human obstructions of information ﬂows. the report describes how administration ofﬁcials in both the Clinton and the current Bush administrations could not comprehend the connection between events and reports of midlevel inspectors in different agencies who. provided inadequate funding. real estate agents. factions within Surveillance: Work.6 Before discussing the DHS solution to the labor problem.” 8 Responding as if to the everlooming presence of Orwell’s 1984. as “central planning” 9 and “the ﬁ nal ingredient for absolute power.S. the U. Myth. legal. casinos.
13 Ignored was the commissioners’ blueprint for a new division of surveillance labor in the United States. intelligence elite raised quite different though self-serving concerns about how such reform would redistribute the intelligence budget. and clash with their boss. They need better training. both alien to Bentham. database management. he said they would feel the panopticon’s “necessary coercion” as a “curb to delinquency” and a “scourge to guilt.the U. leadership who were accountable for these failings. get into ﬁ ghts with each other.14 Perhaps because he straddled absolutist and modern disciplinary societies. the Benthams successfully raised the peasants’ productivity. While the report subordinates surveillance labor to the information technology and the management team that will be deployed to solve (or further complicate) the nation’s crisis. and CIA into a single coordinated system. By applying the panoptical method to the organization of estate labor. FBI. drink too much. military intelligence. The 9/11 commission recapitulates Bentham’s thinking about the “puzzling political question” of who will control the under keepers.”15 The contrast between methods of coercion and care sharpens when the antecedents of Bentham’s panopticon are contextualized.16 The immediate source for Bentham’s plan to control the under keepers was a group of rowdy English workmen at his brother’s Krichev estate. Samuel Bentham. over 80 percent of which was reportedly controlled by the Department of Defense. Hired in 1785 to train and supervise the Russian peasants in shipbuilding and manufacturing on the estate.S. interoperability. better education. including proposals for horizontal information networks. though it does this using two distinct registers.17 4 Richard Maxwell . Indeed. much less any sympathy for them. The ﬁ rst envisions a pastoral form of control over the surveillance workforce. it also offered a plan to care for some of the frontline surveillance workers. The ﬁeld agents. the English supervisors had begun a year later to slack off. better organizational skills. and better understanding of the specialized technical and legal possibilities of national security work. public commentary alighted on the failings of the “intelligence apparatus” and on identifying those in the U.11 Because the 9/11 commission’s proposals targeted technical and organizational reform. one that absorbed the workforces of the DHS. Bentham did not have quite such a caring view of his under keepers.S. except in the idealized panopticon that Bentham insisted offered a civilized form of coercive force over this inferior strata of surveillance worker. The problem of how to control the under keepers would not go away. had been ill prepared to understand the strange threats emerging in the post–Cold War world. said the report. but failed utterly to improve the Englishmen’s discipline. and so on.12 The discussion of solutions predictably centered on the report’s technical stopgaps.
20 The peasants were mere spectators. are supposed to be kept in thrall by the Director’s apparent freedom to control when and where he will be watching them. the commissioners ask: “Who is the quarterback? The other players are in their positions. knowing “that God was judging and watching over them.” one who needs no pastoral care because he will be drawn from a special class already endowed with the power and consciousness of the all-seeing sort. The 9/11 report nevertheless dreams of a pastoral system that increases consumable intelligence in the day-to-day surveillance of the lower orders. But who is calling the play that assigns roles to help them execute as a team?”18 In their Knute Rockne reading of Hegelian dialectics the quarterback possesses the higher consciousness of what history holds in waiting for the United States. But if the past is any guide. even bureaucratizing. doing their jobs. The source of this design feature was Orthodox Church architecture. marketing. the exercise of imagination” within his national surveillance team—the sort of imagination that would foresee the unseen and unknown threats to national security. and Policy 5 . When discussing the role of the overseer.Despite the panopticon principle. by contrast. Myth. In their conclusion. which was conﬁ gured to remind peasants of their place in the cosmological order and give the clergy—the middlemen between God and dirt—a symbolic power over their subjects via their visibility as God’s active agents. who passively watched from the nave.” 21 In the contemporary management structure proposed by the 9/11 commission. The public record is rife with intelligence failures—political. the problem of surveillance labor remains an unstable element in the foundation of the surveillance state. It will be the job of this director to carry out one of the commission’s most bizarre recommendations: “To ﬁ nd a way of routinizing. The 9/11 commissioners acknowledge as much when speculating that a well-tempered surveillance workforce will be less of an obstruction and more productive of useful information ﬂows. others the cause of bloody tragedies. and economic—some failures were the stuff of farce. the 9/11 report shifts from the pastoral to the language of nation and sport. which the report likens to thinking up scenarios that one could ﬁ nd in a Tom Clancy story.19 The panopticon principle of enhancing the Director’s virtual presence through a clever use of light and space in the centrical lodge gave the Director a bit more freedom to enjoy his position of authority without constant vigil over his underlings who. even productive surveillance labor can generate intelligence that the supervisory machinery cannot consume or has historically consumed to ill effect. the National Intelligence Director works above the tier of Surveillance: Work. The quarterback in question will be a “National Intelligence Director.
Vermont. the National Intelligence Director will be subject to visitation by a “higher order” of superintendent—in the panopticon: magistrates and judges. and foreign counterterrorism. Maine.unfreedom where. One answer to this question is that a growing number of communities in the United States are not content to watch from the wings. under his watch. a second tier of under keepers will work within “a National Counterterrorism Center. All agency heads will report to the National Intelligence Director. the question remains how passive the spectators will be after seeing the proposed new division of surveillance labor. A principal point 6 Richard Maxwell . and so on. and Hawai‘i) had passed resolutions condemning the act.S. from the superior ranks of life” to the “irksome task” of inspection of the lower orders. . made the contemporary carceral theater of counterterrorism a theater accessible to “the curious at large—the great open committee of the tribunal of the world. these latter-day lords will not feel the “proportional repugnance” toward the surveilled. We can imagine a clever use of public relations playing the panoptical shell game with the director’s presence to keep the under keepers on their feet. In our present context.” 23 The 9/11 commission also reiterated the last of the advantageous forms that Bentham attributed to the panoptical division of labor: the publication of the 9/11 report.” as Bentham put it. military.” while a third tier will work in one of three reconﬁ gured agencies for domestic. in the new division of labor: Congress and the president—who would be “called down . there was a surge of resistance from the unions representing federal workers involved in some form of surveillance—homeland security. ﬁ nding that the new division of surveillance labor had eliminated a “great load of trouble and disgust. state. Department of Justice. towns. which immediately became a best seller. and local employees the freedom not to follow provisions in the Patriot Act that would have transformed them into surveillance agents for the U. The main conﬂ icts fractured the Bush administration’s fantasy of automating a more efﬁcient surveillance state. This growing resistance has helped give municipal. As in the design for the gentlemen visiting the panopticon. By the end of summer 2004 numerous city councils had gathered to read and debate the unconstitutional provisions in the Patriot Act. . leadership will zealously control its own visibility within it while denying that same freedom to the rest of us. especially when they ﬁ nd out that the U. In their present-day roles. and counties” in the United States and four states (Alaska. his deputies and their agents are fated to labor. counterterrorism.S. By that point over “330 cities. After the DHS overhaul of the surveillance workforce. 24 Another possible answer will come from the ranks of surveillance workers themselves. 22 And like the Director of Bentham’s panopticon.
corporations have been enlisted to make up for insufﬁcient federal surveillance operations. 28 On the other side. The U. leadership also allowed the DHS to impose a new human resources system—with little negotiation in what is known as a “meet and confer” process. The U. the Bush administration also condoned the elimination of public oversight of certain counterterrorist surveillance operations in the United States while it undermined whatever role the federal unions representing surveillance workers might play in development and deployment of surveillance technology. 25 The insufﬁciencies involved politically imposed structural limits on the number of surveillance workers the government was willing to employ and on the funding the government was willing to provide for research and development.S.S. as well as infrastructural improvements throughout the national defense system. and the National Association of Agriculture Employees (NAAE) greeted the new DHS human resources system as an attack on collective bargain- Surveillance: Work. there was a conscious. or outsourcing of surveillance work to private corporations. the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). This alone created new insecurity for workers whose commitments to the job were tested rather than encouraged. 27 The nature of these changes led to an extraordinary standoff between the three major labor unions representing surveillance workers and the DHS. On the one side. the DHS and administration were touting the new efﬁciencies in the way Homeland Security coordinated surveillance work in the United States. According to a report issued by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2004. 26 Next to the amount of federal dollars that bled into Iraq and the pockets of privateers like Halliburton and Bechtel. government was starving its own domestic surveillance operations. By outsourcing to private corporations. aptly titled The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Businesses and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society. which the DHS walked out of in August 2004. it was not merely an accident of an inept administration. and Policy 7 . Myth. the U. the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Clearly.S.of contention was privatization. Another study showed that the Bush administration was so reluctant to form the DHS that it not only bungled preparations for housing the DHS—its headquarters ended up in a warehouselike building in an old naval intelligence complex—but the administration ensured that funding for the DHS would not expand much beyond what was effectively money previously budgeted to the twenty-two agencies that comprised the new Homeland Security behemoth. leadership targeted the federal workers by adding into the Homeland Security legislation rules to replace the old pay schedule for federal employees with a new merit or performance pay system. politically motivated strategy to disempower the lower strata of federal surveillance labor.
One frontline worker said that there was “just no support from the higher-ups from DHS. 32 Further. did not support DHS strategies to “ﬁght terrorism. a sense that the DHS’s pay and job security reforms along with the DHS’s failure to provide adequate tools and equipment had threatened their protective mission. The survey results showed that a majority of these frontline inspectors. the DHS created a managerial improvement on paper that proved to be an unqualiﬁed disaster in practice. people talking about us doing our jobs. 30 Membership in these unions account for about 65 percent of all customs and border patrol workers. . president of AFGE’s National Homeland Security Council. There was also strong opinion among the inspectors (nearly half of those surveyed) that the United States was no safer from terrorist attack in 2004 than it had been in the fall of 2001. the DHS bypassed the unions to unilaterally pull the surveillance agents out of job categories represented by each of the three main labor unions. on the right to organize.”31 The AFGE leadership was especially angered by the DHS’s unilateral creation of the new “CBP inspector” job and the centralized rules for training and deployment of these agents. one in immigration. Charles Showalter. by collapsing the three positions into one.” By reconﬁguring a CBP position during the hiring freeze of 2003–4. all of whom were selfidentiﬁed patriots. Showalter described the new role as akin to an amusement park worker welcoming patrons and held up a DVD instruction guide on good “meet and greet” manners as evidence of the measly tools for training that the DHS had provided to the CBP inspectors. 29 Within days of this standoff. noted that these ofﬁcers simply weren’t trained to do the job and. . moreover. and on other statutory protections of the workforce. the National Border Patrol Council and National Homeland Security Council of AFGE released a survey from its membership of Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors. The DHS rolled all three of these specializations into one job and then offered only seventy-one days of training for these new “specialists. Without labor representation. as an AFGE vice president noted at the press conference where the border patrol worker survey was announced. had been restricted by a “one face at the border” rule that deployed agents to one site to “meet and greet” people entering the United States. leaving the CBP inspectors in a state of institutional limbo about their statutory rights as federal workers.” This general attitude was accompanied by low morale. Prior to the creation of this job category. and one in customs. .ing. surveillance agents would be less likely to voice 8 Richard Maxwell . but [not supplying] us with what we need to do them. a feeling that the management was weak. there would have been three distinct specialists working the border—one in agricultural surveillance.
The technological sublime exercises a powerful hold on the imagination. But for surveillance technology to overwhelm thought. Myths of Surveillance Power It is striking then how the general literature on surveillance has been silent about the problem of surveillance labor and has had little on the whole to say about the political economy of surveillance. The tensions between the workforce and the “higher orders” exacerbated the political and ideological crises of national security. as I have shown. in particular how the Bush administration responded with a division of labor that hindered rather than enhanced the work carried out by the lower strata of surveillance personnel. the Bush administration managed to devalue frontline national security workers and alienate them from the state’s war on terrorism (AFGE endorsed Kerry in the 2004 election). central presence. commercial advertising. or scholarly writing. One cause of this may be what David Nye and others have called the technological sublime. Once it becomes spectacle. architecture and urban planning. and encroached on public oversight of funding and custody of the surveillance workforce. 34 Surveillance technology can be both conspicuous and innocuous in the travails of daily life. reduced the power of unions. from its barefaced and breathtaking forms to its unannounced operations within modern institutions. 33 These disruptions tell us something about the contemporary problem that surveillance labor poses for the state. whether the source is political or cultural commentary. With its campaign to assail federal surveillance labor. a culture must embrace a living myth of the technology’s awesome. popular culture. Myth. in this case the sense of the awesomeness of modern surveillance technology that overwhelms and deﬁ nes how we think about surveillance. there can be little doubt that this political economic realignment will increasingly determine the way surveillance technology and labor are developed and deployed. The sublime response relies on and resides in the publicity of the technology’s grandeur. recalling that the post-9/11 whistle-blowers in nonunion shops like the FBI were no longer working there. and Policy 9 . In addition. The antistatist ideology of the Right—while contradictorily enlarging government—has been driving work into the commercial sector with outsourcing and privatization. Surveillance: Work. Though it is too soon to know the impact of these changes. This has further expanded private control over domestic surveillance systems. surveillance technology can dazzle and intimidate. the conditions of state-sponsored surveillance labor are no longer solely determined by centralized state operations à la Big Brother.concerns about weaknesses in the DHS’s national security organization and its management structure.
hybrid constituencies. 37 In the digital sublime of counterterrorism. genetic mutations.Vincent Mosco extends this notion to encompass the digital sublime. perhaps less to catch the bad guys than to sate an infantile desire for omnipotence or to serve the divine mission of the all-seeing Christian god. of course. enraptured by the quasi-private Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX). the Bush administration and its fellow travelers seemed to be in the thrall of the ubiquitous surveillance machinery. Marketing researchers are no less spellbound by the identity-deﬁ ning powers of cyberspace and IT in general—every innovation for improved data mining. and smart mobs. which captivates the imagination of surveillance writers through paradoxically linked myths of the divine and demonic powers of information technology (IT). they may even be us. and so on. these myths of progress are shadowed by their demons: ﬁ nancial bubbles and day trading. political apathy. 35 The 9/11 report is redolent with this muddling mythos—“Technology as an Intelligence Asset and Liability. DC. As Mosco points out. terrorist cells. the true believers of Total Information Awareness and Homeland Security were getting their own incredible buzz from ingesting these myths of an all-powerful digital presence. At the same time. the government “plays an enormous role in 10 Richard Maxwell . for their part. 36 We have seen elsewhere how an incessant reverie. by Florida governor Jeb Bush—MATRIX has reportedly identiﬁed 120. market segmentation. transidentitarian polities. There is little to be seen of labor in the cultural discourse of the digital sublime.000 people in the United States with a “High Terrorist Factor” (HTF) score.” the openness of the Internet serving good and evil alike. the myths guiding the application of such technological wonders “matter in part because they sometimes inspire powerful people to strive for their realization whatever the cost. 39 But then these reveries are matched by quite different but equally captivated musings about communitarian nirvanas in the global cybervillage. IT feeds the faith that inspires marketers and advertisers to strive for more control over the infrastructure of consumption. suspicious types appear to have surrounded us. the present-day mythos engendered and sustained by the hyped-up mania for new digital media and information technology. inﬂated the dot-com bubble of the 1990s. As Mosco says.”38 Induced into this sublime disorder. The DHS and Department of Justice were. the end of privacy. social isolation. even ecstasy. or both. The end of privacy has become a particularly powerful myth about freedom’s withering in the presence of the digital sublime. and Internet-based targeting is an invocation of the powerful myth. the Unabomber. and so on. Then. which was created by a Florida database corporation and shepherded to Washington. child pornography.
42 This mythical role was ampliﬁed by the 9/11 commission’s recommendations for a new chief inspector to oversee surveillance management in the U. as Kelly A. Perhaps more than other pretenders. and imperial violence from antiquity to the contemporary media representations of war and sci-ﬁ crime ﬁ ghting. In the lead essay. but these are inevitably shot through with weak plots and a stable of unreliable surveillance workers: the heretical antiheroes. Gates shows in her analysis of the emergence of these predictable but powerful sectors of the informationalized political economy in the immediate post-9/11 period.manufacturing cyberspace magic because much of its legitimacy is based on identiﬁcation with this future wave. Myths “can foreclose politics. surveillance. as exempliﬁed by the contributors to this issue of Social Text.” Myths can be repoliticized if treated as prepolitical—that is.S. Shapiro revisits the stories of bodies. community. The myths of the digital sublime and the metaphors that join them— the library. can serve to depoliticize speech. It is also there if we look more closely into the moment of Porter Goss’s Oedipal embarrassment when his own children chided him for lacking computer skills. road. “but they can also open the door to a restoration of politics. and whistle-blowers.”45 Myths of surveillance power have been increasingly politicized in analyses of biopolitics. Michael J. as a starting place for a “critical retelling [and] a political grounding that myths appear to leave out. and narrative44 —not only shape thought and debate about surveillance technology but also inform the competing aspirations over how to use or disable it.41 The crucial mythos was not residing in his children’s attack but in the question of whether Goss (Bush Minor’s ﬁ rst choice to replace the feckless George Tenet as director of Central Intelligence) would suitably ﬁt the Olympian role of a DCI who must manage those aspects of the “transcendent spectacle” that attends to digitized supersurveillance power. if any. Myth. Drawing on the seductions Surveillance: Work.”40 We can see this magic at work in the 9/11 report.43 It remains to be seen what power. to a deepening of political understanding. The system-serving narratives of all-powerful surveillance enshrine the state’s capabilities for successful governance by information management. bazaar. government.” says Mosco. A contemporary manifestation of these instabilities can be found in the recent success story of biometric surveillance and face-recognition industries. these folks have cashed in big on the digital sublime. converts. the überinspector will exercise over the privatized sector of domestic surveillance run by commercial businesses. ﬁ nding restive memories disrupting the state’s dream of a quiescent populace. and Policy 11 . and then again in an August 2004 executive order that gave the DCI expanded oversight of some of the ﬁ fteen intelligence agencies operated by the government.
and informationalization has created conditions for weak central population surveillance. their social visibility is championed by artists. these surveillance businesses have engorged themselves on their growing authority to deepen their pockets. we ﬁ nd no such ambivalence in government or business toward informationalized capitalism. Swati Ghosh examines how state and local “watch-care” forms of surveillance in Bengal have recast prostitutes as sex workers worthy of welfare and health care but disqualiﬁed from having moral rights of full citizenship because of the very bodilyness of their work. and “work the system. a Westerner might invoke the power of privacy rights. In this context.” Returning to the United States in David J. Exiled outside the moral boundary of privacy protection. Gilliom shows how privacy rights talk becomes unintelligible and irrelevant for the weakest among us and argues that the Left must discover new ethical and political sources for ﬁ ghting or reforming system-serving surveillance. coordinated through disciplines of geographic conﬁ nement and health services. Topal perceives this as another of the tragicomedies of Turkish life and proposes that the outcome will become clearer as the state advances toward a “rationale of control suitable for capitalism’s global de/recodiﬁcation strategy. Phillips’s essay.” Gilliom reveals in his essay how the commitments to families. Drawing on their experiences. But rather than seeing this as creating spaces of freedom from surveillance power. friends. often selﬂess tactics to preserve dignity. Topal argues that weak surveillance places Turkish citizens in a precarious liminality between a society of control and a society of discipline. and yet their publicness remains both proscribed and compulsory. When a nation’s role in the current geopolitical realignment is both central and uncertain.” the often lonely. defend loved ones. biopolitics tends to get knotted up by transversal lines of crisis management. and the ﬁght for a modicum of freedom inspire a group of women caught in a net of welfare surveillance in the poorest reaches of Appalachian Ohio. the “weapons of the weak. One wonders what other stories might be circulating within the lower strata of the biometric workforce to disturb the fault lines in an already shaky industrial-surveillance complex. progressive civic organizations. despite the considerable imprecision of their services. after James Scott. and politicians.of technostalgia and the demand for information technology to manage systemic crises. Their visibility as deserving citizens is paradoxical: they are not granted full personhood and yet are made objects of state care. But here such an option is nonexistent. ˘ The Turkish state’s ambivalence toward modernization. Echoing several of the other con- 12 Richard Maxwell . as Çagatay Topal shows in the case of Turkey. Turning to what might be called postcolonial biopower. those who resist surveillance come to rely on what John Gilliom calls. globalization.
The fact of the matter is that workers. Myth. and those dependent on welfare (most of whom are women) are the most exposed to surveillance and the least enfranchised of privacy rights. a focus on civil liberties related to the sanctity of private life presupposes universal attainability of privacy—a right endowed to varying degrees by capitalist property relations. the under. technology will solve this or that social problem or threatens to create new ones. on the idea of technological determinism—the technological revolution changed us. Phillips draws on the experience and political expediencies of “coming out” to ﬁ nd alternative ethical and political sources for distributing resources of visibility within ubicomp systems. This is true whether we are talking about sovereignty of hearth and home or image rights. It would be foolhardy not to confront the technological dimensions of surveillance. These of whom are women) are the most exposed to surveillance and the least enfranchised of privacy rights. In contrast. either explicitly or in unstated fundamentals. Moreover. The ﬁ rst is predicated.and disemployed. the under. the incarcerated. the homeless. and so on and so forth from Theodore Vail to Daniel Bell to Howard Rheingold. Surveillance: Work. In this political economy the balance of power to control these resources tilts decidedly toward the state and capital. Phillips challenges liberal notions of privacy for failing to grasp or contain the power of contemporary surveillance societies. and postindustrialism. and Policy 13 . and those dependent on welfare (most Policy There is a tendency to frame policy about surveillance in terms of technological developments and civil rights. He then develops the concept of “resources of visibility and knowledge production” to argue for ways to modify ubiquitous computing (ubicomp) systems through the ethical allocation of these resources. the homeless. Privacy is a right best protected as private property. technological determinism underpins the ideology of the information age—again the mythos that attends to the spread of global networks. technology changes the nature of work. but not at the risk of reiterating another version of technological determinism.and disemployed. The fact of the matter is that workers. post-Taylorist discourses about knowledge work and workers.46 Policy therefore needs to critique technological determinism while it focuses on reform or more radical challenges to the technology of surveillance. the incarcerated. Phillips’s impulse to get into the workings of ubiquitous computing environments and away from the mythos of the digital sublime questions how contemporary political economic alignments have transformed surveillance from a “resource of visibility” into a system-serving economics of display. The struggle to wrest control of these resources away from their current commanders turns our attention ﬁ nally to the question of policy.tributors.
are the semisovereigns for whom survival in the informationalized political economy depends on their relinquishing all “reasonable expectations of privacy.” The growing population of semisovereigns marks a clear trend. Between 1987 and 2002, for example, the number of U.S. companies conducting drug tests on their employees increased 277 percent. The ACLU estimated in 2003 that U.S. employers eavesdropped on over 400 million employee telephone calls.47 On average, 12 to 14 percent of the total population in the United States lives in poverty, while 75 percent of Americans are exposed to the statistical risk that within a ten-year cycle they could be one of the “40 percent of Americans who experience poverty for at least one year.”48 The average annual growth rate of incarceration was 3.7 percent throughout the 1990s, while the number of homeless tripled in the 1980s, with a growing proportion of families and children becoming homeless in the 1990s.49 And for those who can tap into the privilege of privacy rights, the right to be left alone is sometimes no match for powerful inducements to be watched. A discount shopping card is a reward for giving up a slice of personal information about your shopping habits. The indispensable credit card that mobilizes your movements through the informationalized infrastructure of consumption demands that you allow the card issuer to peek into your intimate ﬁ nancial doings. An extreme version of this mobility surfaced in Barcelona last year when a club owner began to offer subcutaneous implants the size of a grain of rice to regular customers at a cost of 125 euros each. “I know many people who want to be implanted,” said the club owner. “Almost everybody now has a piercing, tattoos or silicone. Why not get the chip and be original?” With the equivalent of a debit card under your skin, you could leave home without any money, eat and buy drinks, and pay by being scanned. The account statement arrives later.50 For those who are limited to enjoying only the psychological beneﬁts of spending and playing like the privileged, no amount of surveillance is too much. The popular culture of talk shows, reality TV, and Hollywood ﬁ lms issues more authoritative representations of surveillance along with lessons on how to live under its gaze. Recent ﬁ lms such as Enemy of the State (1998), Gattaca (1997), Sliver (1993), The Net (1995), Minority Report (2002), and a handful of others, while morally and politically ambiguous ﬁ lms (though none as much as Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 ﬁ lm The Conversation), are seductions into the power of surveillance, into the digital sublime. One ﬁ lm in particular, Sliver, eroticized the leap into the surveillance image when one character learns that her lover, an apartment neighbor and secret stalker, has networked their building with minisurveillance cameras. She is drawn into his control room and slowly begins to switch from apartment to
apartment, witnessing scenes of love, incest, ﬁghting, sexual play, melancholy, and other intimacies belonging to her neighbors. She is sickened at ﬁ rst but then at the tender urging of her lover, who remarks, “You like to watch . . . don’t you,” she becomes rapt by the experience of omnipresence and omniscience. The intended irony of the scene mixes toxically with her horny ﬁ xation on the screen, which is intercut with her lover’s gratiﬁed expression and shots of unwitting neighbors’ personal affairs.51 Makers of reality TV, for their part, invite us to internalize this economics of display and to scorn whatever power privacy rights might promise, thus mitigating our resistance to surveillance. As Laurie Ouellette and Susan Murray have argued, reality TV increasingly relies on “the willingness of ‘ordinary’ people to live their lives in front of television cameras. We, as audience members, witness this openness to surveillance, normalize it, and in turn, open ourselves up to such a possibility.” We learn “that in order to be good citizens, we must allow ourselves to be watched and watch those around us. Our promised reward for our compliance within and support for such a panoptic vision of society is protection from both outer and inner social threats.”52 Clearly, a progressive policy toward surveillance or, to borrow from Phillips, toward the allocation of resources of visibility will be allied with movements for enhanced civil liberties—tentatively and attuned to a classoriented interpretation—and with an informed critique of technology and the digital sublime as it circulates in the polity, among elites, and in the experience and amusements of popular culture. But such policy can enrich its ethical and political sources if it also accepts the simple premise that helped begin this essay: surveillance is work. Surveillance work is one of the three essential mediums through which the technology develops, along with organized and informal antisurveillance social movements and the political economic realignments that have installed information technology at the center of systemic crisis management. Work is also the means through which the technology is enabled. As Bentham knew well, the panopticon is not an automatic machine—it relies on the internal discipline of the under keepers’ behavior and the management of their humanity. So in the end a Left policy must confront a risky choice: What are the alliances the Left can make with the under keepers? The surveillance workforce has been a centerpiece of system crisis management at home and throughout the Imperium—all the protective service workers, soldiers, spies, and market researchers have played a role in the recent rearrangements of the imperial political economy. Surveillance labor was the U.S. leadership’s scapegoat for increasing domestic surveillance, then its predicate for the imperialist war in Iraq, then its heroes of national security, though this last encomium disguised how the Bush administration’s
Clearly, a progressive policy toward surveillance or, to borrow from Phillips, toward the allocation of resources of visibility will be allied with movements for enhanced civil liberties— tentatively and attuned to a class-oriented interpretation
Surveillance: Work, Myth, and Policy
zealous antilabor policies actually harmed the mission of “homeland security.” How the Left answers this vexed question will have an impact on the culture and politics that deﬁ ne our relation to our publicness and delimit our inﬂuence over the distribution of the social resources of visibility. If we cannot contemplate such alliances, we might end up relinquishing the development of surveillance to the preemptive actions of the state and military leadership and leaving resistance to surveillance to prescripted political and cultural stereotypes generated by pollsters, bad journalism, and marketing research. And the more that private corporate interests intercede in the business of surveillance in the name of national security, the more structurally disengaged the American people will become from the processes that determine how surveillance is developed and deployed.53 If we cannot grasp the problem of surveillance labor, we leave little room for debate and deliberation over the need for or interpretation of market research, counterterrorist surveillance, soldiering, street-level surveillance, etc., and the technocratic solution will continue to be preordained. The people who run surveillance are not at the top. So let us not be confounded by the Benthamite bluster of the idealized panopticon or fall for the pastoral gimmicks that improve ways of watching the watchers. Provoke the internal disruptions of the surveillance society at the crucial points of weakness: the problem of surveillance labor, the fabulist’s myths of technology, and a failing policy based on technological determinism and the liberalism of stratiﬁed access to civil rights. Get yourself in trouble and speak to the humanity of the surveillance worker. As Joseph Welch once bravely said to Joe McCarthy . . . “at long last.”
1. U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Protective Service Occupations, reprinted from the Occupational Outlook Handbook (Washington, DC, 2004–5). 2. Jeremy Bentham, “Letter VI,” “Panopticon: or, the Inspection-House; containing the idea of a new principle of construction applicable to any sort of establishment, in which persons of any description are to be kept under inspection; and in Particular to Penitentiary-houses, Prisons, Houses of industry, Workhouses, Poor Houses, Manufacturies, Madhouses, Lazarettos, Hospitals, and Schools; with a plan of management adopted to the principle; in a series of letters, written in the year 1787, from Crechoff in White Russia, to a friend in England,” in The Panopticon Writings, ed. Miran Bozovic (London: Verso, 1995), 29–95, cartome.org/panopticon2.htm#I (accessed 4 August 2004). 3. U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Employment and Wages, 2003: Protective Services Occupations,” www.bls.gov/ oes/2003/may/oes330000.htm (accessed 6 August 2004). For estimates of U.S intelligence employee numbers, see Geoffrey R. Weller, “The Internal Modern-
The exact amount of the intelligence budget is hard to track. who clandestinely funded the purchase and production of the ﬁ lms Animal Farm (1954) and 1984 (1956). DC: American Civil Liberties Union. largely neglecting the privatization of surveillance operations that were embedded in the wider political economic rearrangements that have positioned information and communication technology at the center of crisis management since World War II. DC: American Civil Liberties Union.whitehouse. the CIA’s Psychological Warfare Workshop employed future Watergate criminal E. www.pdf and www. 2 August 2004.cfm#pgfId-1123798.heritage. DC: Ofﬁce of Inspector General. 7. 418. The libertarian Right’s ambivalent public stance to statesponsored surveillance gets a run for its money from the Orwell fans in the U. 11. no. “The 9/11 Commission and Civil Liberties: ‘We Need an American Secret Police.aclu. “Who’s to Blame for September 11?” Progressive. 4.gpoaccess. www. 10.org/Privacy/Privacy. Weaker Chains: The Growth of an American Surveillance Society (Washington.” New York Times Magazine.html (accessed 4 August 2004).S. 86. Jay Stanley.gov/omb/inforeg/2003_ combat_terr.” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 14 (2001): 300.” 9 September 2003. Bigger Monster.heritage. 86. This estimate included funding for homeland security and counterterrorism operations overseas. The Left has historically focused its critique on state-sponsored surveillance. Current estimates by the Heritage Foundation suggest that 57 percent of the $40 billion budgeted for domestic intelligence goes to the Department of Homeland Security (www.” Mother Jones. the “current level of overall spending on domestic and overseas counterterrorism activities is unclear. Jay Stanley and Barry Steinhardt. For a look at the commission’s “cop-outs. 9 (2004): 45–48. 2004). 9/11 Commission Report.cfm?ID=11573&c=39 (accessed 27 August 2004). Richard A.5 billion. See also Matthew Brzezinski.” See Ofﬁce of Management and Budget.ization of Western Intelligence Agencies. Major Management Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security (Washington.org/whitney08022004. Government Printing Ofﬁce. OMB reported that for FY 2003 total funding on counterterrorism was about $54. 9. 9/11 Commission Report. www. “2003 Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism. 6. Posner.cfm). According to the Heritage Foundation. 5 (2004): 39. . 421. 8.gov/omb/budget/fy2005/budget. This would make overseas counterterrorism operations for FY 2003 at about $12. 5. Howard Hunt. www. 28 August 2004. 13.9 billion. Surveillance: Work. 31 December 2003). . government.org/Research/HomelandDefense/bg1767 .counterpunch .S. DC: U.. Subsequently.whitehouse.’” Counterpunch.” see Matthew Rothschild. Department of Homeland Security. Myth.gov/911/index. See Karl Cohen.” Guardian (London). “The 9/11 Report: A Dissent.4 billion. 7 March 2003. . “Red Alert. “The Cartoon That Came in from the Cold. 2003). Mike Whitney. no. 2004). and Policy 17 .org/Research/Features/ Issues2004/HomeSecurity. In the midst of the cold war.html. The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Businesses and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society (Washington. 9/11 Commission Report. 12.html. OMB estimated homeland security funding at $42. The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (Washington. Ibid. See www.
com/p/articles/ mi_m1373/is_8_53/ai_106423708 (accessed 28 August 2004). 400. “Red Alert. www. Vincent Mosco.ﬁ ndarticles.ucl. “Potemkin and the Panopticon.org. MA: MIT Press. 19. 28.washingtonpost. 5. Border Patrol Agents and Immigration Ofﬁcers on Homeland Security. 344. “Letter IV.” 16. Brzezinski.” Clarke himself attributed this vision “more to Tom Clancy novels than to warnings from the intelligence community” (347). 30.” New York Times.” 24. Washington. Attitudes among Front-Line Border Protection Personnel. DC: OPM Resource Center Ofﬁce of Personnel Management. 23 August 2004. Stanley.. DC.” 41–42. www. Andrea Brooks. “Potemkin and the Panopticon”). controlling their own visibility. and Pushing Back. “Sensing the Eyes of Big Brother. “Prince Potemkin and the Benthams.uk/Bentham-Project/journal/nlwerret.net/survey/. at www. 15.14. 32. 25. including the survey details.” Washington Post. Ibid. Archived at C-Span. and the National Association of Agriculture Employees (NAAE)” (Washington. National Press Club. 26. Peter D.afge. 20. Ibid. National Press Club. press conference. the White House complex.ac. The report’s one example of such “imagination” was the counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke’s “awareness” of the “danger posed by aircraft in the context of protecting the Atlanta Olympics of 1996. Werret.org/index. 9/11 Commission Report. Attitudes among Front-Line Border Protection Personnel.cfm?page=homelansecurity&fuse=document&Docu mentID=503 (accessed 26 August 2004). 29.” Journal of Bentham Studies 2 (1999): n.. 22 March 2004). Stephen Barr. “Letter VI. Timothy Egan. and the G8 summit in Genoa. DC. 17. “Red Alert. 33. 426–47. www. See additional material. 23. Hart Research. the Byzantine inner central dome was illustrated with the “Christ Pantokrator.com/wp-dyn/ articles/A18866–2004Aug20. Ibid. 2004).. the ‘Ruler of All’” gazing upon the clergy who “were active. national vice president for AFGE’s Women’s Fair Practices Department. Hart Research. 21. Surveillance-Industrial Complex. Washington. 22. the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Simon Werret. 20 August 2004.org.” 18.htm (accessed 8 August 2004). 34. 18 Richard Maxwell . “Joint Comments and Recommendations Submitted by the National Presidents of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).nbpc. 8 August 2004. 9/11 Commission Report.” 39. 23 August 2004. “Homeland Security Management Walks Out on Union Talks. Border Patrol Agents and Immigration Ofﬁcers on Homeland Security. www. press conference. “Potemkin and the Panopticon: Samuel Bentham and the Architecture of Absolutism in Eighteenth Century Russia. 27. Reﬂecting the Russian social hierarchy. Brzezinski. 22–24. and that of the sacred actions which only they were permitted to perform” (Werret.p. The Digital Sublime (Cambridge. 403–12.html.” History Today (August 2003). 31. Archived at C-Span. See also Simon Sebag Monteﬁore.
2004).gov/bjs/prisons.nationalhomeless. 2004).” BBC News. 48.org/200101/0101_144_ cybersex.” Loisir et Société. for statistics on homelessness see www. 44. Ouellette and Murray (New York: New York University Press. 51. reprinted in The Information Society Reader. www. and Policy 19 . “Technology Gets under Clubbers’ Skin. 49. “Information Society Theory as Ideology. 12 August 2004. Digital Sublime. leadership. Bigger Monster. ed.. “Moore Embarrasses New CIA Chief. Ibid. or having your pornography delivered in a plain brown wrapper.” Mother Jones.ag. Surveillance-Industrial Complex.usdoj.S. no. 51–53. 47. visiting your local adult movie store. he knows that his work is subordinated to the big eye in the sky. Ibid. 5 (2004): 17–18.stm. 37. U. Digital Sublime. Stanley. www. ed. Mosco. of course. Douglas Jehl and Philip Shenon.” CNN. Surveillance: Work. 40. 45.cfm [accessed 6 August 2004]). 9 June 2004. Mosco. Yet we know that our Heavenly Father sees everything and is grieved when He sees us secretly committing these sins” (enrichmentjournal. For example.org/Privacy/Privacy.cnn. 46. 23–24. no. 88.” New York Times.ojp.html (accessed 6 August 2004). Digital Sublime. Myth. see Stanley and Steinhardt.com/2004/WORLD/europe/06/09/spain. 43. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft. 43. “Bush Preparing to Bolster CIA Director’s Power. Lies. 36. 13 July 2002.aclu. for one. 41. Washington. 41.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/3560484. This should be modiﬁed when considering the fundamentalist Christian factions within the U.35. It feels like you are alone and nobody sees what you are doing. 53.cfm?ID= 14170&c=132 (accessed 6 August 2004). Weaker Chains. Nicholas Garnham. 1 (1998): 97–120. the resolution of Orwell’s 1984 ﬁ nds the newly well-tempered Winston Smith at peace with his condition after he has learned to love Big Brother above all other loves. Chetna Purohit. 2003).org. “Prison Statistics.S. Outside the mainstream Hollywood fare.” www. And. Digital Sublime.co. 42. Spyscreen (New York: Oxford University Press. 165–83. Privacy in America: Electronic Monitoring. Laurie Ouellette and Susan Murray. news. 6. 38. 52. Mosco. we can ﬁ nd more interesting examples of this eroticization of surveillance in such ﬁ lms as Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession (1980) and Sex. DC. see the lesson on cybersex posted on the Assemblies of God Web site: “Cybersex feels safer than buying pornographic magazines. Jim DeFede. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. October 2003. 399–428. 24. Michael Zweig. 9/11 Commission Report.club/index. “Welcome to the Working Class!” New York Times. 39. Frank Webster (London: Routledge. For an overview. American Civil Liberties Union. 9/11 Commission Report. But as a member of the Assemblies of God Church. 50. Mosco.htm (accessed 1 September 2004).bbc. “Mining the Matrix. See Toby Miller. 27 August 2004.. and Videotape (1989). 16. introduction to Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture. may have thought of cyberspace as his hunting ground.
They are articulated with other political functions aimed at accepting. governance involved more than merely extracting obedience from its subjects. security wants to intervene in ongoing processes to direct them. whose function Agamben Social Text 83. 2. 23. or. and Media Every move you make.” understood in terms of the energy and cooperation that could be expected from bodies that work. and internal surveillance are part of a more general biopolitics. rejecting. the contemporary problem of governance—after 9/11—has been on dangerous bodies. originates with Michel Foucault’s discussion of the “biopolitics of the population. the forms of surveillance attending episodes of militarization. Shapiro The Shibboleth Historically. Vol.” an exercise of governance that “brought life and its mechanisms into the realm of explicit calculations” in the nineteenth century. He notes that the old forms of power that involved defense of territories is being displaced by an aggressive. The concept of biopolitics. by the mid-nineteenth century. which is increasingly invoked in critical political analyses. Copyright © 2005 by Duke University Press. Addressing the global context of “the war on terrorism. Foucault’s emphasis in his treatment of the biopolitics of the population is on the usefulness of bodies. while the law wants to prevent and prescribe. not only those that constitute threats from the outside but also those on the inside who collaborate with or serve as vehicles for enemies of the state.Every Move You Make: Bodies. No. outreaching securitization: “While disciplinary power isolates and closes off territories. every vow you take.1 Whereas previously states contained a “people” who were subject to the sovereign’s prerogatives. Summer 2005. . I’ll be watching you. warring violence. at a minimum. —The Police Michael J. or managing bodies. It became involved in managing a “population.”2 Nevertheless. the law. However. maintain the coherence and positive functioning of the family. Surveillance.” Giorgio Agamben revises the familiar Foucauldian notion of disciplinary power. serve in the army. measures of security lead to an opening and globalization. the calculation of their performance capabilities.
among other things. Angry about not having been called 22 Michael J.sees as being transcended. . For example. in reaction to FBI surveillance of Internet searches and book borrowing at libraries under the Patriot Act: “Librarians have taken a lead in speaking out on the issue . I begin with one of the earliest recorded circumstances. among other things. However. one needs to look at past instances against which the peculiarities of the present circumstances can be highlighted. “a mighty man of valor” (albeit an exiled son of Israel because he was the “son of a harlot”). the primary function of “the political. . understood as active agents impelled by their own willed and unconscious determinations. [and] in January  the American Library Association passed a resolution calling sections of the law ‘a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users’ and asking Congress to step up oversight of its implementation. and the surveilled body’s danger-related identity has been greatly extended. Shortly after Jephthah. What is involved in such struggles is nothing less than the intersection of physical bodies. there is an encounter between Gileadites and Ephraimites. with its increasingly global reach. Accordingly.”3 To appreciate the ﬁ nite historical forces at work within the present intensiﬁcation of surveillance and the technological and political contexts within which that intensiﬁcation is enacted. its Internet travels. there is another. its telephone conversations.” as politics is famously theorized by Carl Schmitt. reported by the scribes of the book of Judges. purchases and donations). eliminate. applied technologies of surveillance. more complex way of constituting the identities evoked during intense periods of violent political contention. Under the Patriot Act of 2001. Its corporal boundaries constitute a mere core of a system of acts with considerable territorial extension. We can view the politics of identity as. and its patterns of consumption. and episodes of altered political will deployed by governments and alternatively assisted and resisted by the governed. The most manifest one is a process of distinguishing friends and enemies.. levels of surveillance have been intensiﬁed.g. was recruited as a captain of Israel in a war against the Ammonites. verses 4–6 of Judges. he and his army got into a quarrel with the Ephraimites. Shapiro . or impose meanings on bodies and the bodies themselves. Two political issues are involved in those historical moments of securitization and militarization when bodies become subject to increased tracking and coercive management. its library borrowing. has been complicit with the hypersecuritization. acts constituted with attention to the surveilled body’s money trail (e. In chapter 12. a highstakes moment of surveillance that involved oral conversations. a struggle between those seeking to control.
” Ever since. the men of Gilead said unto him. only to be soundly defeated and thence to be regarded as enemies of Israel. their tongues failed to divide “the resonator . With this initial framing of the politics of surveillance in view. art thou an Ephraimite? If he say Nay. While the Ephraimite participation in the conversations worked as mutual intelligibility. . The Ephraimites who engaged in the unsuccessful phonatory acts were trying to manage what the linguist Roman Jakobson refers to as the “two sides” of the sign: the sound. Anatomically speaking. To locate this ﬁ nite historical episode within a general conceptual frame. the Dutch underground resistance made suspected German spies pronounce the name of Sceveningen. let me go over. As is noted in verses 5 and 6. a coastal city near Den Hague. in shaping the acoustics of the word.”4 It was the ﬁ rst side that proved fatal. Like the unfortunate Ephraimites. . . we see an encounter between two levels of the social order—bodies. the Ephraimites attacked Jephthah and his Gileadite army. especially to words used for voice-based surveillance. Every Move You Make 23 . their inability to make the precisely correct sounds doomed them. which is “the material side. . Then they took him and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. which is “the intelligible side. This was a shibboleth that even the most Dutch-ﬂuent Germans could not say correctly. . shibboleth has been a term applied to passwords. which gave them away. After the battle the Ephraimite survivors tried to cross the Jordan and blend in with the rest of the people of Israel. which are materially speciﬁed in terms of the phonatory capacities. and a politically evinced and administratively coordinated model of identitydifference. they had a distinctive style of speech. For example. they could not “frame to pronounce it right.to serve in the war against the Ammonites. Then said they unto him. we can turn to a much later historical episode of militarization and surveillance to move toward a more historically acute elaboration. Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right.” The “frame” expression can be given a more abstract and technical speciﬁcation in order to locate the pronunciation difﬁculty within a historical trajectory of relationships between surveillance technology and bodies. “When those Ephraimites which were escaped said. Although they were apparently visually undistinguishable. one sensitive to a genealogy of surveillance technologies.” and the meaning. during World War II. of the mouth cavity” correctly.
the militias. Although the Cecilian regime’s reliance on privateering merchant adventurers would seem to distance its militarization from the contemporary case. formed through levies and used primarily for service abroad. were also employed for domestic paciﬁcation.6 They recognize that (as was the case with powerful merchants in earlier historical periods) large corporations have the requisite power to. Elizabethan England experienced a reign of state terror provoked in part by its “decisive break from Roman Catholicism” and implemented by a Cecilian regime. two writers (one a “think tank” security analyst and the other a journalist). and interest in. a large oil-service company.7 The relevance of the Elizabethan case to the present is also evident at the level of domestic oppression. anyone asso- 24 Michael J. 8 Although there was no signiﬁcant standing army. primarily by government-approved merchant privateers.The Case of Elizabethan England In the sixteenth century. For example. Shapiro . a project that involved episodes of plunder at sea. For example. feeding troops in Uzbekistan.9 At the same time a growing intelligence system had developed. a version of privateering is being entertained as a contemporary option. lending considerable resources to the pursuit of the state’s enemies. England’s external militance under the Cecilian regime was directed primarily against Spain and Portugal. pondering the ways to prosecute the “war on terrorism. Given the religious cleavage involved in its battle for European hegemony. Halliburton. And laws were in place to provide the required judicial leverage: “The scope of treason was extended by Acts of 1534 and 1536.”5 In creating a tightly controlled. “bedeviled lately by an array of accounting and business issues. rather than full-scale clashes of ﬂeets or land armies. the Cecilian regime regarded Protestantism as synonymous with patriotism.” Their participation has included building cells for detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. the Cecilian regime established an early modern version of the national security state both by expanding its military adventures and by developing an internal security network of clients and informants. although they are not directly involved in hot-war privateering.” is proﬁting signiﬁcantly from the “war on terrorism.” A vast network of informants was employed to identify those involved in subversive acts. Navy.” have advocated a return to privateering. Sir William Cecil (aka Lord Burghley) and his progeny were involved in the “construction of a Protestant State Church as a precondition for both domestic repression and external aggression. using “human resources. and serving as a logistics supplier for the U. principally to encompass treason by word as well as overt deed. and militarized Protestant state.S.”10 Because of what was increasingly seen as a Catholic threat. surveillant.
participated in the regime’s covert spying activities.” respectively. inveighing against Spanish tyranny in “the New World” and suggesting a more effective commercial English version of global hegemony. were not the only genres addressing the newly militarized and surveillant state. Hakluyt’s nation.16 Moreover. would be a place where England’s “waste people” and “idle people” could be employed to avoid the damage they would otherwise do at home.15 However. the traditional reading of his play The Massacre at Paris (1592) sees it as an unequivocal and passionate expression of horror about the slaughter of Huguenots by French Catholics. Hakluyt juxtaposes England’s global role with that of Spain.11 But on the side of a generalized encouragement for England’s imperial expansion. Many English Catholics and many associated with Spain were turned into traitors. it has often been assumed that Marlowe. Curtis Breight’s point that it “deploys Catholic propaganda written not by the French Catholic league but by English Catholic exiles [in a] direct and powerful attack on the Every Move You Make 25 . As is the case with the contemporary intensiﬁcation of military adventurism and domestic surveillance. he was sponsored by that elite. and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589). He was among those involved in “the articulation of England itself. carrying “military treatises” and “pro-military propaganda. the Cecilian regime was concerned with legitimating its imperial sovereignty.” celebrating English navigation.and empire-building texts (and the other complicit books and pamphlets). The primary genres used to evince ideological support for the extensive militarization taking place were the book and the pamphlet. expansive England.13 Hakluyt’s travel narratives helped articulate the cartographic change of the new. for example. Elizabethan drama was signiﬁ cantly implicated in both afﬁ rming and criticizing the Cecilian regime’s domestic terrorizing of the population as well as its foreign adventures.12 Hakluyt also saw global economic and military expansion as a way to manage the domestic population. on the one hand. arguably no genre or set of texts was more inﬂuential than Richard Hakluyt’s treatises: Discourse on Western Planting (1584) and Principal Navigations. But others see a subversive element in the play. The dramatist most famously involved in the regime’s terror and militarization was Christopher Marlowe.14 And because Hakluyt’s views of the nation’s domestic issues and its imperial aspirations were congenial to those of the ruling elite. which were absorbed into the Cecilian regime’s cultural governance strategies. The colonies. Voyages. he said.ciated with that threat was surveilled by the network of spies recruited to curtail domestic subversion. who was patronized by Francis Walsingham’s cousin Thomas. and promoting its expansion. In Discourse on Western Planting. on the other. On the basis of equivocal evidence.
but rather than the stage. Shakespeare effectively “delineate[s] how the medieval modern state helps to manufacture itself by destroying alternative conceptions and practices of power. The Contemporary Scene: Expanded and Resistant Bodies One of the more familiar approaches to history of states is Anthony Giddens’s sociological gloss. are allegorical. In a close reading of the histories. particularly his Henriad and his Richards. Although some see Shakespeare as a promonarchy patriot. the primary venues are ﬁ lm and television. The case with respect to the position on the regime’s surveillance and militarization in Shakespeare’s historical plays is also ambiguous. “Falstaff’s recruiting practices and the ultimate destruction of his men” are represented. and.” they map aspects of the Elizabethan culture of surveillance and manifest a concern with the “lower-class victims of upper-class conﬂ ict” (172–73). in bodies.” in this case regional communities with inconvenient religious afﬁ liations led by traditional elites. And Coriolanus “boldly exposes what the Henriad could only imply by accretion—that war functioned to dispose of commoners” (237). Breight argues that rather than siding with the monarchy and its aristocratic henchmen. in the media. ﬁ nally.Cecilian regime. the plays are read as treatments of contemporary Elizabethan politics and as implicitly critical commentaries on the effects of state terror and military adventurism on commoners. Shapiro . Shakespeare’s historical plays reﬂect on the abuses of the security apparatus. In addition. His widely accepted treatment of the modern state’s history of violence is one of a successful process of the “paciﬁcation” of state populations and a subsequent “withdrawal of the military from direct participation in the internal affairs of the state. the dire effects of military recruitment are shown.” Breight regards Marlowe’s violent death as a political assassination by agents of a Protestant-dominated regime that read such nuances in the play as subversive to a Protestant hegemony (116). reﬂecting the fact that many commoners died not in battles but as a result of the hardships of service (210). in technologies. on one view Shakespeare’s historical dramas. I locate the contemporary politics of surveillance in space.17 The contemporary policies of militarization and surveillance are also supported and contested within media genres. In the case of the Henriad. In what follows. “Under the guise of historical remoteness. for example.”18 However appropriate to the history of European states Giddens’s linear narrative may be—certainly episodes of militarization in a wide variety of global venues suggests that “military withdrawal from domestic affairs” has not been continuous—trends in post–Cold War sovereignty and secu- 26 Michael J.
In addition to a growing use of military technologies for crime ﬁ ghting. but the new modes of warfare-as-crime-ﬁ ghting involve the development of a biological rather than merely a paper trail. a new biopolitics is emerging. 20 Certainly. the science ﬁction writer William Gibson began his novel Count Zero with this passage: “They set a SLAMHOUND on Turner’s trail in New Delhi. the sponsoring of printed materials. antinarcotic assaults in Colombia). which reconﬁgures CIA and FBI investigatory functions. The technology of DNA tracing. the paper trail and its electronic realization in the form of computer ﬁles remain signiﬁcant. And the use of pheromones in the Gibson account is technologically anachronistic. domestically and abroad (for example. as new genetic tracing discoveries are being recruited into intelligence gathering. Is the biometric. a commando. The criminalization of military adversaries has been accompanied by a biometric approach to intelligence and surveillance. “Turner” is reassembled from some of his own parts and some others (eyes and genitals bought on the open market). designer weapon far behind? Anticipating the role of biometric coding in futuristic forms of warfare.19 Along with the territorial ambiguities that the new warfare-as-crimeﬁ ghting entails.”21 Thanks to advanced cloning technology in Gibson’s futuristic war world.rity practices present a new challenge to the narrative. Every Move You Make 27 .” and concludes with some observations about cultural governance. the surveillance dimension is being rapidly developed. now well developed. in U. is complementing Certainly. Its core was a kilogram of recrystallized hexogene and ﬂ aked TNT. the paper trail and its electronic realization in the form of computer ﬁ les remain signiﬁcant. the post-9/11 developments in “homeland security” and the elaboration of a domestic intelligence network. Whether or not the military logistics of biometric warfare is now underway.S. He lives on as the novel’s main character. He begins with a treatment of the state’s use of writing. Ultimately. as new genetic tracing discoveries are being recruited into intelligence gathering. slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair. It caught up with him on a street called Chandni Chauk and came scrambling for his rented BMW through a forest of bare brown legs and pedicab tires. The signiﬁcance of this change becomes evident if one contrasts Giddens’s treatment of the surveillance technologies that paralleled the modern state’s monopolization of violence with the current ones. but the new modes of warfare-as-crimeﬁghting involve the development of a biological rather than merely a paper trail. operating in a war over research and development products. the current security and intelligence policies dissolve many of the former distinctions between domestic crime ﬁ ghting and global warfare. not only for surveillance but also for enlarging the scope of the public sphere. permits unprecedented levels of domestic surveillance (under the Patriot Act of October 2001) and insinuates military tribunals into the domestic juridical network in the United States. Throughout his discussion Giddens refers primarily to the use of paper trails. proceeds to the state’s “coding of information.
Shapiro . “nearly a dozen” patriotic war movies were under production and television dramas followed suit. For example. the Bush administration wanted to encourage “patriotic war movies that characterized the early years of that war.”25 After that meeting. 24 On the one hand.”26 28 Michael J. Attorney General John Ashcroft sought changes in federal law “to allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation to maintain a DNA databank of proﬁ les taken from al-Qaeda and Taliban ﬁghters detained in Afghanistan and Cuba. afﬁ rming the government’s real-life message that America must remain vigilant. Among the most notable of the TV genre was an episode of JAG (a CBS drama about military lawyers). featured a trial of a deﬁ ant al-Qaeda terrorist (undoubtedly modeled after Zacarias Moussaoui.”23 Subsequently.S. in early November 2002. yet ends with an ominous threat of more terror in the works. policy makers face legitimation issues when introducing new modes of surveillance and criminalization. When those operating the “reasons of state” are involved in implementing a historically unorthodox “governmentality”—in this case an extraordinary mode of surveillance. on the other hand. As one commentary notes: “The strategy behind the ‘Tribunal’ episode is more transparent than ever: the show creates the wish-fulﬁ llment fantasy of capturing a terrorist responsible for the attacks. the administration approached ﬁ lm and television producers to encourage them to create patriotic feature ﬁ lms and TV dramas designed to elicit public support for the new policies. Of course. there was a feverish search for legal precedents. the Bush administration began operating on two fronts to solicit acquiescence to its simultaneous intensiﬁcation of domestic surveillance and preparation for global military incursions (a strategy of “preemptive defense”). produced with the Pentagon’s help. hence the designation of an American citizen as an “enemy combatant” to apply a law of war that was earlier applied only to foreign nationals. Accordingly. 22 Shortly after the destruction of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. the alleged twentieth 9/11 hijacker) by a military tribunal at which he received a “fair trial” (a promise by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to the media after the tribunal plan was ﬂoated). the media carried a story about a meeting between White House adviser Karl Rove and several dozen top television and ﬁ lm executives. The 30 April 2002 episode. Aware of the ﬁ lm industry’s role in World War II.the photograph and paper trial to surveil and intercept dangerous bodies. “forensic experts” were dispatched to Afghanistan to test the human tissue found in one battleﬁeld to see if any of the dead included bin Laden or his senior associates. and management of the global order and the domestic population—they have to produce warrants for the new policy initiatives. then–U. depicts an idealized military. after the 9/11 episode.
. in particular. Referring to the mode of security imposed by the state. “In the control societies what are important are no longer numbers and names but codes. a password instead of a watchword. we must recognize what Gilles Deleuze has characterized as “societies of control. To place the ﬁ lm within the contemporary politics of surveillance. the prison—have been displaced by the societies of control. which Foucault saw as supplanting the old societies of sovereignty based on enclosures—the school. above all. 27 While much of Deleuze’s emphasis is on the control measures of corporations. The geometry of control is never complete. and lines of ﬂ ight. —John Anderton (Tom Cruise) The government’s attempts at suborning the media and.” He suggests that the disciplinary societies. this system of domination is based on modulations and coding procedures. which are the mechanisms and routes through which people elude the machines of capture. a departure from “normalizing individualization. his model of the control society also pertains to the control measures of the state. Steven Spielberg’s ﬁ lm Minority Report (2002) provides the most notable ideational challenge to the state’s surveillance practices. Rather than walls. the pursuit of lines of ﬂ ight constitute a micropolitical reaction to the macropolitics of capture. control access to information.” with aspirations to become a national program.” codes that control movements from one function and setting to another and which. the factory.”29 Spielberg’s Minority Report plays out the tension between the machines of capture and the micropolitics of escape. where a “precrime unit. feature ﬁ lms often challenge the government’s attempts at achieving public acceptance of its policies. By virtue of their form as well as content. the social order has two signiﬁcant modes: machines of capture in which bodies and spaces are coded.”28 Within such a process of securitization. DC. deploys a policing function to arrest and incarcerate individuals who Every Move You Make 29 . and enlist its feature ﬁ lms in support of militarization and surveillance. Given the recent tendency of the ofﬁcial discourse on terrorism to criminalize “the enemy” and to employ biometric surveillance technologies. Deleuze and Guattari put it this way: “The administration of a great organized molar security has as its correlate a whole micro-management of petty fears [amounting to] . the Hollywood ﬁ lm industry. a macropolitics of society by and for a micropolitics of insecurity.Minority Report Everybody runs. everybody runs. . Set in 2054 (and based on a Philip Dick short story by the same title) the venue is Washington. face signiﬁcant resistance.
Anderton’s body functions as a physical extension of the precrime surveillance and arrest functions. incarcerated. He manifests a counterenergy and goes so far as to modify his body to subvert the surveillance system. his movements are wholly modulated and choreographed by the system as.” he says when the police ﬁ rst try to apprehend him. and thereafter his running requires him to move in ways that allow him to escape from the coding apparatuses and exemplify the Deleuzian suggestion that there are always forms of ﬂow that elude the capturing. “Everybody runs. having his eyes replaced to subvert the coding system. As Philip Dick’s version of the story puts it: “The existence of a majority logically implies a corresponding minority. he becomes a subversive body. has suppressed the minority reports in order to represent future criminal acts as certainties rather than probabilities). the most signiﬁcant body in the ﬁ lm is that of John Anderton. his body is in motion. As in the current situation—former Attorney General Ashcroft’s “preventive detention” in which aliens and Muslims have been arrested. the head of the program is discredited. ﬁ rst as a wholly committed operative of the unit and then as a fugitive who has been marked as a future criminal. his swinging arms are shown pulling up the relevant images on a large screen. Throughout the ﬁ lm.”30 In the ﬁ lm version. if it exists. Anderton is told that his only hope is to ﬁ nd the one in his case. and the precrime program is eliminated). after he is set up and becomes another victim. and denied legal representation because they are “of interest” to those seeking to end the threat of terrorist attack in the United States31— the future perpetrators in Minority Report are given no legal redress. Anderton is therefore a Deleuzian fugitive. suborned bodies held in a drugged state of suspended animation. which reads retinal patterns. and subsequently his moving body is shown closing in on the alleged perpetrator. the chief arresting ofﬁcer of the precrime unit. he learns that the three precogs do not always agree.will commit a future crime. They are identiﬁed by three “precogs” with predictive powers. Some of those marked as future perpetrators have been identiﬁed as such by a majority report (of two precogs). But apart from his manifestation of Deleuzian lines of ﬂ ight by 30 Michael J. binary organizations. But while Cruise displays a wholly suborned body controlled by the state’s apparatus of capture at the outset. During his ﬂ ight from the “justice” of the precrime program. While the narrative has a positive ending (ultimately Anderton is exonerated. While the eventual escape and return to normal life of one of the precogs is part of the ﬁ lm’s drama. the ﬁ lm’s most signiﬁcant aspects are nonnarrative and micropolitical. In the opening scenes. one whose movements and gestures are no longer orchestrated by ofﬁcial policing policy. Shapiro . eager to have it implemented nationally. Anderton learns that the minority reports have been suppressed (because the overall head of the program. at ﬁ rst.
drew optimistic administration support (the Washington premiere was attended by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney). but. But even those Hollywood ﬁ lms that appear to support the politics of surveillance and capture contain subversive elements. the subversiveness of Anderton’s body is also a function of a ﬁ lm form that opposes the body to the narrative. and bad guys (murderous Somali mercenaries) plays into the administration’s hands. by means of revealing its fragmented nature. it does not clearly valorize the policy or the attempt. “the idea is for cinema to dis-organ-ize the body. leaving the body “at the service of narrative articulations.S. that is.S. although the Jerry Bruckheimer/Ridley Scott treatment of the U.exploiting the gaps in the apparatuses of capture. to use bodies as vehicles for a story and thereby to abandon the body’s density for the exclusive proﬁt of functionality. Black Hawk Down (2001). precisely disencarnate. the ﬁ lm does not unambiguously provide the romantic soldatesque that the administration expected. no clear point of view on the policy or its failed implementation strikes the viewer. For example. was popular among anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960s. among others—used by the French military to extract information about enemy operations. As Vincent Amiel notes. and often heroic mutual support). ironically. However. the tendency of classical cinema was to give in to the economy of narrativizing. by extracting it from the ‘yoke of unity and consciousness. the Pentagon recently held a screening of The Battle of Algiers . the recent rerelease of The Battle of Algiers is open to other ways of seeing.’”33 The Deleuzian political inspiration to resist the apparatuses of capture is therefore enacted in Minority Report. at the same time. Certainly. as was the case with Black Hawk Down.”35 The ﬁ lm’s historical gloss on the war between the colonial French military and Algerian nationalists moved many viewers to identify with Ali La Pointe. 34 Although the ﬁ lm portrays an (unsuccessful) attempt to eliminate a political leader involved in violence unfavorable to American interests (now part of the administration’s war agenda). which. the network of resistance in the Casbah in the city’s Muslim section. Every Move You Make 31 . by means of revealing the notion/ destiny of a coherent and unitary organism imposed into the body. its version of good guys (American soldiers engaged in resolute duty. the Pentagon viewers were ﬁ xated on the instruments of repression—torture. intervention in Somalia. In contrast. the leader of the urban part of the struggle. military apparatus. by giving it back the complexity of its own determinations. An even earlier movie with a clearer stance on imperial overreach has attracted the attention of the U.”32 But in much of contemporary cinema (and Spielberg’s Minority Report is an exemplar). As Michael Kaufman reports: “Challenged by terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare in Iraq.
” trans. 1978). ﬁ lm can be seen as a site of challenge and resistance.Moreover. Judith Graham.”37 Minimally. trans. Nikolas K. Surveillance. Giorgio Agamben. 1977). and Drama in the Elizabethan Era (New York: St.edu:2146/journals/theory_and_event/ v005/5. MA: MIT Press. Surveillance. unlike painting. 3. that “us” is a mass audience involved in “collective reception. Breight. Theory and Event 5 (2000) at micro189. John Mepham (Cambridge. 6 April 2003. 32 Michael J. unlike Black Hawk Down. 57. Militarism. and Drama in the Elizabethan Era.” Honolulu Advertiser. 9.hawaii. I do an extended analysis of the Elizabethan case in Michael J. See Richard Helgerson’s treatment of Hakluyt in Forms of Nationhood (Chicago: University of Chicago Press.html. in its philosophical mode. Surveillance.” Honolulu Advertiser. Cipriano. Notes 1. Breight.. 21 July 2002. 6. “Security and Terror.. 1992).”36 Moreover. Ibid. 10.” New York Times. 50. 1985). “In Tough Times a Company Finds Proﬁts in Terror War.” What is the place of cinema in an era of hypermilitarization? As Kaja Silverman has suggested. Gvosdev and Anthony A. Militarism.4agamben.lib3. 2004). Shapiro . 8. Breight. for encouraging us to see in ways not dictated in advance by the dominant ﬁction. 5. Michel Foucault. “Library Users Warned of FBI Spying. Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. Curtis C. Gilles Deleuze ﬁgured as a life-creating weapon. 12. Methods and Nations: Cultural Governance and the Indigenous Subject (New York: Routledge. in the case of ﬁ lm. 2. such “aesthetic work is a privileged domain for displacing us from the geometrical point. The History of Sexuality. 49. and in its cinematic mode. Six Lectures on Sound and Meaning. 31. 139. 2004) counter the weapons of war with critical thinking. 11. at a historical moment when a government is seeking support from the arts to extend its sphere of imperial violence while surveilling and closing what has been one of history’s most open societies. delivers a more heroic and idealistic set of images of the “terrorist resistance. Shapiro. 13 July 2002. Militarism. 2004) and Michael Moore’s documentary response to the Bush administration’s Iraq war (Fahrenheit 9/11. 1996). The Great Arch (New York: Blackwell. Philip Corrigan and Derek Sayer. Carolin Emcke. 7. the ﬁ lm. 1. Errol Morris’s documentary of Robert MacNamara’s decision-making role during the Vietnam War (The Fog of War. In addition to the feature ﬁ lms to which I have referred. Martin’s. trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon. Immanuel Kant ﬁgured as a permanently armed state. “Patriotism and Proﬁt Are Powerful Weapons. 4. 59. Roman Jakobson. for example. 143. and Drama in the Elizabethan Era. which.
Walsingham. 21. Militarism.S. Ashcroft said. 17 June 2002. Breight. on 10 June 2002. accessed 16 December 2004. Says It Halted Qaeda Plot to Use Radioactive Bomb”).” in Catalog of the Scientiﬁc Community at es. 18. Breight. David Johnson. Helgerson. David E. AlMujahir. Rewarding his complicity with the cultural governance of the Cecilian regime. Wolfowitz said in a press conference at the Justice Department that the suspect.” the plays (especially in Shakespeare’s case) were not subversive but rather “contributed at once to the consolidation of central power. Is Studying DNA of Dead Al Qaeda and Taliban Combatants. 2 March 2002. 1.html).rice. Richard. to the cultural division of class from class” (Helgerson.” New York Times. Forms of Nationhood. 10 June 2002). Dexter Filkins. 26. “TV’s Take on Government in a Terror-Filled World. “bore or at least arranged part of the expense of the publication. which establishes that the military may detain a United States citizen who has joined the enemy and has entered our country to carry out hostile acts” (“Ashcroft’s Announcement. .html.defenselink . . 192. Some see Shakespeare’s play differently. Giddens. For example. 17. 25. 19. Department of Defense News Transcript. Count Zero (New York: Ace. 1985).mil/transcripts/2002/t06102002_t0610dsd.” They both celebrate authority and “bear a subversive potential” while playing to audiences that included everyone from commoners to kings. 14.S.13. 1987). 20. 30 April 2002. Surveillance. Richard Helgerson reads Shakespeare as a loyal monarchist. “White House Sets Meeting with Film Executives to Discuss War on Terrorism. The historical details and quotations are from “Hakluyt. But for the “discursive community” of the theater. 16. the New York Times reported the arrest of an American citizen. however. Caryn James. Commenting on this citizen’s legal status. “[He is an] enemy combatant. the head of the state spy network (to whom Hakluyt dedicated the initial edition of Principal Navigations).” New York Times. which. 152. . Anthony Giddens. and Drama in the Elizabethan Era. 15. Every Move You Make 33 . and Drama in the Elizabethan Era. www. 244–45). 47. “Law Change Sought to Set up DNA Databank for Captured Qaida Fighters. . The Nation-State and Violence (Berkeley: University of California Press. was “far removed from the councils of power. Nation-State and Violence. Surveillance.” Sir Robert Cecil was one of Hakluyt’s patrons to whom subsequent editions of Principal Navigations were dedicated. Forms of Nationhood. They show “kingship in a narrative and dramatic medium that not only displayed power but revealed the sometimes brutal and duplicitous strategies by which power maintained itself. 15 March 2002. “U. 179. 10 June 2002. whom the U. Militarism. 24. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul F. “U. was being held by the Department of Defense “under the laws of war” (U. [and] . Rick Lyman. 8 November 2001.” New York Times. Sanger. William Gibson. 23.edu/ES/humsoc/Galileo/Catalog/Files/hakluyt.S. attorney general alleged to be an al-Qaeda operative (James Risen and Philip Shenon. 22. . Helgerson states.” Associated Press. 127. 33. arguing that the plays manifest a doubleness.S.” New York Times.” New York Times. We have acted with legal authority both under the laws of war and clear Supreme Court precedent. Mr. For example. “Bush to Formalize a Defense Policy of Hitting First.
Kaufman. 7. David Cole. 1998). A Thousand Plateaus. Deleuze and Guattari. Cassavetes (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Ibid. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. 15 June 2003. Shapiro . Geoffrey Gray. sec. A Thousand Plateaus. 34 Michael J. 29. Hannah Arendt.. 33. trans.” 30. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 7 September 2003. 184. “Postscript on Societies of Control. 26.” October 59 (1993): 5. 1987). 36. 45. See Walter Benjamin. Vincent Amiel. 215–16. 2002).” Village Voice. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken. 28. Kaja Silverman. “ ‘Black Hawk’ Damned. Le corps au cinema: Keaton. The Threshold of the Visible World (New York: Routledge. Minority Report (New York: Pantheon.” Honolulu Advertiser. “What Does the Pentagon See in Battle of Algiers?” New York Times. 34. 1985). The translations of the Amiel quotations are mine.27. 37. 208–31. 12 February 2002. Gilles Deleuze. ed. section titled “Micropolitics of Segmentarity. “ ‘Preventive Detention’ Was a Legal End Run. 31. 32. trans. Philip Dick. 12. 1996).” in Illuminations. Bresson. 2. Michael T. 35.
Vol. If it ﬁ rst came from a biometrics industry representative. The recorded video image from the airport in Portland that appears to show Mohammad Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari passing through airport security is a familiar part of 9/11 iconography.1 This possibility was the basis for hearings held on Capitol Hill following 9/11. According to experts. Already existing commercially available technology. face recognition technology that’s already commercially available could have instantly checked the image against photos of suspected terrorists on ﬁ le with the FBI and other authorities. Terrorism and Social Text 83. ME.” Technologies that use digital readings of the face to identify individuals could have saved the United States from the worst terrorist attack in its history. Along with the enormous ﬂood of imagery of the day relayed in the news media were the out-of-focus surveillance-camera images of two of the alleged attackers. Even more chilling to many security experts is the fact that. one of the most haunting was a frame from a surveillance-camera video capturing the face of suspected hijacker Mohamed Atta as he passed through an airport metal detector in Portland. an image like that might have helped avert the attacks. 23. Copyright © 2005 by Duke University Press. It is virtually impossible to reference this image without also invoking the claim that facial recognition technology could have identiﬁed the men in the image as wanted terrorist suspects. “could have instantly checked the image against photos of suspected terrorists. . 2.Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia Of all the dramatic images to emerge in the hours and days following the September 11 attacks. If a match had been made. according to this regretful yet strangely hopeful assertion. Technology Review Kelly A. it seemed to spring forth simultaneously from multiple sources. —Alexandra Stikeman. like oft-quoted Visionics CEO Joseph Atick. it was quickly embraced and repeated by other public voices who felt sure it was true. The precise origin of the claim is hard to identify. the system could have sounded the alarm before the suspect boarded his ﬂ ight. the Technology. had the right technology been in place. No. Summer 2005. On 14 November 2001. Gates The idea that computerized face recognition may have helped avert the alQaeda terrorist attacks was perhaps the most ambitious claim circulating about biometric identiﬁcation technologies in the aftermath of September 11.
What is effectively erased is the fact that well before 9/11. facial recognition and other biometrics are literally becoming components or actors in new media assemblages. security was not alerted and the hijackers remained free to carry out their bloody plans. and then get on four different airliners in a single morning without being stopped?” The answer. it was already “embedded in and shaped by a rich web of cultural practices and ideas. unpacking the black box of facial recognition technology. she noted. most pressing problem facing the nation. namely. “is that we could not identify them. In other words. The central questions that guide this analysis come from studies of new media. a whole set of social actors was engaged in ongoing struggles and negotiations over the development and deployment of this technology. the technology emerges as an already existing. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked. “How could a large group of coordinated terrorists operate for more than a year in the United States without being detected.5 Facial recognition technology is itself a form of new media. video. Gates .” The idea that the events of 9/11 could have been prevented with the sophisticated technological products of modernity is laden with what Pat Gill has called “technostalgia”: the desire to revise the past to redetermine the present. even as it inserts them fully formed into the past.”3 I explore this web.Government Information Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing. and high-tech solution to the newest. and computer hardware and software. “In the case of at least two of the hijackers authorities had pictures of them as suspects prior to the attack. This technostalgic longing to revise the past provides a paradoxical sort of origin myth for facial recognition technology. This move effectively erases the history of these technologies. and airport cameras actually photographed them. It is also being bundled or integrated with other new media. 2 The claim might be said to embody a collective psychological need to believe that the nation was not as vulnerable as it appeared.” Voicing again the assertion that had become part of the repertoire of public responses to the 9/11 events. reliable. at the same time admitting the impossibility of this endeavor. she said. including the Internet and computer networks. “Biometric Identiﬁers and the Modern Face of Terror: New Technologies in the Global War on Terrorism. why 36 Kelly A. In the post-9/11 context. While it was not already fully formed and ready to identify the nation’s post–Cold War enemy Other.” In her opening remarks. that our technological sophistication remains unscathed and in fact would have stopped the men had it been in place. But because these cameras didn’t use facial biometric systems.4 The analysis is informed by scholarship that examines the emergence of new media technologies in both contemporary and historical contexts. relying as it does on media technologies like photography.
purposes and practices to which the technology is not marginal but central. Its arrival on the scene happens alongside and in relation to the spread of the Internet and computer networking. commercially available products takes place in the post-Soviet/post–Cold War decade of the 1990s. to computer networks themselves. . Facial recognition and biometrics must be located ﬁ rmly within their historical and cultural context of emergence.facial recognition. At the same time the interpretation would differ from symptomatic technology [i.e. .”6 My aim here is to restore intention to the process of research and development of facial recognition technology. to the national territory. and what is “new” about this technology? In his study of television as both a technology and a cultural form. with particular attention to the ways these technologies are being enlisted to control access to the spaces and information of value in the digital age.7 By automating the process of connecting bodies to identities and. neoliberal economic policies like NAFTA and the 1996 Telecommunications Act. and the enormously publicized public-private competition to map the human genome. Late-Nineteenth-Century Bodily Identiﬁcation Systems To understand how and why computerized facial recognition has become both a possibility and perceived necessity. Biometrics embody a digital mode of representing the body. in some cases. studies that view technology as in essence an effect of a particular social order] in that these purposes and practices would be seen as direct: as known social needs. and the growing state and private interest in the technology during the 1990s. to information. The technology would be seen . why now. as being [envisioned] and developed with certain purposes and practices already in mind. to transportation systems. early research on machine recognition of faces in the 1960s.. and techniques of digitalization are enlisted to lay a particular claim to truth about the relationship between the body and identity. and to speciﬁc spaces of consumption and safety. In The Origins of Totalitarian- Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia 37 . distributing that identiﬁed body across computer networks for speciﬁc purposes. Raymond Williams advocated an analysis that “would restore intention to the process of research and development. This effort requires rescuing it from post-9/11 technostalgic narratives and recapturing some of its history. it helps to consider the problem of identiﬁcation in historical perspective. biometrics can control access to the beneﬁts of citizenship. creating a universal digital representation of human essence. I discuss late-nineteenth-century ancestors to biometrics. The early emergence of face recognition as part of the state surveillance apparatus and as marketed.
makes their accurate. a process seen as fraught with error and inefﬁciency. archival systems. records. corresponds to the expansion of the modern state. including letters. even with the most cooperative subjects and precise renderings.9 The rise of a culture of identiﬁcation. in which individuals are assigned ofﬁcial identities and routinely asked to verify those identities in social and economic exchanges. necessarily draw on their own subjective perceptions and preconceived notions about individual types to identify or verify identities. The hybridity of both identity and the body. a never-ending mirror stage of development where identity never precisely occupies the body or vice versa. printed documents. A third enduring problem has 38 Kelly A. bodily measurements. Hannah Arendt argued that the claim to authority for determining who belongs and who does not is a central component of sovereignty. one that required the construction of “state memory” as a complex of archives. Identifying citizens and distinguishing them from noncitizens became an essential function of the modern state. Since their emergence out of traditional societies. both in terms of their cultural prejudices and lack of objectivity. than those that preceded it. A second problem—and one that has been clearly and consistently targeted in the effort to improve and perfect identiﬁcation systems—has been the fallibility of the human agents or workers operating within identiﬁcation systems. and human agents. and hence more neutral. and administrative procedures—a leap of faith based on the problematic assumption that technologies are neutral and separable from the messiness of human social agents. One enduring problem has been that of articulating identity to the body in a consistent way. Human agents of identiﬁcation. reliable articulation that much more difﬁcult. such as police and immigration ofﬁcers. The proposed solutions to this so-called problem of human fallibility have frequently involved delegation of responsibility for identiﬁcation to technologies. documents.10 The state and other institutions have faced and consistently attempted to address a complex of problems in their ongoing efforts to construct systems for accurately and reliably identifying individual constituents at key points of contact. Gates . photographic portraiture. modern states have necessarily invested considerable effort in deﬁ ning their membership—those individuals entitled to state beneﬁts and protections. Each successive technology of identiﬁcation is constructed as more scientiﬁc.ism. 8 The identiﬁcation of subjects residing within or attempting to enter state territories has been a particular preoccupation of modern states. administrative procedures. The seemingly natural connection between the body and identity of the person reveals itself to be in perpetual slippage. as well as their inability to manage the amount of information required to individuate bodies and identities. and subject to state controls. and their instability over time.
such a massive undertaking probably would have exceeded the administrative capacities (and interests) of the state. and this use of photography shaped both the development of the medium and its cultural signiﬁcance. and the systems elaborated to do so. as elsewhere. while such projects were certainly conceived. such systems lent themselves to targeted procedures for identiﬁcation outside the realm of criminal identiﬁcation. While these efforts to devise identiﬁcation systems were motivated by the problem of identifying criminals and criminal recidivists. which became a crucial site for further identiﬁcatory and supervisory developments that were then reappropriated into universal systems of civil identiﬁcation. systems devised for criminal identiﬁcation. Biometrics are not the ﬁ rst technical effort to connect bodies to identities. anthropometry.been the immensity of the archival and administrative effort necessary to achieve universal identiﬁcation.11 According to Jane Caplan and John Torpey. and as subject populations grow in size they inevitably complicate systems of identiﬁcation such that controlling individual identities becomes an enormous bureaucratic challenge for even the most organized and informationalized apparatus. fear of criminals and fear of foreigners blended into one another. and dactyloscopy. including photography. The invention of photographic portraiture was enlisted to enhance or “modernize” identiﬁcation systems virtually from its very inception. Several key nineteenth-century developments in identiﬁcation systems evidence a perceived need to use the body itself as a marker of identity at that time of modern state expansion.”12 This is not to say that identiﬁcation systems were deployed universally for the identiﬁcation of all citizens. and the much more successful and enduring scientiﬁc method of dactyloscopy. “Police practices in the [late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries] asserted a more specialized domain of authority over criminal identiﬁcation and detection. Photographic portraiture carried with it utopian visions about the possibilities of photography’s realist representational capacity. Its emergence coincided and interacted with the growing professionalization of policing and the introduction of “expert” sciences Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia 39 . were employed in various contexts for identifying entrants to state territory. strictly deﬁ ned. particularly as “nativists” stereotyped immigrants as inherently criminal. These included the application of photography for identiﬁcation purposes. In the United States. overlapped with systematic state efforts to identify and distinguish between citizens and noncitizens. or ﬁ ngerprinting. especially given the hybridity of populations and their perpetually changing compositions. the imperative to identify criminals. The task of identifying each individual consistently and reliably across time and space has been difﬁcult even with the most static of populations. the relatively short-lived and sporadically applied method of anthropometry. Still.
especially in photographs. amounting to a new representation of society.Individuation involved turning real lives not only “into writing. The French police ofﬁcial Alphonse Bertillon answered the call.16 but also into images that could be meticulously examined one by one and accumulated into ﬁ ling systems. necessitating new procedures and areas of expertise. It was a medium uniquely suited to truth-production. Not only did this require some mode of archival organization.” as Michel Foucault elaborated. The value of photographs for identiﬁcation was realized early by the British police. According to John Tagg. Individuals had ways of looking drastically different over time and strikingly similar to one another. developing the system of anthropometry in the 1880s. photographs alone could not completely solve the problem of identiﬁcation.15 The emerging disciplinary institutions incorporated photography into sophisticated new surveillance techniques that generated a new kind of detailed and productive knowledge about the subjects being observed. Authorities clearly saw it as a potential solution to the problem of binding identities to bodies and compensating for the fallibility of human agents of identiﬁcation systems. Moreover. especially the formalized police apparatus. photography’s power to evoke truth resulted not only from the privilege that industrial societies attached to mechanical means but also from the way that a new and more penetrating form of the state mobilized photography as part of a complex of emerging state apparatuses. but it was soon learned that photographs were subject to deterioration and misinterpretation. into the work of law enforcement.16 but also into images that could be meticulously examined one by one and accumulated into ﬁling systems. There were added problems of using photographs for bodily measurement and other classiﬁcation schemes. To accurately and reliably bind identities to bodies. As 40 Kelly A. an elaborate scheme that resembles modern-day biometrics in that it involved both standardized bodily measurements and a sophisticated archival and retrieval system. amassing photographs created new administrative and archival problems. Gates . Individuation involved turning real lives not only “into writing. who began employing photographers for such purposes in the 1840s.” as Michel Foucault elaborated. The disciplinary method relied on both the individual portrait of the criminal—the body made object—and the accumulated images organized into ﬁ ling systems.”14 the leap of realism (not to mention speed) that it achieved over artists’ portraits surely was difﬁcult to contest. Tagg inserts photography into the Foucauldian historical analysis of discipline and outlines the “striking rendezvous” that occurred between the growth of photographic records and the growth of the state.13 Although “the photograph’s status as evidence and record (like its status as Art) had to be produced and negotiated. amounting to a new representation of society. Photography represented a promising new technique of identiﬁcation but could not fully compensate for the inadequacies of human perception in terms of its capacity to connect bodies deﬁ nitively to identities. Despite their realist representational mode. new methods were needed.
examined extensively by such scholars as Alan Sekula, Martine Kaluszyski, and Anne Joseph, the science and system of anthropometry were used sporadically by emerging police and state programs to identify criminals and other “undesirables.”17 Bertillon’s anthropometry involved the meticulous measurement and description of individual bodies, records that were then stored in archives according to a highly organized system that allowed for easy retrieval. According to Sekula, the central artifact of Bertillon’s system was not the camera but the ﬁ ling cabinet, a “bureaucratic-clericalstatistical system of ‘intelligence.’”18 Bertillon’s anthropometry involved not just measuring and documenting faces and bodies but also classifying those measurements and documents according to an intricate scheme that allowed for more efﬁcient retrieval, a necessity for effective identiﬁcation and a precursor to the computerized and networked database. The archive promised to provide “a standard physiognomic gauge of the criminal” and to “assign each criminal body a relative and quantitative position with a larger ensemble.”19 Proponents made a considerable effort to invest anthropometry with legitimacy and to position it as a credible, scientiﬁc solution to criminal recidivism and other problems of identiﬁcation—problems that the expanding modern state was beginning to address systematically. According to Sekula, Bertillon’s was the ﬁ rst rigorous system for archiving and retrieving identity, projects that became central to the state’s administrative apparatus. Other innovative actors conceptualized systems for coding and distributing the identiﬁed body across existing information networks in order to extend the state’s authority to deﬁ ne its citizens and territorial control. Matt Matsuda describes two systems developed by early-twentieth-century doctors in France for transforming bodies into coded numerical references and circulating those references as a system of signals via telegraph. 20 One was Dr. A. Motet’s method, which involved “attributing to each individual physical feature . . . a classifying number based on the recognized elements most characteristic of their physical person, and inscribed in some ways upon their organ.”21 Anthropometric measurements, physical descriptions, and photographic portraiture would be translated into reference codes for easy distribution across telegraph networks to identify vagabonds and other problematic bodies. While such a system was never fully institutionalized, it was clearly conceptualized well before computerization, digitization, and electronic information networks provided new possibilities and new areas of need for storing and distributing representational forms of bodies and their corresponding identities. Computerized forms of bodily identiﬁcation are in many ways consistent with these earlier state efforts and similarly tied to cultural preoccupations with constructing the limits and possibilities of the state and other governing institutions.
Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia
Automated Facial Recognition
Teaching the computer how to “see” a face has been no simple accomplishment. As two MIT computer scientists noted in the early nineties, “developing a computational model of face recognition is quite difﬁcult, because faces are complex, multidimensional, and meaningful visual stimuli.” 22 Faces change considerably with aging, emotions, fatigue, trauma, and surgery. The dynamic states of the person and the range of images that can be rendered of that person make automated or computerassisted facial recognition a difﬁcult technical problem. The simple matter of looking at and recognizing a person turns out to be an exceedingly complex process when it comes to teaching machines how to do it, and doing so means devising systems that, underneath the surface, have little resemblance to how humans recognize each other. The effort to produce automated facial recognition has involved research in a number of scientiﬁc areas, including computer vision, image processing and analysis, pattern recognition, and statistics. 23 Some of the earliest research on machine recognition of faces can be traced back to the 1960s at a company called Panoramic Research, Inc., in Palo Alto, California, one of many companies springing up in California at the time to conduct research in what was later termed artiﬁcial intelligence (AI). The work at Panoramic Research was funded largely by the U.S. Department of Defense and various intelligence agencies, and thus was unavoidably entrenched in the U.S. ﬁght for Cold War technological dominance. 24 As Manuel de Landa has noted, in the early 1960s the military was sponsoring research in pattern recognition aimed at getting humans “out of the loop” of mechanized surveillance and intelligence efforts, while independent researchers were working in the opposite direction to develop “an interface between humans and machines capable of assembling them into a synergistic whole.”25 Research on machine recognition of faces at Panoramic was conducted by a man named Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Bledsoe, one of the company’s cofounders. Bledsoe is now widely recognized as one of the early researchers of AI and a pioneer in the ﬁeld of automated reasoning. A member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and a devout Mormon, he was a ﬁ rm believer in incremental scientiﬁc advances as opposed to major leaps or paradigm shifts. The technique Bledsoe developed was dubbed “manmachine facial recognition” and drew on his earlier work on computer recognition of letters. It involved manually entering into a computer the positions of facial feature points in an image, a process known as “feature extraction.” A human operator would use a “rand tablet” to extract the coordinates of features such as the corners of the eyes and mouth, the top
Kelly A. Gates
of the nose, and the hairline or point of a widow’s peak. The name of the person in an image was stored in a database along with facial coordinates, and records were classiﬁed based on those measurements. The computer was then prompted to identify the name of the closest test image, given a set of distances between facial feature points. Bledsoe was apparently proud of this painstaking research on machine recognition of faces; however, very little of it was published because the funding was provided by an unnamed intelligence agency that did not allow much publicity. 26 This early stage in the development of computerized techniques for identifying faces involved a great deal of manual work, and it took place during a decade when the computer still had the aura of a Cold War machine. In the early 1960s, institutions compiled decidedly less information about individuals, and records were stored by and large in hard-copy ﬁ ling systems. Individuals were ofﬁcially identiﬁed with recourse to signatures, ink ﬁ ngerprints (for criminal identiﬁcation), photographs, and identiﬁcation documents. In addition, sharing information among different systems often involved the labor-intensive process of physically locating ﬁ les and distributing records through the postal service or some other form of hard-copy transmission. For example, the decentralized, regionally based credit reporting industry, perhaps the most intensive site for compiling and distributing information about individuals, did not incorporate computers until 1965, when TRW Credit Data Corporation began computerized operations in Los Angeles. 27 TRW, and the credit reporting industry in general, faced considerable struggle and expense in creating a comprehensive, centralized computer system. In law enforcement, state and local agencies had initiated efforts by the mid-1960s to create centralized state databases for criminal history and wanted warrant information, using high-speed telecommunications networks to connect different agencies, 28 but again, nothing resembling a universal integrated network materialized, as the practical effort proved more daunting than planners envisioned. The FBI began to use computers to process criminal histories in 1963, but it did not initiate serious efforts to develop a nationwide computerized system until 1970. 29 In addition, defense strategists at RAND Corporation were already beginning to conceptualize a nuclear blast-proof decentralized computer network, but the idea would not be born as ARPANET until the end of the decade, and then with only four nodes in the network by December 1969. Thus scientists working on rudimentary, programming-intensive projects to simulate machine face perception were not doing so in response to an immediate need for the identiﬁcation of individuals via computer networks. What computerized face recognition research clearly participated in was a more general effort at programming computers to do what
Bledsoe was apparently proud of this painstaking research on machine recognition of faces; however, very little of it was published because the funding was provided by an unnamed intelligence agency that did not allow much publicity.
Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia
humans could do or. nose. 33 Then in 1970. Gates .”36 Computer recognition of faces was one solution 44 Kelly A. 34 His technique enabled the computer to automatically extract the head and body outlines from an image and then locate the eyes. what humans were incapable of doing. there can be little doubt that efforts to develop computerized face recognition techniques were motivated in part by processing problems posed by the vast quantities of photographs compiled by the criminal justice system. In 1973 Takeo Kanade’s dissertation research at Kyoto University in Japan reported the same results using only a photograph of the face and a new “ﬂexible picture analysis scheme” that consisted of a collection of simple “subroutines. including human faces. but to integrate humans and machines so that the intellectual skills of the former could be ampliﬁed by the latter.”31 In addition. and a close-up of the head. better. M. D.” scientists at Bell Labs aimed to optimize “the man-machine system so that we can take advantage of both the human’s superiority in detecting noteworthy features and the machine’s superiority in making decisions based on accurate knowledge of population statistics. the tendency of photographs to accumulate in disorderly piles—persisted into the twentieth century.”30 In a study titled “Man-Machine Interaction in Human-Face Identiﬁcation.” each of which worked on a speciﬁc part of the picture. the background without the body. using three images of each individual: the body. “the idea was not to transfer human skills to a machine. Insulated to some extent from public sentiment. 35 Kanade’s project correctly identiﬁed ﬁ fteen out of twenty people. Kanade noted that the techniques of “picture processing” to which his research contributed lent themselves to “sophisticated applications such as interpretation of biomedical images and X-ray ﬁ lms. Kelly produced a landmark dissertation project on face recognition at Stanford. The archival problem that Sekula and others identiﬁed as characteristic of early police uses of photography—in simplest terms. 32 researchers at places like Panoramic Research chipped away at the process of programming computers to see objects. was published in Pattern Recognition in 1969. and especially for reducing them to a manageable quantity so that they could be used for identiﬁcation purposes. measurement of images in nuclear physics. without human operator intervention. as de Landa notes. The computer promised to offer new methods for organizing and sorting archives of photographic identities. and well funded by the federal government in the post–Vannevar Bush context. For some researchers conducting work in pattern recognition. processing of a large volume of pictorial data sent from satellites. The earliest work to successfully program a computer to conﬁ rm the existence or absence of a face in an image. etc. In a manuscript of the dissertation published in 1977. and mouth.
The personal computer itself had yet to become a staple in middle-class American homes.” Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia 45 . Whether early developers precisely envisioned institutional applications for automated identiﬁcation. for example. and military intelligence. but research articles suggest that at times they did have surveillance applications in mind. The effort to automate the process of human face recognition made incremental advances in the early 1970s. The computer would need the capacity to see. and networked computers were the exclusive domain of scientists. The reason for this dearth of research interest during the Reagan era is unclear. much of the work was done manually. science.to a set of problems on how to automatically interpret images and handle an overproduction of visual information in medicine. 38 This disciplinary attack effectively defunded neural network research for about ﬁ fteen years. at about the same time that scientists at places like MIT and Rockefeller University were developing techniques of computer face recognition that would eventually move out of the lab and into the real world of “security. Research on computer face recognition conducted throughout the 1970s focused by and large on “typical pattern classiﬁcation techniques” or “measured attributes between features in faces or face proﬁ les. is difﬁcult to determine. The ﬁeld of neural networks recovered in the early 1980s and experienced a major resurgence by the end of the decade.”37 In short. and for connecting bodies to identities in networked environments. According to a 1995 survey of the ﬁeld. the state. as patents were being awarded on optical ﬁ ngerprint technology. and big business when researchers were envisioning and working on the automated identiﬁcation of people by machines. and especially to see and discern individual human beings. research in computer face recognition remained largely dormant during the 1980s. law enforcement. but it clearly had far to go before machines could achieve the same capacity as human beings for recognizing faces and connecting them to identities.” published in 1969 by two scientists at MIT. or “perceptrons. and entrepreneurs were moving to commercialize and capitalize on the transformation from ink to digital ﬁ ngerprinting in law enforcement. but the lack of attention did not extend to all types of biometrics. if it could ever achieve “intelligent” status. most signiﬁcantly drying up the monies distributed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The lack of research on automated facial recognition may have resulted in part as a residual effect of the much-publicized critique of artiﬁcial neural networks.
telecommunications provided “an indispensable coordinating mechanism. marketing. linking up its ofﬁces transnationally. As Dan Schiller has elaborated. Gates . social.S.Biometrics and Informationalized Capitalism It is necessary to put the emergence of facial recognition technology and other biometrics in the context of the information revolution taking place during the latter half of the twentieth and into the twenty-ﬁ rst century.000 networked automated teller machines in the United States by 1998. corporate capital spending on information processing and related equipment outpaced factory machinery and mobile equipment by the mid-1980s (16). and political crisis. According to Schiller. policymaking establishment was determined to grant business users the maximum freedom to explore information technology networks as a private matter” (7).”42 Widespread decisions to interoperate computer systems were motivated by the interests of corporate capital to spread their reach across the globe and deep into economic. and installing 165.40 As an integral part of the process. signiﬁcantly increasing its telecommunications operating expenses. 39 Proﬁt slowdown and industrial stagnation. social. Corporate reconstruction around networks has occurred economywide. were among the major problems leading to a recognized need on the part of corporate executives and national politicians in the United States to create new sites of proﬁt and to mollify social unrest. distribution. and administration” (14). along with the legitimation crisis posed by the Vietnam War and domestic civil rights issues. as companies in other sectors “sought to integrate networks into core activities of production. especially to coordinate dispersed locations. U. Along with these sweeping changes in the structure and policy of existing telecommunications infrastructure came proliferating forms of corporate surveillance. Banks were not alone. “the U. and cultural life. “the central role accorded to information and communications as an economic stimulant was unprecedented. a historical phase-change that commenced during the 1960s and arose out of a systemic economic. U.41 For diversiﬁed businesses with dispersed operations.S.43 The ﬁ nancial sector took a leading role in this process. including a growing need for automated forms 46 Kelly A. we are living through a transition to an informationalized capitalism.S. with the installed base of computers in the United States rising from 5.000 in 1960 to 180 million by 1997. telecommunications infrastructure worldwide experienced a topdown overhaul during the 1980s and 1990s to bring it in line with the needs of transnational capital. legislators were necessarily onboard.” as corporate capital invested in the development of information and communication technology (ICT) and integrated ICT into business processes.
Identiﬁcation documents. Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia 47 . Not only was identity veriﬁcation needed at the point of transaction. credit card. Scientists made advances in programming com- Employers of all sorts saw the need to monitor and control their employees’ access to both computer networks and the physical space of the workplace. not to mention the interests of corporate actors to control information networks.” creates an increasingly “ﬂexible” and “disposable” workforce. These institutional users. new ICTs have been enlisted in the extension and reconﬁ guration of Fordist principles of scientiﬁc management. and the increased capacity to monitor work and productivity rates in “real time. In addition. These institutional users.”44 The individualization of labor. leisure time similarly becomes “increasingly subordinated to the ‘labor’ of consumption. The banking. but the intensive private-sector drive to know the consumer meant that each transaction became part of individual records that could be mined and compiled to develop consumer proﬁ les. “Cybernetic capitalism” involves the application of new ICTs toward a new regime of social mobilization. like passports and driver’s licenses. which had always had their shortcomings (especially in terms of their inability to accurately and reliably connect bodies to identities) were seen as increasingly inadequate to the task of identiﬁcation across networks. iris and retina scanning. along with state and law enforcement actors. the 1990s saw an increase in research interest in facial recognition technology. along with advances in the research and development of facial recognition technology. as well as the commercialization and the integration of prototypes into existing real-world identiﬁcation systems. so that such principles can be applied well beyond the workplace. employers of all sorts saw the need to monitor and control their employees’ access to both computer networks and the physical space of the workplace. represented the primary markets for emerging commercial biometric systems. Computerization and the spread of information networks provided both the possibility and the areas of need for new identiﬁcation technologies. ﬁ nger imaging. with the penetration of the home by ICTs. voice recognition. if not impossible. characterized in part by “a heightened capability to routinely monitor labor processes by virtue of access to and control over ICT networks. and other types of biometrics made their way into real-world applications.”46 It would be difﬁcult.45 In addition. As Kevin Robins and Frank Webster have argued. Driven in part by the proﬁt potential in serving the needs of state security and law enforcement. and telecommunications industries were among those social actors expressing an ongoing interest in technologies that could give them greater control over transactions and information. During the 1980s and especially 1990s.of identiﬁcation in order to control access to information networks and to identify the millions of individuals whose personal data circulated through those networks. represented the primary markets for emerging commercial biometric systems. along with state and law enforcement actors. to achieve this new regime of social mobilization without technologies for automatically ﬁ xing identities to bodies across information networks.
Viisage Technology.”49 As the global reach of information networks expands. and the resurgence of research in artiﬁcial neural network technologies that mimicked brain function. if not an immediate customer base. total biometric industry revenues jumped from $120 million in 2000 to an estimated $424 million in 2003. a technique called “local feature analysis” developed at Joseph Atick’s Laboratory of Computational Neuroscience at Rockefeller University. namely for controlling access to physical spaces and computer networks. Gates .47 In the United States.. dedicated to designing and marketing facial recognition products to potential users in need of and lured by the promise of new automated identiﬁcation systems. be they customers. hoping to ride the IT economic boom and capitalize on the needs of institutional users to monitor and control individual constituents. scientists took their academic research to the private sector to form new companies. According to Biometric Technology Today. higherquality images. As was noted in Biometric Technology Today. “the government sector . and biometric technologies.86 billion by 2006. were being integrated into a wide range of private-sector identiﬁcation systems. By the turn of the millennium. with revenues expected to reach $1. Miros Inc. Thanks in part to the technology transfer provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act. and to extract facial features. By the mid-1990s. with 46 percent of the market in 2003. still eclipsed by ﬁ ngerprint technology. Increasing amounts of computing power facilitated faster techniques and accommodated larger. a number of scientists studying such techniques in academic research labs had remade themselves as entrepreneurs. which widely opened up federally funded research to industry. as “large-scale projects move from the drawing board to the real world. in greater quantities. and Visionics Corporation emerged as among the most promising and visible vendors. the small biometrics industry was taking off. . . attracting venture capital and grants from federal government agencies. has become the primary source of revenue for the industry’s technology providers—although in most cases this revenue is ﬁ ltering through large systems integrators.”48 Facial recognition technology’s share of the market rose from 3. employees. to segment the face from background clutter. including automated facial recognition.puters to locate a face in an image. They are also increasingly useful to state and law enforcement actors in their responsibilities for 48 Kelly A. automated forms of identiﬁcation have become critical to the interests of corporate capital. Scientists forming these companies joined legions of others in a variety of ﬁelds who hoped to capitalize on their academic research and make millions in the so-called growth economy of the nineties. or criminal suspects.9 percent in 1998 to 14 percent in 2003. The transition of computerized face recognition from the lab to the marketplace followed the development of the “eigenface” technique at the MIT Media Lab. citizens.
The high-tech. responsibilities that often coincide intimately with the interests of capital. These challenges detract from the image of the technology as scientiﬁc and “state of the art. The very notion of “high-tech” or “state of the art” necessarily involves the reiﬁcation of that which is labeled high-tech. the attacks “served simply to accelerate their arrival in a more public way. in turn taking the opportunity to posit its technological systems as solutions to the newly salient problem of securing the nation from terrorism.” revealing the extent to which these new bodily identiﬁcation systems are enmeshed in the politics and preoccupations of interested actors. and the biometrics industry began marketing its technologies to serve the institutional needs of the digital age. A technocratic rationality clearly framed the policy response to 9/11.S. Thus an examination of the historical emergence of facial recognition technology provides an opportunity to consider whether the post-9/11 moment represents a decisive transformation in the conﬁguration of state power. and the technologies have become pivotal in the transition to informationalized capitalism. the “deeper shifts” toward intensiﬁed surveillance practices were already in process before 9/11. “homeland security” policies ushering in a new era of state sovereignty with potential authoritarian tendencies? The signiﬁcant pre-9/11 investment in biometrics suggests that while the fullscale moral panic resulting from the 9/11 terrorist attacks helped greatly intensify “security” consciousness. Are the U. a faith or belief in the hightech inescapably involves committing the error of mistaking an abstraction for a material thing. struggles. and the biometrics industry was among those sectors mined for “security” expertise. as well as the ongoing social and technical challenges that they face. this security consciousness and its corresponding surveillance techniques were already on the rise along with Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia 49 .”50 The state and private sectors envisioned uses for biometrics well before 9/11. These institutional users have shaped the form that biometric systems have taken. Conclusion As David Lyon has argued.security provision. scientiﬁc image so critical to the industry’s efforts to sell its technologies relies in part on the dissociation of the biometrics from the investments. and negotiations involved in their early development. The erasure of the early development and investment in facial recognition technology in post-9/11 claims about its “homeland security” potential has accommodated the young biometric industry’s rhetoric of scientiﬁc neutrality and its effort to secure the authority and desirability of its product.
Pat Gill. 52 we have always relied on technologies in the effort to ﬁ x identities and bind them to bodies. However. facial recognition and biometrics are already unmistakably important developments in techniques of visual and bureaucratic surveillance. Biometrics are designed to transfer some of the responsibility for the culturally conﬂ icted process of identiﬁcation from humans to computer systems. 51 and Bruno Latour argues that we have never been modern. when I use the term facial 50 Kelly A. More precisely. and voice recognition. Inc. and distribute it across information networks. private sector interests in fact remain at the forefront of the new homeland security regime. the post-9/11 homeland security consciousness has helped fuel the newly fortiﬁed network security regime that the full-scale commodiﬁcation of information requires. Gates . and they require both critical attention and political intervention. iris and retina scanning. Culture. Notes 1. while the national security state may be empowered by a resurgence of funds and priorities.” Camera Obscura: A Journal of Feminism. and we have never achieved technically perfect identiﬁcation systems. Inventing American Broadcasting: 1899–1922 (Baltimore. 1987). and because of the considerable sway this particular biometric technology has come to have in the public imagination.Post-9/11 homeland security consciousness has helped fuel the newly fortiﬁed network security regime that the full-scale commodiﬁcation of information requires. Identiﬁcation is at once an individualizing and a classifying process. The actual contribution of facial recognition and biometrics to technological surveillance systems—to automated identiﬁcation—certainly should not be equated with the inﬂ ated claims of the biometrics industry or other proponents. MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. from their earliest forms to their present incarnations. it is necessary to consider it in isolation from other biometric technologies. 3. and Media Studies 40 (1997): 163–79. Susan Douglas. 2. the postindustrial transformation of cities and the enclosure of all forms of information into the market system. 4. Visionics and Identix merged in 2002. Just as Katherine Hayles argues that we have always been posthuman. However. “Technostalgia: Making the Future Past Perfect. a paradox that underlies all identiﬁcation schemes. In addition. hand geometry. Conversely. There are a variety of commercially available technologies designed to “digitize” the body in order to read it as an identiﬁcation document. The now-familiar list of biometric technologies includes not only facial recognition but also digital ﬁ ngerprinting. Visionics Corporation is now Identix. store it in a database. Here I focus on facial recognition technology precisely because the “content” of the medium—the image of the human face—carries such social and cultural signiﬁcance. When I use the term biometrics. xv. to understand the historical emergence of facial recognition technology. I mean to generalize across the range of identiﬁcation technologies that use digitized readings of the body to identify individuals.
8. 1973). amounts to a change on the level of ontology. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage. and other technologies are not merely deﬁ ning the same body with new language. eds.. 1996). Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identiﬁcation (Cambridge. 248. and a technique that promises to identify humans in their direct interface with an identiﬁcation system. Inventing American Broadcasting. etc. Simon Cole. 5. Risk. 2. trans. biomedical. and Raymond Williams. 75. but also surgical. Carolyn Marvin. and other technologies for digitizing the body signal the emergence of a new ontology of the body rather than merely new ways of representing or deﬁ ning the body. for example.” in Surveillance as Social Sorting: Privacy. Matt K. 2001). 7. 8. and combinations of these” (Irma van der Ploeg. “The notion of body ontology enables us to describe the way the human body is implicated in a process of co-evolution with technology—information technologies. When Old Technologies Were New (New York: Oxford University Press. 9. They may substantively reconﬁ gure bodies and have real effects at the level of embodiment. The informatization and digitization of the body through biometrics. and Digital Discrimination.recognition I mean to specify this unique type of biometric that aims to mimic one of the primary. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. and visualization techniques. 1988). 59.’ and the new uses of bodies this subsequently allows. “Biometrics and the Body as Information: Normative Issues of the Socio-technical Coding of the Body. visual ways that humans recognize each other. 2001). The Nation-State and Violence (Berkeley: University of California Press. According to Irma van der Ploeg. vol. 10.” She argues that biometrics. 6. 11. itself a late-eighteenthcentury historical construction that altered the meaning and experience of embodiment through its gradual incorporation into the institutional practices of medicine. chemical and genetic. Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia 51 . Ibid. Television. genetics. Ibid. 12. A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism. The Form of News: A History (New York: Guilford. See. 1988). 6. law. John Tagg.. ed. NJ: Princeton University Press. Michel Foucault. This new ontology of the body redeﬁ nes and reworks it as information ﬂows and communication patterns and is quite distinct from the familiar anatomical-physiological ontology of the body. Television: Technology and Cultural Form (New York: Schocken. 64). 16. 1975). public policy. 14. 9. 1977). The Memory of the Modern (New York: Oxford University Press. The Burden of Representation (London: Macmillan. 2001). 1987). 15. Matsuda. The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. genetics. Documenting Individual Identity: The Development of State Practices in the Modern World (Princeton. it is important to consider “how the translation of (aspects of) our physical existence into digital code and ‘information. Anthony Giddens. Jane Caplan and John Torpey. instead of merely that of representation. Hannah Arendt. 191. MA: Harvard University Press. Kevin Barnhurst and John Nerone. Douglas. 2003]. 13. visualization. David Lyon [New York: Routledge. education. Williams.
. D. 193. 1. 24.” October 39 (1986): 3–64. He is also considered the forebear of hypertext research for having envisioned an automatic memory machine.” 712. “Body and the Archive. . 26. www. Sekula. DEC. James Rule. 52 Kelly A.) formed the environment wherein modern computers evolved” (Manuel de Landa. 19. Memory of the Modern. 32. the paramilitary agencies trying to monopolize cutting-edge computer research (the NSA. 30. 33. Lesk. the “memex. etc. 25. Dossier Society: Value Choices in the Design of National Information Systems (New York: Columbia University Press.com/unbound/ﬂ ashbks/computer/bushf. Fujibayashi. M. Wilson. 176–77). T.. no. 164–83. and S. 18. Laudon. M. 40. “Human and Machine Recognition of Faces: A Survey. Matthew Turk and Alex Pentland. 22. Kenneth C. A.17. Kelly’s work is summarized in Chellappa.” Pattern Recognition 1 (1969): 233–36.. Ibid. 43. “The Body and the Archive. 31.” Proceedings of the IEEE. De Landa. Leon D. 206. ..” in Caplan and Torpey. and Ann B. “Human and Machine Recognition of Faces.” AI Magazine. and Saad Sirohey. 29. 34. “As We May Think. “Republican Identity: Bertillonage as Government Technique. Computer Recognition of Human Faces (Basel: Birkhäuser. 5 (1995): 705–40. “Anthropometry. War in the Age of Intelligent Machines [New York: Zone. 17. Sakai. “Eigenfaces for Recognition. 1991]. July 1945. Joseph. 123–38. As Manuel de Landa has noted.” 16. During World War II and the postwar period Bush famously championed the institutionalization of military-government-industrial support of scientiﬁc research.). Private Lives and Public Surveillance (New York: Lane. Jay Goldstein. Alan Sekula. ONR. “Woody Bledsoe: His Life and Legacy. and Sirohey. Charles L. 138. 1977). Martine Kaluszyski.g. Robert Boyer.. Harmon.” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 3 (1991): 71.” in Caplan and Torpey. RAND. 21. 28.” Bell System Technical Journal 51 (1972): 399–427.theatlantic. no. Gates . Wilson. War in the Age of Intelligent Machines. etc. for instance) and centers for corporate research (IBM.” Atlantic Monthly. Ibid. See Vannevar Bush. 1986). Anne M. 35. “Line Extraction and Pattern Detection in a Photograph. Ibid. Rama Chellappa. 23. 20. Documenting Individual Identity. 1973). “Artiﬁcial Intelligence has been a product of post-Sputnik American military research. Takeo Kanade.htm (accessed 12 October 2002). Ibid. Documenting Individual Identity. . the Police Expert.” which stored vast amounts of data that were linked and accessible via thematic association. 193. The speciﬁc balance of power between DARPA [the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] and other Cold War think tanks (e. and Larry Hines. 27. Nagao. and the Deptford Murders: The Contested Introduction of Fingerprinting for the Identiﬁcation of Criminals in Late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. Matsuda. Michael Ballantyne. “Man-Machine Interaction in Human-Face Identiﬁcation. 1 (1996): 7–20.
“The Bayh-Dole Act: A Guide to the Law and Implementing Regulations. 115.36. 1999). 1998]. Times of the Technoculture: From the Information Society to the Virtual Life (New York: Routledge. see “Robert Hecht-Nielson. 44. 51. 37. 52. MA: MIT Press.ucop. 41. 1998). As a result of the Bayh-Dole Act. Robins and Webster. 2004). 47. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics. 1. Chellappa. Kevin Robins and Frank Webster. Digital Capitalism. 39.200 new companies were formed between 1980 and 1999 based on the licensing of an invention from an academic institution. Digital Capitalism. “Informationalized Capitalism: Retrospect and Prospect” (unpublished manuscript. Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia 53 . Individualization of labor is the overwhelming practice in the urban informal economy that has become the predominant form of employment in most developing countries. ed. “2003 Market Review.html (accessed 5 March 2004). Surveillance after September 11 (Cambridge: Polity. 116. Anderson and Edward Rosenfeld (Cambridge.” 2. 293–314. N. 43. trans.. “Human and Machine Recognition of Faces. Times of the Technoculture. By “individualization of labor. End of the Millennium [Malden: Blackwell. 49. Ibid. “Business Users and the Telecommunications Network.” www. . Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System (Cambridge. 46.” in Talking Nets: An Oral History of Neural Networks. largely unregulated. 1999). Bruno Latour. Dan Schiller. Schiller. We Have Never Been Modern. 42. Schiller. . 4. James A. 72). Wilson. .” Journal of Communication. either under the form of self-employment or under individually contracted. Schiller. Katherine Hayles.” 706. 48. David Lyon. as well as in certain labor markets in advanced economies” (Manuel Castells. January 2004. 2003). 7. Dan Schiller. 50. 1993). Ibid. See Council on Governmental Relations. 4 (1982): 86. no. Catherine Porter (Cambridge. Literature. salaried labor. For an accounting of this episode in the history of artiﬁcial neural network research and development. 40. MA: MIT Press. MA: Harvard University Press. 1999). and Sirohey. Schiller.” Castells means “the process by which labor contribution to production is deﬁ ned speciﬁcally for each worker. 45. and Informatics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press.edu/ott/bayh. 38. “Informationalized Capitalism. over 2. 13.” Biometric Technology Today. and for each of his/her contributions.
disease. Still. In the post-1990 phase of modernization. desire. linking sexual plea- Swati Ghosh Social Text 83. No. and pleasure has recently emerged from these contested constructions as a new political subject. The worker status of the prostitute is the crux of an ongoing debate that has generated an enormous volume of literature and increased involvement of NGOs and liberal and radical feminists. 23. power. and control. who are neither criminals nor victims and yet have been both criminalized and victimized by the medico-moral-legal code of surveillance that deﬁ nes them. The prostitutes themselves have responded by asserting their rights as workers.1 The dangers posed by the vulnerable and the criminal are linked within the regime of surveillance that has been imposed on the sexually marginalized female prostitutes of Bengal. Copyright © 2005 by Duke University Press. where “danger from our enemies. Vol. [and] danger from those who could not look after themselves” were different categories. The concern for sexual health has given the prostitutes new visibility: from the familiar status of a marginal group of sexually aberrant women. sex. 2. Roy Boyne has identiﬁed danger as the single most effective cause of surveillance. The global epidemic of AIDS has forced a radical remapping of sexual boundaries. they are now being considered a signiﬁcant target for public health policy. danger from those who might grow into our enemies. The prostitute as the site of work. This system enables the prostitute body to become an object of knowledge. The form of surveillance operating on the sex worker follows designs of the welfare state and acquires a liberal code that speaks about sexual well-being of the marginalized group. This creates what I call a watch-care system. The emergence of a prostitutes’ forum and their demand for workers’ rights has engendered a new political identity that gives voice and agency to prostitute women. Summer 2005. whereby the prostitute is subordinated at once to supervision. it remains to be seen whether this new cultural inscription on the body of the contemporary prostitute will create a subject position with emancipatory potential. the Indian state has been keen to include them in the welfare agenda and regulate their behavior through surveillance that marks their bodies as domains of sexual health and social discipline.Surveillance in Decolonized Social Space T H E C A SE O F SE X WO R K ER S I N B EN G A L In depicting contemporary panopticism. with prostitutes as the most likely group to contract and spread the disease. . careful concern. regulation.
the native prostitute by her very origin was perceived 56 Swati Ghosh . Thus red-light areas were created in the city to conﬁ ne and regulate the prostitutes. In addition to being held in captivity. The once independent prostitutes who had lived scattered throughout the city were clustered in urban pockets where surveillance could be initiated. which. the women were also physically and sexually abused by the soldiers and ﬁ ned. While the heterosexual. The patterns of surveillance that befall the body of the contemporary prostitute reveal powerful disciplinary mechanisms that regulate the decolonized social space of Bengal. the prostitutes are being included within the purview of the paternalistic state. an entry that was previously denied. To avoid infecting young European soldiers with syphilis from the native prostitutes of the regimental bazaars. The closely guarded chaklas were set up under strict vigil of brothel keepers and the police in cantonment areas where European troops were stationed. Every such brothel had high walls and small carefully barred windows so that the women could not escape. The prostitute’s criminalized body of the colonial past. India. Each chakla also had its own prison hospital where women were conﬁ ned against their will. The colonial government then sponsored the institutionalization of prostitution through government-run brothels that came to be known as chaklas. and starved by the ofﬁcialdom without reason. initiated legal measures to segregate and criminalize the prostitutes. The Colonial Past The colonial phase was a deﬁ ning moment for Indian prostitutes after prostitution became an important socio-legal context for reformation under the British regime. To the colonizers. was careful to ensure that women did not escape or associate with any of the native men. on the pretext that their work was morally degrading. becoming conspicuous through the present endeavor to gain the status of a subject-citizen through claims of workers’ rights.2 While recognizing the need for British troops to have command over Indian women’s bodies. conﬁ ned to red-light zones removed from public sight.sure to the normalizing aims of power. The mahaldarni. imprisoned. the movement of the prostitutes was legally restricted within these speciﬁc clusters. normative structure of this extrafamilial. takes visible form as a vulnerable or victimized body during postcolonial modernization. or brothel keeper. nonreproductive domain remains intact. The change in the process of objectiﬁcation and surveillance can be understood by examining the genealogy of postcolonial prostitution. the colonial project was to manage the issue of public health through control over the sexuality of the “public” women.
7 As an impure entity. The colonial regime introduced compulsory registration for periodic medical examination where the prostitutes were bodily subjected to medical checkups and treated in “lock hospitals. far apart from home and the woman-of-the-home.” 9 The interest of the local patriarchy was in accord with that of the colonizer and thus helped criminalize prostitutes.5 The fuzziness of the community that lived by sexual activity was ﬁ nally erased as the prostitutes were reduced to a deﬁ nable. the modernity of Indian women had been resolved without making it a matter of political agitation. The “new woman” emerged as the educated and reﬁ ned companion of modern man upholding traditional purity. a non-Western model of achieving modernity.4 The Indian prostitutes were further deﬁ ned as criminals by the Cantonments Act XXII of 1864. but rather dovetailed with the British in pushing the prostitutes within the socially demarcated areas of the red-light zones. 8 The Indian elite therefore did not contest the legal territorialization of prostitutes.as an “amalgam of ﬁ lth. Opposition came only on occasions when Indians were not included within the law-enforcing authority or when the autonomy of the male client was hurt. in an 1888 session. and disease. In 1923 the Calcutta Suppression of Immoral Trafﬁc Act (SITA) was passed and eventually replaced by the Bengal Suppression of Immoral Surveillance in Decolonized Social Space 57 .” legal conﬁ nements popularly known as the lal-bazaars. enumerable category. vice. Congress passed a resolution to cooperate with English “well wishers” of India in “regulating the prostitutes by the State of India” as long as they discriminated against the “mistresses and courtesans of high caste/class male clients.6 How did the resolution of the women’s question in the late nineteenth century accommodate the prostitute. the Contagious Diseases Act XIV of 1868. Prostitution became one of the ﬁ rst women’s issues discussed in annual Congress meetings when. the woman-of-the-home’s other? To the colonized. The “sexual myths of the Oriental woman were now eclipsed” as diseased bodies became disciplined through legal and social measures. prostitutes could not be accommodated in the nationalist discourse shaping “our own modernity. and by the various amendments to these acts and the Indian penal code.”3 The British administrative authority in its ofﬁcial discourse always addressed the local prostitutes as a collective of “notoriously unchaste women” in need of control. This legislation was passed during the same period that the Contagious Diseases Acts were undertaken in England in the 1860s. The differential construct of the public sphere was supported both by the social reformers and by the nationalist political leaders. The enumeration of the prostitutes by religion and caste was taken up in the census of colonial India as early as 1872.” which was unique in preserving tradition along with liberal notions.
Bengal achieved a unique position in this respect. which was considered an act of moral degradation for “respectable” women. The prostitutes since then earned a new name: sex workers. Interestingly. Legal enforcement helped enhance state domination through police harassment of prostitutes and raids on brothels.14 The social hierarchy of the prostitutes based on class. prostitutes’ social participation became a symbol of liberal nationalism. With direct support and assistance from the Indian government. on occasions when prostitutes became involved in fund-raising and brothels were used to provide shelter to nationalist revolutionaries. experience. In just ﬁve years. the Indian government passed the Immoral Trafﬁc Prevention Act (ITPA) in 1956. “a sexual panic pervaded the political and cultural life of the developed nations” and permeated the developing countries. During late-nineteenth-century Calcutta. cultural accomplishments. the program successfully extended its approach from medical intervention to social and moral issues associated with the AIDS question. Actors and playwrights of the Bengali stage were keen to accommodate prostitute women in public performance. As a signatory to the International Convention for the Suppression of Immoral Trafﬁc in Women and Girls Act.10 In the early twentieth century. Under this act the commercial organization of prostitution was made punishable in legal terms. conservative reformers resisted prostitutes’ participation in the cultural realm while liberal bhadraloks encouraged it. The SITA embodied a mix of policies that would reduce trafﬁcking of women and legalize prostitution at the same time.11 The Postcolonial Present The issue of prostitution was relatively settled and undisturbed during the post-Independence period. In 1992 local organizations assisted by NGOs and funded by international donors soon formulated a common platform to serve the interests of prostitutes. but the sexual act per se was not considered an offense. was launched. The different connotations of the various indigenous terms were erased from the new label that immediately gained currency. an STD/HIV intervention program at Sonagachhi. 58 Swati Ghosh . the nonsexual performance of prostitutes did not unsettle the indigenous elite. and so on was also smoothed out in the naming. one of the largest red-light districts in India.13 Efforts to erase the profane and diseased image of the prostitutes became a social priority. or sex worker. With the advent of AIDS. brought the prostitute’s work into the limelight—she became a worker earning her living from sexual labor.12 But in the early nineties the situation changed dramatically. The term jouna karmi.Trafﬁc Act in 1930.
global organizations helped formulate policy by providing leadership and funding for AIDS prevention programs. and risk from infection became primary concerns. global donors assumed the major ﬁ nancing burden. Among the behavior . and the Department of Women and Child Welfare. To provoke reluctant governments to action.15 With the detection of the ﬁ rst Indian case of HIV infection among prostitutes. . they became the most important target for national AIDS policy.” and donors could impose “conditionality for the receipt of an aid package upon the national government. and collective bargaining. although reworking the legal basis of the Immoral Trafﬁc Prevention Act to criminalize abuse of prostitute women was not attempted. Of the three types of development agencies that took the initiative.The worker status was important from the point of intervention so as to ensure safe sex. .” Information about AIDS control was projected as a “public good” with positive externalities for citizens across the globe. as intervention in health policies supposedly produced a “positive spillover effect through creation of knowledge” often beyond state initiative. Trafﬁcking. it was difﬁcult to normalize the activity within the scheme of work. and elaborate prevention and control programs were set in motion. of those most likely to contract and spread HIV. The prostitutes responded to the initiative toward health awareness and wanted to be included within organized labor as workers having a right to work. and crime.” and donors could impose “conditionality for the receipt of an aid package upon the national government. and government attended to the formulation and implementation of cost-effective intervention strategies. The rate of progression of the AIDS epidemic was noted. They organized a forum demanding workers’ rights and claimed legalization of the profession. child prostitution.” Surveillance in Decolonized Social Space 59 . The attempt to erase the image of a diseased body and include prostitutes as a category of workers was part of a liberal agenda for the decolonized nation. choice. of those most likely to contract and spread HIV. NGOs displayed their skills by generating information previously not in hand. . . The logic of this intervention was for prostitutes to seek social countenance through productive labor and the wage-labor status previously denied to them. A 1997 World Bank report noted that donor funding was “critical in gathering surveillance data” on patterns Welfare and Well-Being of “sexual AIDS prevention initiatives transformed the prostitutes into a target of welfare through knowledge formation and surveillance. sin. the National Human Rights Commission. A 1997 World Bank report noted that donor funding was “critical in gathering surveillance data” on patterns of “sexual behavior . Soon the issue of prostitution caught the imagination of several agencies such as the National Commission for Women (NCW). As long as prostitution was identiﬁed with disease.
16 Before the advent of AIDS.” which included the categories of beggars and vagabonds. The different NGOs involved in the information collection system were accountable to the funding authority that monitored the activity of the local agencies collaborating with the government. The state’s welfare agenda started including prostitutes and their prospective clients as groups needing reorientation of their sexual behavior. The classiﬁcatory criteria. used by the colonial government continued into the postcolonial era. which preferred to depict the prostitutes as beneﬁciaries of a healthcare program. The prostitutes were projected as victims who fell into the profession as if by default and therefore needed to be educated about safe-sex measures and “scientiﬁc” forms of contraception. to furnish detailed information about individual workers. however. police raids and harassment were the only signs of a state presence in Sonagachhi. and the ofﬁcial information collection system of the state such as the census continued to include the prostitutes as those engaged in “ungainful activity. This changed with the government’s initiative of HIV/AIDS prevention. The number of prostitutes in each red-light zone suddenly became important as the stock of sexual bodies possessing the potential to infect the general population. Surveillance Techniques NGOs acted as local agents with direct ﬁeld access to make institutional power less visible in effecting desired changes. they were efﬁcient supervisors functioning as “peer educators” employed by the NGOs. The widely publicized prevention measures reﬂected the state’s concern for public health. and to motivate prostitutes to adopt safe-sex practices. Having a command over the trade and contact with other agents within the network. The ex-prostitutes were quick to identify the diseased and the infected. improvement of the living and working conditions in the brothels never emerged as a developmental activity to be undertaken either by NGOs or by the state. A small number of ex-prostitutes who had been active practitioners and continued to reside in the area were assigned to keep watch over young prostitutes.several feminist activist groups were the liberals seeking legalization and decriminalization and the radicals working to eradicate prostitution and rehabilitate prostitutes. In the brothel the prostitutes were ranked into categories according 60 Swati Ghosh . A strategy of deploying exprostitutes to collect base-level data was taken up as an important NGO activity. though the question of morality was not addressed by state health departments. Although sexual health and well-being were important causes for intervention.
counseling. In this system of welfare administration. Some of the madams were employed as peer educators and controlled several prostitute women. the nature of sexual act performed. infection-free bodies. age. The concern for the prostitutes’ well-being seemed to evolve from the urge to guarantee a regular ﬂow of income from healthy. Apart from sexual health. tenancy structure. A network of familiarity. the availability of medical service Surveillance in Decolonized Social Space 61 . use of contraception. Strategies of persuasion. trust.to level of income and social status. The objective of observation was projected as an act of assurance for each other’s health and earnings. Information on detailed sexual behavior was possible without coercion or legal compulsion. A spatial mapping of the area divided the zone into several small units consisting of a number of prostitutes under different madams. Information gathered included the monthly. asset ownership. the prostitutes watched over themselves and others. the number of clients attended per day. Efﬁcient implementation produced an ambience where the watched felt obliged to respond to the initiative of the care provider and to modify their behavior. weekly. and economic status within the network. and caring was a mode of watching. and while the infected individuals were encouraged to get treatment. where “seeing” and “being seen” were not counter conﬁ gurations but ways to ensure sexual health as a prerequisite for a higher incomeearning potential. and daily work schedule of women in each category. and other personal speciﬁcations such as relation with the madam. As a consequence. while medical examination and treatment of diseases became a form of care. In adopting the technologies of observation the community entered the “ﬁeld of knowledge” about the present as well as the future sexual well-being of the population. regular health checkups were undertaken almost as a voluntary response by the prostitutes. Moreover. The rate of infection from syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases was regularly noted on health cards. The information collection system through ex-prostitutes was cost-effective and efﬁcient in utilizing an already existing network of supervision. NGO personnel supervised the peer educators. and advice replaced the colonial rule of punishment for breach of law. Observation occurred in a multilayered network. and frequency of visits to health clinics. where the observer and the observed were closely known to each other and lived as neighbors or coworkers. It was an open cameralist economy. The prostitutes were identiﬁed by name. the disciplinary mechanism of “a few watching many” was not prevalent in the peer education system. the defaulters were constantly counseled. To watch was to care. and hierarchical social order between the observer and the observed of the same community was put to use in implementing discipline. as was necessary in colonial times when prostitutes had to ﬂee to avoid registration.
and formation of a self-regulatory board for controlling entry into the profession.While claiming workers’ rights. They advocated for licensing of prostitution. and want to be recognized as wage labor”. in the pamphlets issued. and so on. The site of intervention was no more the body alone. or the women’s movement. “We earn our bread from physical labor. Strikingly. and equality with other workers. and frequent arrests of prostitutes for nonpayment of protection money. While claiming workers’ rights. their contention was assertion of agency. Response of the Prostitutes In the postcolonial era. The peer educators counted on the distribution of condoms (initially cost free) to raise awareness of STDs and contain the spread of HIV infection within the community. regular police raids in brothels. over their clients’ objections. repeal of the ITP Act. Thus the possession of a safe and disease-free body became crucial in achieving a worker-status for the prostitutes. we demand worker’s rights”. Restrictions were imposed when sexual behavior conducive to infection was identiﬁed. prostitutes formulated their right to self-determination through slogans that said: “Sex work is real work. In the charter of demands. to insist on using contraceptives as safe-sex devices. State-run hospitals and clinics admitted women without asking them to disclose their identities. This indicated the priority given to prevention of sexually transmitted infections rather than reproductive health or right to use contraceptives for prostitute women. in the public meetings. the prostitutes did not ask for better work conditions or job security. the medical community. proclamation of human rights. their contention was assertion of agency. resulting in the replacement of clandestine clinics and unsafe abortion chambers. for children and the aged helped convince the prostitutes. This enhanced the opportunity for NGOs to organize meetings for promoting condom usage as well as health checkups for willing male partners. and equality with other workers. The most common metaphor that they used while referring to their forum was family. Inclusion of prostitutes within AIDS prevention policy was extended to other aspects as well. observation over sexual norms and regulation of conduct became the focus rather than mere physical examination of the body. the prostitutes did not ask for better work conditions or job security. proclamation of human rights. condom use—a male contraceptive—became a proxy to ensure safe-sex practice among prostitutes. They did not 62 Swati Ghosh . They used the campaign against the AIDS epidemic “creatively” by organizing themselves to ﬁght daily oppression without the help of the government. They pushed the state welfare agenda beyond health claims to resist unfair legal practices. The prostitutes acted as a collective. prostitute women were no longer passive objects of inquiry.
even if they were hostile to its stand. the prostitutes emerged as a conspicuous community negotiating their claims with the state. The forum announced its opposition to child prostitution and took the responsibility as the familial head to send minor girls back to their parents in the villages. Social Welfare Ministry. The forum was also a body through which the community negotiated with the outside world. apart from the regular activity of organizing sports. the prostitutes did not stake their identities to sexuality but to work. In the process. They proposed the formation of a self-regulatory board including representatives of the National Commission for Women. The forum organized rallies and peace meetings. The social welfare component of the forum’s activity proposed the inclusion of nonformal education centers. In claiming workers’ rights. the prostitutes were seeking legal equality with other workers. Their strategy of negotiation with the state included the modern rhetoric of autonomy and right to collective bargaining of a worker within organized labor. In their pattern of negotiation. academicians. The forum invented strategies to interact with various state agencies such as the police. and inﬂuenced them to sensitize their personnel through training programs. The forum organized processions and sit-in demonstrations in support of the brothel prostitutes against police atrocities in the neighboring country of Bangladesh. The demand for the right to work implied an erasure of the moral stigma associated with the profession and entry into civil society as Surveillance in Decolonized Social Space 63 . and media celebrities sympathetic to the prostitutes’ cause were often invited to participate and express solidarity with the family of prostitutes. they demanded entry to civil society as nonstigmatized women workers. and vocational training for the aged and the retired. and the local Councilor. inviting representatives of other associations of prostitutes and NGOs across the country.want to pursue individual interests of community members in terms of property or legal problems and relied on the intimate bonds of kinship while voicing their concerns through the forum. the labor commission. They supported and submitted memorandums on common agendas with leftist trade unions against the economic measures of the structural adjustment program of the central government. The leaders of political parties. drop-in centers for children. looked after HIV-infected members. While making their demands. and arranged for treatment as attempts toward better living. National Human Rights Commission. The forum arranged for loans from their cooperative for the aged prostitutes. and the legal services cell that were instrumental for implementing welfare measures. and cultural functions for children. artists. The forum organized collective action against police harassment and unjustiﬁed arrests in the red-light areas of the suburban pockets where prostitutes were yet to get organized. coaching classes.
Public opinion began to favor replacing the profane and immoral image of the prostitute by that of a healthy.17 The strength of the collective was that the state could neither ignore the demands for inclusion nor accept the claim of the prostitutes. rent-paying tenants because they practiced “immoral activities on commercial terms. It was a democratic claim seeking a change of the conventional gender meanings and social relations of prostitution. the child was socially ostracized. Outside the domain of civil society. Subject Formation The subject-formation process for the prostitute was complex. The prostitutes came into the limelight and the elite cultural space lent a hearing to their stories. Prostitutes were citizens with rights denied and workers with moral stigmas. The prostitutes were claiming to have achieved a new subject position by voicing their needs within their immediate public sphere. They could not dwell anywhere in the city’s residential areas as independent. Within a short span of time. Often a fake name of the father of the child had to be stated in school admission forms.universal worker. although they never questioned their social and moral quarantine.” Their freedom of movement was physically restricted within the red-light zones. the marginalized community of prostitutes acquired a political language to negotiate on its own terms with the state. marginal sex worker. a number of literary works mushroomed with prostitute women as protagonists trying to voice their claims for entry into the mainstream. to be achieved with state support and sanction. Prostitutes were “citizens” with voting rights without the voters’ identity cards essential to exercise the right. Prostitutes were required to produce a certiﬁcate of “good moral character” when they participated in mainstream activities. disease-free sex worker. such as opening a bank account or starting a cooperative for themselves. If the mother chose to disclose the nature of her occupation. while the media sympathized with the subservient position of the stigmatized. The prostitutes were invited to participate in seminars and conventions at academic institutions. The everyday practice of citizenship already excluded the prostitute. The emergence of the sex worker as speaking subject seeking political identity was a novel turn in this period. Children of prostitutes were refused admission to both public and private schools. Yet in selecting the language of rights. the popular movement of prostitutes wanted to establish their claims for 64 Swati Ghosh . univocally. She remained a lesser citizen when it came to the state’s attempts at modernization. The state’s dubious stand on prostitution was exposed to a large extent in its mode of interaction.
and this bodilyness led to abjection and subservience not found in any other labor form. The body as the site of work and consumption was a signiﬁcant marker of difference in the prostitute’s case. paternalist state included her in the welfare agenda. But despite being able to name her price in the market and voice her demands. The prostitute is thus different from other workers even without the moral implications of her work. could not empower her at work or salvage an impersonal self of a citizen. The oppression resulting from the instrumentality of body and sexuality in work is distinct from the subjugation to capital shared by a worker. The prostitute was produced and constituted through a process of exclusion that operated at a different plane. The prostitute was not a sexual minority at work having a clear “erotic preference”18 but rather a sexual worker. She was the complex of an outcast worker offering nonreproductive. Remaining tied to her body was speciﬁc to the work she performed. In the assertion of collective rights the gendered group of workers was seeking an engagement with the state and law. The struggle was for erasure of the moral stigma associated with the profession and for sharing the universal status of labor with others in the workforce. therefore. Although being able to act collectively and having gained a presence as a political agent. Involvement in collective bargaining. then as individual subjects. While the prostitute longed for the position of the subject-citizen in civil society. while the nature of her work posited her as nonproductive. social refuse. She lived at the cost of letting others use her body in consensual sexual activity as the only option available to her. she belonged to a world of subjection through economic. if not as part of organized labor. and she was not barred from participating in rights movements. The fact that she could be brought under governmental health schemes and approached by NGOs indicated that she did not belong to the unreachable domain of the subaltern.equality. political. her livelihood evolving from sexual performance with a partner in exchange for money—a sex worker with work underlined. The liberal. Inclusion into state welfare schemes evidently wiped away the social rejections. Surveillance in Decolonized Social Space 65 . Her work violated her self and impinged on a personal zone of her being mediated through the body. and cultural processes. The surplus meaning of her body over and above that of labor power discerns her. the prostitute did not have the power to assert her claim either as a worker or as a citizen. heterosexual service (pleasure) to be consumed on the site of her body through the market. She had to deliver pleasure in compliance with the desire of another. she did not enjoy the kind of autonomy typically bestowed on the bearers of productive labor. The postcolonial prostitute identity was thus constituted by the aspirations for a subject-citizen and the actuality of an overtly sexual entity.
laboring body. 20 She was a metropolitan subaltern in partiality. where to watch was to care. below the attempted reversal of capital logic. While the former would grant her universal worker status. the watch-care system became a novel mechanism for enhanced monitoring of bodies and behavior. Watching as a form of care was initiated. to provide care and extend a helping hand to those wanting to be cared for. The most signiﬁcant aspect of monitoring was to create a spontaneous response toward watching.” and yet being constituted by them. not conceivable during the colonial period. object. caring. The postcolonial perspective projected a homogeneous category of healthy sex workers. and watching.In effect she was part political subject aspiring for subject-citizen status through workers’ rights and part empirical subject with the concreteness of her bodily existence. Extending beyond enumeration of the regular prostitutes. “outside the reach of organized labor.19 Her position may best be described as that of the subaltern-citizen. her particularity barred her from being “dis-incorporated” as required by the protocols of citizenship. Thus the prostitute’s body was rendered as the target. An elaborate system of surveillance operated over the prostitutes with the obvious aim to promote their sexual wellbeing. Thus she remained within and beyond the reach of liberation. The prostitutes were eager participants of health programs and responded further by demanding workers’ rights. The “politics of citizenship” are uneven and do not allow for the incorporation of her body’s positivity as a subject-citizen. which made her susceptible to reﬁ ned and improved techniques of 66 Swati Ghosh . Conclusion The colonial state attempted to transform the traditional lifestyles of the community of women who lived by sexual activity into substantive entities in themselves through application of medical science and statistics. beyond the efforts of modernity and yet constituted by it. and instrument of power and knowledge. The bodilyness of her being that could not be represented as individualized entity excluded her as a citizen. Such attempts at negotiation with the welfare state and demands for inclusion as subjectcitizen could be achieved without coercive regulation. 21 This is where she shared the traits of the unique position of a subaltern-citizen. While caring was a means of effecting well-being. The precondition for her subject position as sex worker was the disease-free. acted on by health care systems generating and collating information. The prostitute was always already excluded. changes in the behavioral pattern and regulation over sexual norms were achieved through counseling.
cited in Chatterjee. 7. The History of Doing: An Illustrated Account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India. Elizabeth Andrew and Kate Bushnell. Roy Boyne. This aspirant to the world of rights was subjected to constant othering. 1993). Dangerous Outcasts. Prostitution in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Calcutta (New Delhi: Inter-India. “Post-Panopticism. Notes I wish to thank Richard Maxwell for his encouragement and suggestions.” Women Law and Colonial India: A Social History (Delhi: Kali for Women. deprived of the disincorporated. 1800–1990 (Delhi: Kali for Women. NJ: Princeton University Press. 1992). a process that subjected the prostitute’s body to power and delimited her subject formation. 8. robust body. Dangerous Outcasts: The Prostitute in Nineteenth Century Bengal (Calcutta: Seagull. 171. “White Nights in Bengal. Fantoft. Norway: Chr. 93. 9. individualized presence with the right of entry into civil society. Queen’s Daughters. “Nationalist Patriarchy and the Regulation of Sexuality. Biswanath Joardar. 1899). Banerjee.” from the margins (August 2000): 92–112.” Economy and Society 29 (2000): 285–307. Chatterjee. 34–37. Prabha Koteswaran. Chatterjee. 3. In this way power was productive of the subaltern-citizen under surveillance. 4. erase the marks of exclusion despite an apparently shared equality with other workers. Sumanta Banerjee. 1. The prostitute remained an internal other of the heterosexual domain and even promised to serve better with a healthy. The extension of universal rights for the female prostitute could not. 9. 6.” Boston College Third World Law Journal 21 (2001): 205–6. Partha Chatterjee. I would also like to thank Anirban Das and Brati Sankar Chakraborty for their thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this article. Michelsen Institute. 15. Queen’s Daughters. 1992). The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton. 15. But her embeddedness in her body denied her a role in liberal democracy. The Queen’s Daughters: Prostitutes as an Outcast Group in Colonial India (Bergen.surveillance and control of bodies. 5. Janaki Nair. 25–37. She remained within and beyond the reach of modernity in this decolonized space. “Preparing for Civil Disobedience: Indian Sex Workers and the Law. Ratnabali Chatterjee. Power did not confront sexuality from outside but was able to gain a hold on bodies by regulating sexual behavior and standardizing sexual norms through the watch-care system. 1985). Swati Ghosh. therefore. Radha Kumar. Surveillance in Decolonized Social Space 67 . 1993). The Queen’s Daughters in India (London: Morgan and Scott. 11. Queen’s Daughters. 2. Department of Social Science and Development. 1998). 61.
the trafﬁc in women and girls for the purpose of prostitution as an organized means of living” (preamble to the 1956 version of the act). They concentrated on the rights denied to prostitutes and aimed at decriminalization through legalization as the ﬁ rst step. DMSC considered prostitutes to be entertainment artists and formed solidarity with male sex workers. 259–65. and Rewriting the Prostitute Body [Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Among the city-based local NGOs in Kolkata involved with the prostitutes. carry on prostitution on her own within her premise without it being considered a criminal act.” Bratya Jibaner Barnamala (Calcutta: Seriban. called for the empowerment of prostitutes in the workplace. NGOs such as Sanlaap. (See Shannon Bell. in a fashion similar to the postmodern sex-radical position. 17. living off the earnings of a prostitute (section 4). Linda Singer. 13. There was no reformulation of policy under the amendment. barangana (the accomplished courtesan). 16. The ITPA merely extended the SITA’s application to both women and men and increased the punishment for certain offenses. 126–37. khanki (the scandalized woman). pioneers in the ﬁeld of policy research on prostitutes (Koteswaran. They thought that there were already enough laws and that legalization would lead to further commodiﬁcation of women. of public place (section 7). Writing. However. ﬁ rst in 1978 and later in 1986. patita (the fallen). The aim of the legislation was “to inhibit or abolish commercialized vice namely. 1997). the act punished anyone maintaining a brothel (section 3). and a few other women’s organizations shared the radical feminist stand that deﬁ ned prostitution as “law of male sex right” and female sexuality to be a construct of male desire. however. or soliciting (section 8). 76–79. barbonita (the public woman). or even the more recent liner-meye (the line-girl) were homogenized under the umbrella term sex worker. Soon the DMSC started proclaiming prostitutes’ autonomy and. Erotic Welfare: Sexual Theory and Politics in the Age of Epidemic (New York: Routledge. Jabala. “Swadhinatar Andolone Barbonitara. 12. 1993). 68 Swati Ghosh . ITPA allowed for oppression of all prostitutes subject to police regulation and harassment for soliciting. 200 meters. “Preparing for Civil Disobedience. Confronting AIDS: Public Priorities in a Global Epidemic (Oxford: Oxford University Press. The DMSC wanted to repeal the ITP Act. ganika (the courtesan). World Bank. Immoral Trafﬁc (Prevention) Act. Dangerous Outcasts. 1994]). of 1956 is commonly known as PITA since its amendment in 1986. were liberal in their stand and were proponents of decriminalization. procuring a woman for prostitution (section 5 and 6). A woman could. supported by the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health. The response of the government was to commission studies by the National Commission for Women. No. Section 15 allowed the police to conduct raids on brothels without a warrant based on the mere belief that an offense under ITPA was being committed. as suggested by Jean D’Cunha and Ratna Kapur. practicing prostitution in the vicinity. The different terms used to describe a sex worker such as the beshya (the prostitute).” 192–93). Banerjee. baaiji (the royal court musician and dancer). 104. randi (the low-class woman of the bazaar). Sandip Bandopadhyay. 1999). Amending ITPA to achieve partial decriminalization was still far away. 14. initially Mahila Samanwaya Committee and later Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC). 11. something that was lacking even for an Indian housewife. 15.10. Reading. 6.
recommendations of the National Law School. about reform of ITPA were not consulted. while newsletters and bulletins emphasize the prostitute’s role as an entertainer and comfort-giver (see Sohagnama. and therefore did not possess the privilege of being “dis-incorporated” for the norms of citizenship. 96–117. Carol S. “Rowdy Sheeters: An Essay on Subalternity and Politics. 1993). Child prostitution was being banned and legally enforced. Vance (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Bangalore.” in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. However. and to initiate networking with the member nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) on the trafﬁcking of women across the border. Dhareshwar and Srivatsan use the concept of dis-incorporation to explain the “politics of citizenship” operating in the context of the “rowdy sheeter” (one with multiple convictions—or a long rap sheet—for public rowdiness) who was excluded because of the largerthan-life image that he created about himself to maintain the positivity of his body. 21. His attachment to body was high and not disentangling.to organize workshops. Surveillance in Decolonized Social Space 69 . Srivatsan. 18.” Subaltern Studies 9 (1996): 201–31. 19. the monthly bulletin of the DMSC.’ ” in Outside in the Teaching Machine (New York: Routledge. January–February 1999. 1984). Vivek Dhareshwar and R. In 1989 the law reform initiatives undertaken by the central government formulated and “nearly passed a loathsome and potentially discriminative” AIDS Prevention Bill (233). 2002). The narrative relating to personal histories of the prostitutes at Sonagachhi depicts her fallen and victim status (interview-based survey undertaken by author. and the DMSC report. The National AIDS Control Organization later drafted a national AIDS policy that was “more progressive” (234) and characterized the issue as more than a simple public health measure during its HIV prevention efforts. Gayle Rubin. 1998). ed. 20. The strain was contained in presenting a confused version of an abused/empowered self while relating her lived experiences that were far-off from the ofﬁcial proclamations of empowerment. “Woman in Difference: Mahasweta Devi’s ‘Douloti the Bountiful. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality. 286. For the prostitute it created conﬂ icts and ambiguities. Namaskar.
the sanctions can result in a warning. you will ﬁ nd the poorest counties in the state. and legions of people who are unemployed or consigned to jobs that lack the income and beneﬁts needed for a secure life. Under its reign. the poor face a level and intensity of directly targeted surveillance that relatively few of us may currently experience but that we can expect to see more of in the coming years. As a statewide matrix that unites virtually all programs dealing with lower-income families into one system of assessment. sexual relations.” When people turn to the welfare ofﬁce in Ohio. . Copyright © 2005 by Duke University Press. 2. with the various pension funds. A computerized information management system of awesome reach and power. they meet CRIS-E— the Client Registry Information System—Enhanced.1 Until quite recently. monitoring. or a scheduled meeting is due.Resisting Surveillance If you ever visit the remote hills and hollows that make up the far southeastern corner of Appalachian Ohio. If CRIS-E ﬁ nds a problem or discovers a crime. No. and so on. enforcement. CRIS-E runs the show. There will be roads you can barely drive on. Because of the structural poverty of the region. It leads frontline agency workers through an intake and assessment interview as it prompts all questions and demands answers about household makeup. CRIS-E then combines and assesses all of this information and makes decisions about program eligibility. CRIS-E is a surveillance system that matters. employment. living patterns. and sanction. Summer 2005. If any concerns turn up. Vol. CRIS-E mobilizes and solidiﬁes an ofﬁcial framework for managing the poor in Ohio. schooling. with workers’ compensation and unemployment programs. many families receive help from the state’s Department of Job and Family Services. almost all research John Gilliom Social Text 83. CRIS-E goes on to manage the many fraud control measures undertaken by state and federal authorities—number matches with IRS and Social Security data. termination. schools that are chronically underfunded. ﬁ nances. Our research project exploring life under CRIS-E grew out of a conviction that we actually know very little about the experiences and understandings of the surveilled. or a jail cell. formally called the Department of Human Services and known by everyone but the bureaucrats as “the welfare ofﬁce. CRIS-E sends a letter to agency clients instructing them when and where to report. 23. and others.
a widespread pattern of unorganized resistance to surveillance in which several important things are happening: • The welfare mothers we spoke with engage in an array of tactics to evade and thwart the detection and control of the surveillance system. do people struggle with. and produce tangible improvements in their families’ lives. combat. trick. To the contrary. our exploration of the issues was motivated by a concern that such surveys—which are so limited and limiting in their options—were failing to 72 John Gilliom . In short. • Their tactical efforts strengthen the values of the critique. undermine. The essay at hand draws on those ﬁ ndings to focus on the questions surrounding opposition and resistance: How. and responses would be but. and the welfare of their children. this project sought to assess the life of a surveillance subject that in a way did not presume what the languages. or otherwise speak and act out the conﬂ ict that they must inevitably have with a system that enacts such manifest and consequential control over their lives? The answers we found suggest that if you ever do visit Appalachian Ohio. You will not ﬁ nd a ﬁeld ofﬁce for any of the national privacy rights groups. rather. shelter. • They voice a widely shared critique of the goals and practices of the surveillance program. criticize.on how people perceive and respond to surveillance has been limited to mechanistic opinion surveys and by the assumption that the issue in the politics of surveillance was the venerable right to privacy. set out to explore these very questions in a manner as unstructured and unlimiting as possible. But you will ﬁ nd.” You will not ﬁ nd a staff of activist attorneys preparing litigation strategies. what we found was a dense pattern of unconventional and seldom-noticed politics through which an internally coherent combination of ideology and action advanced the interests of these families and thwarted the mission of the surveillance regime. I argue. challenge the powers of the surveillance system. if at all. Their critique breaks with the conventional grounds of the right-to-privacy arguments to advance tangible concerns about food. The Unorganized Opposition The ﬁ ndings reported here are not based on a comprehensive survey or national analysis of opinions on surveillance policy. evade. concerns. Instead. you will not encounter picketers with signs reading “Welfare Moms against Big Brother.
Some babysat for cash. the complaints came fast and hard. these women and many of the others took action against the surveillance in their lives. and multifaceted. They did not sue. they want to know everything.to two-hour conversations under conditions of anonymity. cut hair.” “It seems like they want to know too much.” A mother of two. she’s dirty and I just feel worse when I go in there and come out than I did going there. The complaints were clear. who chose the pseudonym “Moonstar. the women told us about their lives under CRIS-E and the welfare bureaucracy. How much utilities you pay and if you can’t pay it. Although the system got some credit for speeding up the processing of forms. “Too nosy. What they did was to become artful managers of their ﬁ nancial lives—creating ways to come up with necessary (and forbidden) extra income without triggering the surveillance system. In open-ended one.” had been on assistance for the twelve years since the closing of a major governmental facility ended her career. or cleaned houses. Field interviews with ﬁ fty welfare mothers were undertaken by local women who were themselves long-standing clients of the system until shortly before the project began. C: How does that make you feel? M: Well. they did not boycott.” Cindy (interviewer): Can anybody ﬁ nd out this information on you? M: I think they could. I feel cheap when I walk in there.” “Degrading.” “They make you feel like a dog. Here. I feel that everybody’s looking at me and like she ain’t got no job. she echoes many women as she voices her feelings about the information demands of the welfare system: Moonstar: Well. Along with the complaining.get anything close to a meaningful picture of how everyday people think and speak about surveillance in their lives. How many people you got living with you—and that’s nobody’s business. Still others took unreported Resisting Surveillance 73 . then that’s tough luck. The path chosen here was one that leads through the local community and emphasizes approaching a conversation about surveillance in the most informal and everyday terms that can be achieved while still undertaking research. But it is important to stress that Moonstar and the other women went well beyond talk.” “I feel like a number. I don’t like asking for help but I had to. “Oh look at this. sold crafts. I think they really could. others mowed lawns. I mean everything.” “It drives you crazy. And I just don’t like it and I should have got off it a long time ago because I don’t like everybody knowing me too good. and they did not join the ACLU. pervasive. How much rent you pay. They put everything on this big screen and anybody and everybody can look right there on that big screen and say. they did not march.
When such acts are rare and isolated. subterfuge. Welfare don’t give you enough money to barely make it and you have to do little things just to keep your head aﬂoat. every bit of it. in one sense. If I have to go out and mow a yard for $10 that will get my kids extra shoes.”5 Here we hit on a new way of thinking about age-old practices of noncompliance. everyday resistance encompasses “the ordinary weapons of relatively powerless groups: foot dragging. Because my bills takes all of my money. pilfering. let alone organized) we are dealing with resistance. lovers.”4 He continues. and other ways to beat the system. and be able to buy my kids shoes. and so forth. . but when they become a consistent pattern (even though uncoordinated. getting a family of four through the month on the state’s allowance of. or the fathers of their children. . and other tactics manifests a pattern of “everyday resistance” to the surveillance regime. is by working under the table. In situations where these activities work to defy the goals of the surveillance program by evading detection and engaging in forbidden or 74 John Gilliom . pay the bills. The list goes on. feigned ignorance. while at the same time denying resources to the appropriating classes. As Moonstar explains: The only way that you can make it. masking. he is both ﬁ lling his stomach and depriving the state of gain. they are of little interest. “When a peasant hides part of his crop to avoid paying taxes.support from relatives. sabotage. Some had living arrangements in which homes or apartments were secretly shared. I have no money at the end. From what Moonstar and other women told us. The intrinsic nature and. if you make it. at that time. 3 As James Scott explains in Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. The mothers’ deﬁ ance of the rules and besting of the system through petty fraud. 2 Making things worse was the fact that state regulations at the time either forbade any extra income or made the reporting and surveillance system about allowable income prohibitively risky and cumbersome. arson. I have no money in the end because I pay all the money. How can I take care of my kids when I have got to pay everything in the household and not have no money to take care of my children? I have to go out and make a little extra money because I don’t get enough to support my family. misrepresentation. And the ADC is supposed to be for dependent children. dissimulation. . false compliance. and that it requires little or no manifest organization. slander. So when the mothers did what they had to do—ﬁ nd extra cash and keep it secret—they placed themselves at odds with the law and at odds with one of the most advanced ﬁ nancial surveillance systems of its time. the ‘beauty’ of much peasant resistance is that it often confers immediate and concrete advantages. a little over four hundred dollars was next to impossible.
channel. Nor is it to argue that any instance of noncompliance is necessarily a signiﬁcant political phenomenon. All around us. newspapers. small companies emerged selling “clean urine” through magazines and newspapers. and Web sites broadcast the parameters of those proﬁ les in a very public manner. and reward according to established norms and goals. When we see that individuals are able to assert their autonomy and opposition through these millions of small skirmishes. Welfare mothers lack the political inﬂuence to raise their allowance through legislative change—but they have the personal resources to do it on their own. drivers began installing radar detectors. for many nasty things are done in hiding. sanction. identify. Thus. they have to be understood as a form of antisurveillance politics. uncoordinated. the welfare mothers do nothing different from what many typical families would do. the demands of various systems of regulation and enforcement create webs of control and power. And when that resistance becomes sufﬁciently widespread to be recognized as a pattern in the lives of large numbers of people. Resisting Surveillance 75 . Middle-class families cannot rewrite the laws of Medicare eligibility. it is to argue that in a society in which surveillance increasingly becomes the deﬁ ning face of government and corporate inﬂuence and domination. as much as possible. the obligations of taxation and besting the surveillance systems designed to implement those obligations. The Politics of Everyday Resistance But just how widespread are the patterns of everyday resistance to surveillance programs? When employee drug-testing programs came online in the mid-1980s. When the Internal Revenue Service develops proﬁ les used to identify those who will be audited. resisting surveillance programs becomes one key way for citizens to express and act on their disagreement with the norms and rules of the state. but they can learn to shift assets to achieve what are effectively the same ends. Herds of tax attorneys and preparers assist middle-class and wealthy families as well as businesses in shirking.regulated behaviors. Rather. tax advisers. antisurveillance movement is underway. in these ongoing battles to prepare and divide the pie of national ﬁ nance. underground. it becomes hard not to recognize it as a signiﬁcant movement on the political landscape. These systems seek to monitor. we must conclude that a massive. When police began using radar to catch speeders. and they do it from a position of greater need and risk and with less advice and support. we emphasize that these are not necessarily laudable politics. Moving beyond the welfare context.
• Do acts of everyday resistance produce any tangible improvements in the lot of the resister or of others? • Are acts of everyday resistance purely the isolated tactics of self-interested. the second generation. and new opportunities. and Richard Cloward. welfare families. rather than in the ofﬁcial arenas of the courts. Others. and blue-ribbon commissions. like the poor women here.6 In his 1992 presidential address to the Law and Society Association and his subsequent article “Postmodernism. and circumstance. organized politics. In all these different contexts and manners. Protest. Austin Sarat. by political leaders. Depending on class. private. These recognitions and possibilities mean that we should take particular interest in how practices of everyday resistance work as forms of politics.When viewed from this perspective. place false hope in tiny acts of individual deﬁ ance. public. material outcomes. the second. and Lucie White. There is a danger that depicting something like petty fraud as a vital form of politics may well mistakenly amplify insigniﬁcant gestures. and the New Social Movements. and organized while others must necessarily remain personal.7 All of them share an interest in everyday resistance as a form of politics. 8 Handler’s critique urged scholars to undertake a more complete critical examination of everyday resistance as a form of political struggle. and impoverished individuals. Carol Stack. there are millions upon millions of people throughout the industrialized world engaged in widespread and diverse types of opposition and resistance to surveillance regimes. charged Handler. legislatures. This essay does this by considering the following questions. lead to new forms of empowerment and mobilization. the politics of surveillance are played out daily. Frances Fox Piven. Patricia Ewick. solidarity. It is here. in turn. some get more formal. and new terms and languages that could. and give inappropriate. and solitary. But where the ﬁ rst generation centered on how the politics of everyday resistance lead to the building of bonds. even smiled on. individuals? 76 John Gilliom . if implicit. was bent on deconstructionism and symbolic action and kept its attention on individualistic acts of deﬁance and opposition with little concern or attention paid to what Handler saw as pivotal questions of solidarity. authors like Susan Silbey. even antisocial. Some types of resistance—like the upper-middle-class tax shirker—are tolerated. context. The ﬁ rst generation consists of such authors as Eugene Genovese.” Joel Handler distinguished between different generations of scholarly studies about these “protests from below”—the struggles of relatively powerless groups such as American slaves. approval to what are often selﬁ sh and destructive acts. that the most important and dynamic politics of surveillance may be taking place. are viliﬁed and hunted.
real change is taking place in the lives of these individuals. resistance marks and maintains a zone of autonomy and self-determination that denies the clients’ status as dependent. They are partially freed from the oversight of CRIS-E and their caseworker as they enact a strategy that. they have effected a local and personalized change in the policy by taking charge of their own conditions. their subterfuge means that allowable levels of income have been effectively raised. the everyday resistance seen among the Appalachian welfare poor formed a pattern of widespread behavior that produced or supported an array of important material and symbolic results. Indeed. and a strategic opposition to and undermining of surveillance mechanisms. This may call to question some of our ﬁ xation on the questions of whether everyday resistance can lead to more formal collective action. “collective”. But out at the margins. The ﬁ rst payoff is the most straightforward. it is a change that makes a crucial difference. for many of these families. one could argue that while these women are powerless to change formal government policy about levels of income maintenance on welfare programs. what makes it possible to get by. which could then lead to “real” change. whatever else Resisting Surveillance 77 . Obviously. it is not. this is a massive and critical source of material improvement for the poor. in the lives of these people. While we have no speciﬁc ﬁ ndings on exactly how much that is. the women studied here get immediate and crucial cash or material relief through their efforts. it is not centralized reform of the state apparatus. For them. For one. a status of autonomy. The poor are neither “wards” of the state nor the “welfare dependent” when they are out hustling to pull together enough money to get through the month. at least in the traditional sense. With neither picket signs nor a head ofﬁce. including cash and other necessities of survival. a potentially powerful collective consciousness of the struggle of welfare mothering. It is not “permanent”. Through their necessarily quiet actions.• Is there any sort of sharing or collaboration that could be laying the groundwork for new forms of communities or politics? • Is there an ethical grounding or ideology within which to frame resistant practices? Assessing Everyday Resistance In the end. it is. Kathryn Edin’s 1993 study of welfare family budgets in Chicago found that women roughly doubled their resources in these ways. they have achieved what would be one of the central goals of a more organized social movement for welfare justice: more income. The struggle for material subsistence also produces less tangible but nonetheless important results.
put the lie to assumptions and claims that they are bad parents. As Sarat has argued. potential costs. and assert the needs and values of their own identities. . Many of the actions taken by these women are crimes. It will use computer matching searches to check bank accounts. More broadly. her secret actions are an act of resistance to the very structure of the surveillance society. and drawbacks in all political choices. makes them the initiators of an array of entrepreneurial pursuits. The welfare system works as hard as it can to force that secret out of her. But taking stock of the promising dimensions of a politics of everyday resistance does not imply that more formal and public politics would not be a more preferential and heartening course (and one that might even be more effective at achieving some of these ends).In that the welfare administration demands that a client open her life to them in the form of income veriﬁcation. There are. they have won a temporary but not so small victory in the broader struggle. risks. and other tactics in what can only be called a full-scale surveillance assault. prevent them from augmenting their meager allowance with entrepreneurial pursuits. from the power of the state. augment their income. may be said about it. For 78 John Gilliom . But the tactical comparisons of such cost-beneﬁt analyses overstate the extent to which relatively powerless people can pick and choose from a menu of political options. It will solicit “rat calls” in an attempt to get neighbors and relatives to expose the situation. politicians may use evidence of “welfare fraud” to reduce support and advance even more draconian measures of surveillance. social security payments.” 9 Their struggles also. demand recognition of their personal identities and their human needs” or “establish unreachable spaces of personal identity and integrity. This is. computer matches. and. and they may be caught and punished. To the extent that the poor can maintain those spaces. computer matches. this is a critical aspect of resistance by the welfare poor. disempower them by closing off more and more of the secret places in which to hide. are lazy or incompetent. There is another important sense in which the ongoing pattern of income enhancement works as an important front and form of political resistance—this has to do with the relationship of the surveilled subject to the surveillance state. The surveillance mechanisms of the state are mechanisms of domination that seek to force the poor into the open. In that the welfare administration demands that a client open her life to them in the form of income veriﬁcation. It is also not meant to imply that there are no costs. and other searchable databases disclosing records. a power struggle over the compulsory visibility of the welfare poor. as a result. and other tactics in what can only be called a fullscale surveillance assault. These are all important political effects. her secret actions are an act of resistance to the very structure of the surveillance society. or lack initiative—through their works they care for their children with creative and risky labor in a hidden low-wage market. in short. importantly. All of this may happen. those moments “in which welfare recipients . at least temporarily. of course. .
but what we have seen here is a form of politics that. who the good caseworkers were.10 Most apparent is the amount of conversation and advising that goes on among clients about how to “work the system” or “play the game. often secret act in pursuit of personal. and what programs were available. is. although public cooperation is limited because of the need for secrecy regarding these often illegal activities. surveillance. economic. after all. in other words. Second. like these women. face a largely uniform pattern of law. widely shared.” but they are not alone. if not collective. and political contexts over which they have little control—these contexts. and need.these poor women. even selﬁ sh. First. as there are legions of others experiencing the same pressures and engaging in the same actions. They may. I want to suggest three ways in which the resistance seen here is not “individualistic. the pressure is on and the resources are slim. we found clear evidence of mutual support and cooperation among the mothers. legal.” The Lonely Struggle? The idea of everyday resistance centers on what is apparently the opposite of a traditional picture of collective action—an isolated. One woman spoke of a group of neighbors who would use each other as references in required veriﬁcation forms. we still see important signs of solidarity. But the contrasts may not be so clear. Eleven of those reported getting or giving advice on how to generate extra income or get away with it without getting caught. The practices of everyday resistance may not amount to a classic social movement. Because structural and institutional arrays of power help shape the opportunities for resistance.” Surely. are far more affected by the interests and desires of the powerful than they are by those of the sorts of people who turn to the “weapons of the weak.” we can see that there are already tacit collectivities in place. If we can momentarily ignore the organizer’s cry to “get these people united. Finally. twenty-six women reported that they talked with other welfare clients about how the system works. but there are alternatives to traditional collective action other than a full retreat into the self. goals. seem to be “individualistic. these women—like most of Resisting Surveillance 79 . but perhaps most important. In the face of conditions that seem to compel distrust and secrecy. Most of their choices are shaped by social. while fragmented and dispersed. the resistance of those who. domination. is by no means individualistic or selﬁ sh.” Of the thirty-one interviews that had discussions of this issue. these women have not locked arms in a collective march to the state capital.
the mothers explain their actions in terms of supporting their families.These stories are replete with references to mothering. Given the failures and limits of the predominant privacy rights discourse. I mean. us—are far from alone in that their actions are designed to meet the needs and interests of their families. Skeptical readers of works on everyday resistance have noted the frequent absence of something that we might hope to see in political struggles—principles: some form of broader argument or ethic that positions and explains the actions of the oppressed and the wrongs of the 80 John Gilliom . I do. neighbor. for many. In her sixteen years using various assistance programs. I don’t see anything wrong with it. patently illegal actions. So it’s not really illegal. the need to provide for children. I think that’s a shame. and the widely shared conviction that any actions taken in the interest of children are legitimate—including. Importantly. you will do anything for your kids. she cuts hair and says that her friends sell food stamps. or they are buying something that their kids need. by the occasional helping hand from a sympathetic caseworker. the identiﬁcation of alternative ways of complaining about surveillance suggested new possibilities for critique and action. She explains: “I think as long as someone is using what they are doing for their home. for many. and the widely shared conviction that any actions taken in the interest of children are legitimate— including.” These stories are replete with references to mothering. child care. That we were able to identify new framings and ethical positions from which to criticize surveillance indicates that the privacy rights paradigm is both too limited—because it fails to address these concerns—and not the only show in town. because they show that the women’s actions are framed within a sensible and compelling moral argument. the need to provide for children. patently illegal actions. If they are going out and they are doing it and they are boozing it up and they are using drugs. Beyond Privacy—The Principles of Resistance “Delilah” is forty-one. These days. But as they struggle to care for their families. Collective action? Not in the traditional sense. she has tried many ways to make ends meet—once trying to sell Tupperware until her ex-husband turned her in. She has two children and two grandchildren living in a rural home that she owns. and by the very needy hands of their children. as discussed below. or family member. ﬁ rewood. child care.11 One of the most interesting things we noticed in our interviews was the near absence of claims to privacy rights in the women’s complaints about surveillance.12 But these alternative ways of complaining about surveillance are also important to a discussion of everyday resistance. they are surrounded by millions of other low-income mothers. and scrap metal.” As another mother said: “If you have kids.
Isolated acts of opportunistic self-expression or petty thievery that make no contribution to building a vision of a more promising world. Similar complaints about the welfare surveillance regime and explanations for resistance mark many of these interviews. distrust.13 But here we see patterns of everyday resistance that are neither unprincipled nor unrelated to broader political critiques. The sense of disempowerment tied to their fear. politically. institutional. they quietly meet the needs of their dependents through daily actions that defy the commands of the state while advancing the needs of the family. and we can see that they also share a uniﬁed framework of language and values with which to mobilize their critiques and actions.oppressors while building the possibility of shared consciousness. and values appear to gravitate away from the assertion of individualistic rights and toward the focus on responsibility and care. the ideal of the autonomous and rights-bearing individual must be rather far from the tip of tongue. Rather than publicly objecting to the infringement of their rights as citizens. should not get more attention or signiﬁcance than they deserve. and familial identities. While the mothers studied here do not regularly quote the Bill of Rights or make speeches about the right to privacy. In many critical dimensions. the women interviewed here do share economic. duty. Although they are not united spatially. they are not always expressed Resisting Surveillance 81 . roles. or socially.14 In the conditions and contexts in which they live—united by abusive practices in welfare administration. and obligation and explain their actions and their critique of the state in terms of those principles. This ﬁ nding shows that there is a shared frame of reference—an ideology of caring or parenting within a context of need—behind the seemingly discrete and apolitical actions of women in the welfare system. many of them do make consistently principled arguments about need. and alienation from “the law” struggles with the reality of their situations in which something is wrong and something must be done about it. these women’s lives. experiences. then. and rural life—it is not hard to understand how an individualistic privacy claim based in the nobility of a law would fail to make sense. In lives surrounded by the obligations of meeting both the needs of families and the commands of the surveillance system. They are often (and sometimes necessarily) out of sight. family obligations. they argue. poverty. Conclusion These stories show that in welfare administration and numerous other settings there are widespread uprisings against surveillance.
1985). There’s a Lot of Month Left at the End of the Money: How Welfare Recipients Make Ends Meet in Chicago (New York: Garland. CT: JAI. observation. and not involved in a pattern of broken relationships. beyond the stress lies the real possibility of apprehension and sanction. The project. nonetheless. “Law and Everyday Forms of Resistance. they do not look like social movements are “supposed” to look. James C. Resistance. the subterfuge and deception necessitated by the comprehensive enforcement system means that many of the subjects here must “live a lie” and deny real aspects of their lives that are of great importance to personal dignity. and political energy. Notes 1. beyond the stress lies the real possibility of apprehension and sanction. Several women spoke of the horrible stress of keeping their secrets and fearing apprehension. and veriﬁcation manifest a considerable and fearsome presence in their lives. Politics. not helpless. 201–36. 2001). Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work (New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Scott. one of the most interesting challenges will be the exhumation and exploration of the many truths suppressed as powerful institutions assert and enforce their own particular order. in the expected language of privacy. opposition. 296. 1997). 4. 15. See also Gary Marx. is most fully explored in my book. Joel F. and Kathryn Edin and Laura Lein.Several women spoke of the horrible stress of keeping their secrets and fearing apprehension. which was undertaken in the mid-1990s. 1995). and the Limits of Privacy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. CT: Yale University Press.. and the New Social Movements. 5. important and frequently productive expressions of frustration. vol. 29. from which portions of this essay have been adapted. Austin Sarat and Susan Silbey (Greenwich. “A Tack in the Shoe: Neutralizing and Resisting the New Surveillance. 1993). As research into the politics of surveillance continues. These ﬁ ndings are afﬁ rmed by Kathryn Edin’s research on the budgets of Chicago’s welfare poor. but that they must hide that truth as part of their struggle against the state. Handler. Michael McCann and Tracey March. Protest. Ibid. But they are. 3. See Kathryn Edin. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven. 2.” in Studies in Law. Overseers of the Poor: Surveillance. “Postmodernism.” Journal of Social Issues 59 (May 2003): 369–90. Further. 82 John Gilliom . and Society. 6. ed.” Law and Society Review 26 (1992): 697–732. The truth may be that they are not lazy. This accounting of the senses in which everyday resistance advances the interests of these women is not meant to gainsay the power of the surveillance program with which the poor must live—our interviews made it clear that ongoing record keeping.
9. Protest. 11. Gilliom. and Sunday Shoes: Notes on the Hearing of Mrs. All Our Kin. Protest. everyday compliance) ﬂows from these same fundamental material needs” (Scott. Lucie White. 295).7. Resisting Surveillance 83 . Democracy. “It is no coincidence that the cries of ‘bread. Weapons of the Weak. 13. Overseers of the Poor. “Postmodernism. 12. the ethic of care emphasizes responsibilities. How They Fail (New York: Vintage. Tronto. Carol Gilligan. 1999). “Law Is All Over. The Common Place of Law (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Rhetorical Survival Skills. 10.” 710–16. 2000). 1972). and the New Social Movements. Where the latter posits an individualistic realm of legalist and rationalist calculations based on universal principles. Stack. Eugene Genovese. 8. 93–114. Piven and Cloward. All Our Kin: Strategies for Survival in a Black Community (New York: Harper and Row. Joan C.. Women and Moral Theory (Savage.’ and ‘no taxes’ that so often lie at the core of peasant rebellion are all joined to the basic material survival needs of the peasant household. Silbey.” Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities 2 (1990): 343–79.” 218–19. “Law and Everyday Forms of Resistance. McCann and March. “Postmodernism. and the Legal Consciousness of the Welfare Poor. of course. 1987). MD: Rowman and Littleﬁeld. 1982). 1974). and the New Social Movements. Jordan.” 14. Justice. Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care (London: Routledge. Nor should it be anything more than a commonplace that everyday peasant politics and everyday peasant resistance (and also..” 344. “The Law Is All Over: Power. 1993). Eva Feder Kittay and Diana T. See also Stack.’ ‘land. Roll: The World the Slaves Made (New York: Vintage. PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. Patricia Ewick and Susan S. Roll. Handler. Sarat. and compassion. G. Handler. eds. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development (Cambridge. 347. Cloward.” Buffalo Law Review 38 (1990): 1–58. Resistance. and the Welfare State: Reconstructing Public Care (University Park. Many authors have now advanced the idea that an ethic or discourse of “care” emphasizing needs and interdependency stands as an alternative to the traditional discourse of “rights” or “justice” that emphasizes individual rights and autonomy. Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed. Carol B. Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare (New York: Vintage. Austin Sarat. MA: Harvard University Press. particular needs and differences. Meyers. 1972). “Subordination. See Julie Anne White. 1977).
. 2. Vol. and reliable services. making life easy for citizens. In this system. Çagatay Topal ˘ Social Text 83. MERNIS increases the state’s powers to (re)produce individuals for hegemonic purposes by adapting the state’s administrative practices to the dynamics of contemporary processes of global production. By assigning individu˙ als a unique number that identiﬁes them as citizens. This is centralization not only of power but also of identiﬁcation of the individual. the state can thus present itself as the ˙ remedy of social problems and MERNIS as the technological ﬁ x. Copyright © 2005 by Duke University Press. ˙ Yet.Global Citizens and Local Powers SU R V EI L L A N CE I N T U R K E Y ˙ The Basic Characteristics of MERNIS Turkey’s Central Population Administrative System—Merkezi Nüfus ˙ Ídaresi Sistemi (MERNIS)—is at the center of the Turkish state’s efforts ˙ to establish a database of information about its population. Without acknowledging its or MERNIS’s role in the construction of this risk. No. ˙ MERNIS is fundamentally governed by the state. Summer 2005. and share personal information among different state bodies. this does not mean that individu˙ als have the sufﬁcient capacity to inﬂuence the functioning of MERNIS. the source of ˙ the solution becomes the state. 23. this one-numbered system supplies perfect. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. MERNIS generates the necessary local conditions to align Turkey with the emerging ˙ global control society. that is. when MERNIS decentralizes power’s effect in the visible bodies of individuals. in the subjects of its surveillance. which controls the ˙ system’s operations for its own interests. manipulate. thus reinforcing the state’s monopoly over the use of information. individuals become ˙ bearers of state power as MERNIS catalogs and redeﬁ nes them as effects of system-serving surveillance. MERNIS was designed to eliminate repetition and inconsistencies in the state’s information systems and to consolidate various kinds of information on its citizens. this power is also paradoxically decentralized. Moreover. while MERNIS centralizes power in the sense that it can direct.1 One number also indicates the centralization of power and helps solidify Turkish state authority. And when the source of risks and social problems appears to be the individual. since it exists in its effects. it also deﬁ nes the individual as an embodiment of society’s risks. rapid. Of course.
MERNIS could function as a bridge between ˙ the labor force of Turkey and global production sites. as I show. MERNIS must not be regarded as merely a national system. 86 Çagatay Topal ˘ . fresh. Its technology was meant to offer efﬁcient control mechanisms to the state and to guarantee the permanence of a reshaping process of the individual as an object of constant control—as something posing imminent risk to society—watching all citizens to determine who is “abnormal. In effect. a “healthy” society means a ˙ “productive” society.˙ By design. Consequently. MERNIS thus functions to locate the broken parts of the production process. ˙ The Signiﬁcance of MERNIS ˙ MERNIS’s rationale is completely compatible with the ideology of efﬁ ˙ ciency. MERNIS can produce moment-by-moment information on the registered Turkish population. this is not executed in a local sense only. However.” or “criminal. These are its design goals. The local dynamics that inﬂuence the relation between the individual and ˙ power center on the signiﬁcance of MERNIS for the state and corporations ˙ in Turkey that use MERNIS to supply actual. MERNIS is thus an outcome of global necessities that have superseded national requirements. The goal is to obtain this information ˙ at the national and local levels. a signiﬁcant advance for Turkey in the global dynamics of today’s communication and information revolutions. In reality. An efﬁcient MERNIS would mean that the state in Turkey produces life with its own resources. In this context. Because both local and national forces have signiﬁcantly shaped its ˙ operation.” “dangerous. MERNIS is not a well-functioning residence-based system and currently produces and gathers only aggregate information of the population as a whole. This is not necessarily good news for the Turkish people. Its rationale is shaped within a global context where information and communication technologies have become integral to the sphere of ˙ production.” “sick.” These tasks entail the constitution of a prevalent surveillance system endowed with the authority to decide who will be more productive in which sites of production and thus who will contribute to a “healthy” society—a society that is necessary for the continuation of production activities. and revised information about the forces of production. it is hoped that MERNIS will observe changes immediately and through its capillary power obtain information about the social and economic characteristics of citizens. The MERNIS number of each individual is his or her registration number for global systems ˙ of production. The state and corporations in Turkey ˙ can exploit MERNIS to produce a suitable labor force for contemporary ˙ capitalism.
In 86 percent of these institutions there exists no administrative information system and no decision support system. impotence. Yilmaz Atasoy. and lack of personnel. The state distrusts some technological developments while it paradoxically constructs a whole system on them. 2 It is not reasonable then to expect that an electronic state based on administrative efﬁciency will be realized soon. 3 Because MERNIS’s “vitality” has not yet been understood by the project operators. adding that Turkey is a very crowded country compared to European countries. a self-critique would force the state to admit error. for example. a large population to work on. a director in the Department of Information and Processing in the Directorate of Population and Citizenship Affairs. University researchers and. This ˙ researcher claims that the state has attempted to build up MERNIS with a highly centralized view but has “lacked” the foresight of a global-minded administration. since it does not provide short˙ term political rent for politicians and bureaucrats. He underlines that there is very little commitment to ˙ MERNIS. the full ˙ application of the MERNIS system seems to lie in the future. Only 17 percent of the upper-level managers see information technology as essential.˙ MERNIS’s failure to achieve this efﬁciency is in part a mark of the state’s ambivalence toward modernization. a condition ˙ that slowed MERNIS’s construction. Self-assessment of this problem is generally difﬁcult for inﬂexible states and adds to Turkey’s particular problems of inefﬁciency ˙ in systems like MERNIS. This ambivalence is reﬂected in the low proportion of public institutions using information and communication technology: only 11 percent. England. In the opinion of most state ofﬁcials. Moreover. the state is not able to comprehend the ˙ signiﬁcance of MERNIS at the macro level and therefore has no proper ˙ vision of the usage of information collected in the MERNIS database. especially in the political arena. and with change comes a challenge to the existing order. According to a social scientist in the Institute of Population Studies. it would have taken only one person to enter the Global Citizens and Local Powers 87 . government researchers and ofﬁcials have shown how this ambivalence contributes directly to ˙ MERNIS’s inefﬁciency. Yet technology also signiﬁes change. He says that data entry took a lot of time. counters ˙ that MERNIS has taken a long time to become operational because of technological insufﬁciency. The degree of standardization between the institutions that share information is also weak. Such a situation would mean questioning the state’s legitimacy. as Seref Hosgör of the Institute of State Statistics argued.4 But this argument does not account for the crowded countries in Europe and elsewhere in the world—like Germany. and the United States—that have successfully imple˙ mented MERNIS-like systems. technology appears to solve every problem. to some extent. or weakness within its own mechanisms.
They neither question the rationality of the technology nor introduce new kinds of rationality. and he suggested that one valid address could be held by one institution: the police.12 ˙ Most state ofﬁcials presume that MERNIS can solve the existing problems of population registration. Atasoy claims that it is not so difﬁcult to form a residence-based system. This ˙ standpoint places MERNIS in a global world order rather than within the borders of a nation-state. questions about MERNIS’s administrative efﬁciency remain.11 Ünal Yarimagan. 88 Çagatay Topal ˘ . MERNIS will not be completed until 2012. The ˙ chief mistake is that while MERNIS is legally mandated to operate on the basis of residence. The cru˙ cial problem for the conception and the application of MERNIS. since the infrastructure is almost ready. The necessary substructure for MERNIS was not and had not been mature enough for a considerable time (at least until 1995) while ˙ ˙ MERNIS was being set up.13 This is clearly not the case. As can be seen in this statement. and bureaucrats. This is because of ignorance of the state and citizens. which surpasses the current perspective of state ofﬁcials. though today it seems that this problem has been largely resolved. state ofﬁcials conceive of technology as the predominant fac˙ tor in the operation of MERNIS. a professor in the Department of Computer Engineering at Hacettepe University. 8 Because of this feature. then. is a deﬁcient comprehension of the rationale behind the whole system. the mental infrastructure had yet to be established. ﬂexibility. it has failed to do so. who argued that the state should become more active and coercive to implement the mandate to make ˙ MERNIS functional and effective. despite the fact that MERNIS’s technical infrastructure had been constructed to a great extent. experience.entire record of Turkey’s population over the last twenty-eight years into ˙ the MERNIS database. politicians. For instance. In other words. and infrastructure. the system cannot provide the social and economic information of a particular district or province.5 ˙ One reason that MERNIS developed slowly was the untimely start of 6 ˙ the system. Technological rationality is not enough to continue a nationwide organization without also applying logics of efﬁciency. it did not have adequate technological knowledge and capacity. ˙ Still. added that institutions that are keeping or will keep the records of citizens’ residences have to be better organized. When the state began the project. and globalization.10 ˙ Hosgör has claimed that given this existing situation. He emphasizes that there is a considerable lack of human capital.9 There is thus only partial local information of the population. according to Hosgör. ˙ MERNIS necessitates a different kind of standpoint.7 There are a number of people who appear registered where they do not reside—places of residence and places of registration are in most cases different.
Power in the Contemporary Era For a global system of production. In Singapore. family. As such. Almost every country today supplies a labor force for global production. Importantly. constituting the new peculiarity of capitalism. Freedom.15 But ˙ to do this. These are naturally signiﬁcant characteristics of a surveillance system. work. military service. is determined within the limits of the political The lifetime services given by the Singaporean (electronic) state can be regarded as an attempt to hold personal information about the citizens’ productive capacity. for example. ˙ MERNIS has been designed to fulﬁ ll the same functions as Singapore’s system. Since production is carried out on a global scale. Essential shifts in today’s production dynamics and technological changes emerge together. who do not have the option to refuse or ignore these services. The decentralized ˙ and autonomous operation of surveillance machines gives MERNIS the potential to become what Kevin Haggerty and Richard Ericson have called a “surveillant assemblage. law. the materiality of this political economy is buttressed by a discourse sustaining the idea that technology enlarges the space of freedom. comparison is crucial. identiﬁcation. In the contemporary era. here. The contemporary production system thus forces nations to construct an electronic state.14 The lifetime services given by the Singaporean (electronic) state can be regarded as an attempt to hold personal information about the citizens’ productive capacity. MERNIS has the potential to integrate different surveillance techniques and administer all kinds of data drawn from different spaces through differentiated power practices. an electronic nation-state must develop systems like MERNIS. as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue. which include education. the nation-state controls the ﬂow of wealth to and from imperial powers and formulates the division of wealth as it disciplines its own population.” which brings different technologies together to increase the capacity of surveillance and transforms the abstracted bodies of surveilled subjects into discrete ﬂows of information. and employment. Global Citizens and Local Powers 89 . which can “train” individuals with reference not only to national priorities ˙ but also to global imperatives. settlement. Electronic registration systems gain importance in local and global economies for their capacity to coordinate and direct the activities of labor. it can be seen as the endeavor of the Turkish state to regulate the productive capacities of the Turkish population from birth to death.16 By integrat˙ ing networks through continuous information transfers MERNIS also enhances its ability to support the global reproduction system. Comparability means observation. transportation. power requires global regulations and normalization practices. legal regulations. and assessment. the electronic state provides a lifetime of public services to citizens. health. the nation-state realizes the biopolitical organization of its people. which is rooted in information and communication technologies. That is.
easier. as Castells implies. hegemonic power has the capacity to differentiate these identities and to use the ˙ suitable ones in its production activities. MERNIS provides spaces for individuals to claim multiple identities for various different social interactions. citizens may forgo aspects of their freedom. was born in Istanbul. From such a perspective. Power’s new “mobile police forces” are. But in exchange for MERNIS’s apparent protections. the individuals themselves. MERNISS seemingly creates new beneﬁts and increases opportunities for people to take advantage of these. but its primary function is to make 90 Çagatay Topal ˘ . and is married—MERNIS also displays its ability to re/deterritorialize identities.17 Moreover. These different identities are deﬁ ned within one number that facilitates state governance ˙ of individual complexity. On the sur˙ face. and more comfortable life for citi˙ zens. MERNIS can be regarded as a legitimate complex because it provides individuals with basic survival tools ˙ and social protections. In this context.˙ economy of global capitalism and its politics of neoliberalism. ˙ system-serving singularity.18 The power of the electronic state is not just a forceful one but operates on a consensual basis. ideological—codes that deﬁ ne exploitation procedures and frame an ideological infrastructure for global capitalism. MERNIS can be turned into a totalitarian tool as a kind of democratic mask of domination. When MERNIS stores information about the different identities of the individual—who. is a worker and a mem˙ ber of an organization. ˙ MERNIS may produce useful outcomes for citizens and make an individual’s life easier in many respects. however. MERNIS is an information network that subsists as a part of neoliberal discourse that depicts such networks as ideology-free carriers of information and ˙ truths. but it is more so for capital and the state.19 ˙ The Tragicomedy of MERNIS Information and communication technologies provide efﬁciency and ﬂexibility for the exercise of power. say. By this logic. as Christopher Dandecker points out. it is extremely difﬁcult for individuals to constitute an autonomous complex of identities without ˙ MERNIS intervening to recode these identities as the little production machines of Turkey. ˙ networks like MERNIS carry cultural—that is. An efﬁcient administrative system is useful for citizens. there arises in this scenario a seductive and insidious participatory panopticon as power operates by appearing to serve the desires and needs of the individual. As Roger Whitaker argues. MERNIS offers a secure. but it also deﬁ nes this multiplicity within the limits of a ﬁ xed. Despite the fact that people can develop different identities at a given time.
it is uncertain that the state is able to use this information to form effective surveillance procedures. his ˙ or her information is kept within the MERNIS database during his or her lifetime and even after. citizens of Turkey seem freer in this regard than those of other countries where there is an effective registration system. Unless the state pays greater attention to the citizenship-production function of a global control society. and economic resources. The state’s lack of rationality indicates also the lack in the stability. The state holds this information as an object that. Global Citizens and Local Powers 91 . The state is unable to construct a strong control mechanism and to apply normalization practices to the extent that would allow Turkish authorities to control citizens “properly” for a global pro˙ duction system. This fear prevents the state from comprehending the signiﬁcance of ˙ MERNIS and actually works against its own interests and the interests of capital. but neither are they exposed to continuous surveillance. political. Ironically. ˙ The tragicomedy of MERNIS in particular and the state system in general comes into view at this point. Turkey has not yet entered the mode of control societ˙ ies. this means that MERNIS will simply function as a registration system. it will continue to operate surveillance systems like ˙ MERNIS from a sense of fear rather than administrative efﬁciency—the fear of losing its traditional authority to the dynamics of the global system. MERNIS does not operate as planned. This situation derives from the ambivalence toward the transition Turkey has attempted to make to become a modern electronic state. it can exploit at any time to manipulate aspects of an ˙ individual’s life chances. certainty. the relation between the individual and the state in ˙ Turkey does not resemble the countries where the MERNIS-like systems function more efﬁciently. Gilles Deleuze suggests that in societies The foremost beneﬁt of MERNI˙S for the state is inclusion of the individual into the production system through a legitimate governance process. in principle. the citizens of Turkey may have to face more dangerous effects than citizens in the advanced countries where an effective control has been established. The foremost beneﬁt of MERNIS for the state is inclusion of the individual into the production system through a legitimate governance process. The lack of necessary rationality in state mechanisms appears to be to the advantage of the people. as I have shown. This internal contradiction has deprived the Turkish state of some of the properties possessed by states in societies of control. Once an individual is registered. As a result. Although MERNIS can produce and keep a huge amount of population information. Nevertheless. However. citi˙ zens cannot take advantage of the beneﬁts and facilities that MERNIS offers. and legality of the system—derivative perhaps of the state’s ambivalence toward modernization. Since the Turkish state has an insufﬁcient global outlook and lacks the necessary technological.˙ the life of the Turkish state easier. Consequently. For the time being.
The situation may change. may be subject to a more dangerous type of surveillance. ˙ to a considerable extent. In the case of Turkey. Hacettepe University. Because the structures and agents of power in Turkey are compatible with neither disciplinary nor control practices. “E-Devletin ‘altı’ dökülüyor. I also thank John Frauley for his comments. (Signiﬁcant agents of control do appear among powers other than the state. Directorate of Population and Citizenship Affairs. ﬁ nding it a threat to the traditional bureaucratic power of the state. 1998). March 2002. and to prepare for ˙ altered circumstances it is important to be mindful of MERNIS’s potential effects as it grows to serve the parallel imperatives of the imperial political economy and the society of control. then. in this context. by contrast. Notes This article is a condensed version of my master’s thesis. Turkish citizens. 21 Citizens cannot conceive the implications of this in-between position. MERNIS cannot fulﬁ ll its design function. 5 November 2002. “Cybercodiﬁcation and Invisible Documentation of the Population. 40. educational. For the time being. The individual in a control society is coded by continuous surveillance to become a production machine.of control individuals are included in continuous spaces of reformation within a complex of military. without his help. if ˙ inefﬁcient. 20 In a disciplinary society.” Radikal Daily. They are unaware. 4. T. Interview by the author. The name of this informant has been withheld on request. including some nongovernmental organizations). 2. Institute of Population Studies. individuals pass through discontinuous institutional enclosures in which they are surveilled and marked by distinct institutional identities. 3. The question is how states will constitute governance based on the rationale of control suitable for capitalism’s global de/recodiﬁcation strategy. interview by the author. that MERNIS can be turned into a dangerous. 92 Çagatay Topal ˘ . Yilmaz Atasoy. I thank my PhD supervisor. surveillance tool. which is a hybrid between societies of discipline and societies of control. 1. C. March 2002. the state has resisted the control rationale of the contemporary age. and corporate practices that work together to encode identity. David Lyon. I could not have produced this piece. Directorate of Population and Citizenship Affairs. Íçisleri Bakanligi Nüfus ve Vatandaslık Ísleri Genel Müdürlügü.” I would like to thank my supervisor. for his many contributions to my research. citizens are fated to live somewhere between these two types of societies in the same way as Deleuze describes the position of Kafka’s protagonists. And ﬁ nally. and capitalism cannot survive without its precoded production machines. Kenneth Barr. ˙ MERNI S Projesi (Ankara: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Internal Affairs.
5. Power. “Materials for an Exploratory Theory of the Network Society. Hosgör. MA: Harvard University Press. Interview by the author. Department of Computer Engineering. N. Christopher Dandeker. Elektronik Devlet: Kamu Hizmetlerinin Sunulmasında Yeni Ímkanlar (Electronic State: New Opportunities for the Provision of Public Services) (Ankara: Devlet Planlama Teskilati. 18.. 19.” British Journal of Sociology. Hacettepe University. 1999). Organization of State Planning. 16. 20. March 2002. 8. 1 (2000): 23. Seref Hosgör. “The Surveillant Assemblage. interview by the author. Kemal Madenoglu (then director general for social sectors and coordination). Ünal Yarimagan. 129. Surveillance. “Postscript on the Societies of Control. it has not been effectively applied. a research professor in the Department of Computer Engineering at Hacettepe University. Haggerty and Richard V. Manuel Castells. no. This was the position of Ünal Yarimagan. interview by the author. 12. and Modernity: Bureaucracy and Discipline (Cambridge: Polity. it says that although the residence-based registration is a legal obligation. Ibid.” October 59 (1992): 5. Kevin D. interview by the author. interview by the author. Atasoy. ˙ 7. The End of Privacy (New York: New Press.” British Journal of Sociology. 1990). Institute of State Statistics. Murat Ínce. 17. 21. March 2002. Global Citizens and Local Powers 93 . March 2002. 2000). 10. Ericson. 6. Hosgör. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. interview by the author. Gilles Deleuze. Empire (Cambridge. 3–7. 2001). 310. but it could very well have been an (obviously unsuccessful) attempt of the Turkish state to shorten the transition period from a society of discipline to one of control. 13. whom I inter˙ viewed in March 2002. 56–57. 15. 11. 4 (2000): 610. Roger Whitaker. This rush to construct MERNIS might suggest a lack of desire to wait to adapt to global developments. 14. interview by the author. In the MERNIS booklet published by the Directorate of Population and Citizenship Affairs. Institute of Population Studies. no. 9.
I start from the position that there is no preexisting “self” that privacy protects.From Privacy to Visibility CO N T E X T. probing instead the ethical allocation of the resources of visibility and knowledge production. and well-articulated. A N D P OW ER I N U B I Q U I TO U S CO M P U T I N G EN V I R O N M EN T S Identity in Ubiquitous Computing Everywhere in our daily lives. . These infrastructures determine who is able to view whom. and technically mediated practices that identify individuals and observe and analyze their actions—permeate society. the claiming of membership in that group. The construction of identity. a position. institutionalized. something that must be realized. to whom. social situations. According to Erving Goffman. “To be a given kind of person. . a social place is not a material thing. But visibility is not always detrimental to individuals or social groups. embellished. Copyright © 2005 by Duke University Press. The popular press decries these developments for the loss of privacy they entail. David J. Social roles. and social relations are created in their performance. 23. Rather. is a fundamental mechanism for structuring social relations and for asserting social power. proﬁ led. taken-for-granted. we are identiﬁed. the representation and dissemination of knowledge of the group. We always are. then treat those classes in a discriminatory fashion. it is a pattern of appropriate conduct. Summer 2005. 2. to be possessed and then displayed. is a strategy of political power. I D EN T I T Y. social identities are the enactments of social relations.”1 The ability to present the self. coherent. It is something that must be enacted and portrayed. The political (and epistemological) question is not whether individuals are known and typiﬁed. it is a question of how individuals are known and typiﬁed—by whom. They mediate the production of social knowledge and social power. Phillips Social Text 83. . Vol. at what expense. and toward what end we are made visible. and known. and for what purpose. A status. tracked. as what. This article moves the arguments over information environments away from issues of privacy. and to make moral claims about how one is to be perceived and acted toward. [is] to sustain the standards of conduct and appearance that one’s social grouping attaches thereto. the naming of a group. Infrastructures of surveillance—everyday. No. Scholars warn that these surveillance practices group individuals into classes. .
A ubicomp environment is part of the setting in which the performance of social identity occurs. which moves with him or her. for example. social relations. this description of an ubicomp environment developed by GeePS. and databases to serve appropriate information to appropriate individuals in appropriate contexts. institutionalized settings and culturally speciﬁc “common sense.”3 Designers of such ubicomp environments aim not only to construct the place the individual inhabits but to manage the ﬂow of informational resources within that space: they control which “local market” to present to the individual. To paraphrase Anthony Giddens. Understanding the mediation of activities that sustain identity. our homes.But these roles and relations are not created anew with each performance. a location-based marketing service: “Think of GeePS as a local market. in the case of GeePS at least. This information is dynamic and controlled by the merchants. The experience of an urban park is the physicality not merely of trees. form part of an infrastructure of identity. then. it is always implicated in the construction of those contexts and situations. Phillips . and place making. I analyze how gay identity is managed in personal and political terms and map the prerequisites of successful identity 96 David J. It does not monitor an objective context or situation. our shopping districts—become more and more shot through with “pervasive” or “ubiquitous” or “context-aware” computing and information systems. 2 Therefore research into the social construction of identities necessarily looks simultaneously to the agency of performance and the structure of context. they insert commercial criteria for determining social goals. The performances themselves occur within. fountains. and are structured by. a one-mile circle of energy around a potential customer.” There is thus a recursive relation between performance in the here and now and enduring social structures. Ubiquitous computing environments. they impose both a predetermined set of “needs” and the social ontology on which those needs are predicated. communities and establishments in that radius. and regenerative places becomes even more important as physical spaces—our ofﬁces. Research and development of ubiquitous computing (ubicomp) focus on the coordination of sensors. software agents. and playgrounds but of the interactions that are tacitly permitted and encouraged in the locale understood as “urban park. The intent of this article is to take some lessons from the “real-world” negotiation of identity and apply them to rethinking the design of ubiquitous computing systems.” Nor do these contexts exist apart from the performances within them. subcultural knowledge. social structures are always the product of the activity they recursively organize. Consider. Places are constituted through social action. providing local information that ﬁts individual needs. and.
The following section probes the nature of the power dynamics and the social resources involved in each mode of coming out. I suggest ways that ubicomp environments can be structured to ensure the ethical allocation of the resources of visibility necessary for the construction of identity. engage. each relates to the others. Self-identiﬁcation. and theoretically informed. Though the same processes are involved as any individual embraces identity and community and negotiates social position. patriarchal ideal. it enables the individual to acknowledge. and social representation and articulation are all tactics. Identity categories and their representations are contested at every level. and tactics that occur in contexts of power. Individuals may themselves come to represent public identities. conscious. by coming out. and a political power base. It then makes theoretical and normative links between these social processes and the institutionalization of visibility through the design of information infrastructures. Instead. the gay rights movement. gay men and lesbians are able to present publicly. reinforce. an act both of personal empowerment and of political claim staking. in-group cohesion. These normative links are not to justify any particular type of identity or any particular type of context. In-group codes preexist individual interactions. it enables the formation of a community within which to create a social identity. a culture. and that contest differs depending on whether one is arguing with self-proclaimed members of the identity group or with outside individuals or institutions. Processes and Resources of Identity Politics “Coming out”—self-identifying as gay and presenting that identity to the larger world—serves at least three political functions. They are never monolithic. and argue for the social value of a gay identity. celebrities may typify the group. yet it is exactly those interactions that generate. they are meant to guide the design of ubicomp environments to support vital contestation over the propriety of any particular identity or contest. and the everyday praxis of gay men and lesbian women demand that these management activities be acute.4 None of these stages are isolated. and social relations. gay politics. Finally.management onto ubiquitous computing environments. then. and modify those codes. and counteract the fear and shame of social stigma. One may claim the identity while adamantly contesting its meaning. First. From Privacy to Visibility 97 . context. Drawing on this experience. offering an alternative to the received hegemony of the heterosexual. interpret. “Coming out” is. A public identity must be available before an individual can claim it. Second.
The ability to segregate these contexts is a measure of social power. to some degree. the validity of the category. new online social environments).5 In doing so. the awareness of the context in which one acts. It not only places one. he afﬁ rms. the opposite might be true. to some degree.Claiming Identity By this act of self-identiﬁcation. Phillips . The distribution of these capabilities within an information environment will be a determining factor in the distribution of social power within that environment. remarkable. In other moments. In certain moments it may be politically and personally expedient to proclaim one’s sexuality at a public rally but not at work. The risks and beneﬁts of coming out are also historically speciﬁc. These risks vary according to the circumstances of the actor. coming out still entails risk—the risks of loss of income. one needs three resources of visibility: the availability of a recognized and acceptable identity category. or when one is deploying one’s identity as a speciﬁ cally political tactic. of social stigma. our identities are always multiple. Despite recent. It is an acceptance of the self as a social self. of personal assault. in strategically claiming identity. whereas coming out in the workplace would catalyze powerful economic and political forces. Therefore. of the resources and constraints that the label entails. and the ability to limit one’s proclaimed identity to particular social contexts. or when the appropriate venue for identity performance is not well established (as in. Finally. Socially informed design of those environments will then address issues such as the degree to which individuals control the scope of their 98 David J. by saying “I am a gay man. for example. This usually unconscious negotiation can become quite salient when one’s identity is itself stigmatized. each individual will maintain differing sexual identities depending on social context. Popular chanteuses face a very different cost-beneﬁt analysis in coming out than do tenured professors or truck-stop waitresses. but the graceful passage between roles and situations. and welcome changes in the legal and cultural position of some sexual minorities. vis-à-vis our clients. However. we perform different roles. One might be entirely “out” to one’s friends and coworkers but still maintain a formal indeterminacy at family reunions. and a particular kind of social self. This identity claiming is not merely the acceptance of a label—it is the acceptance.” the individual places himself within a social category and within a social order. our coworkers. our families. Successful social life involves not only the appropriate performance of a particular identity in a particular situation. it also gives one a sense of how to go on. The anonymous declaration in a crowd would be meaningless. our neighbors. We stand in different social relationships.
In evaluating the degree to which an information environment makes available a recognized and acceptable identity category. and one’s performance in that context. For example. to take advantage of the attributes of that environment without fear that the persona will be linked to other identity performances in other social contexts. Strong pseudonymity would allow any actor in an informational environment to “try on” a persona. as a gender identity? Can one assert that one is “married” to several others? In designing for awareness of the context in which one acts.” Joe could choose among those pseudonyms for each Internet session. This is similar to going to an unfamiliar neighborhood to buy pornography or going to gay bars only when on business trips. say a “WorkerJoe. ubicomp designers might ask whether and to what extent users are aware of the data records used to represent them.identiﬁers and the models representing their activities. the lamentably defunct Freedom service permitted users to establish several unlinkable pseudonyms.6 Performances are self-reﬂexive—dancers rehearse before a mirror. or for that matter N/A. designers might consider strong pseudonymity as an appropriate solution.” To facilitate the ability to limit one’s proclaimed identity to particular social contexts. Ubicomp designers should incorporate such models of strong pseudonymity to protect separable performance contexts for these separable identities and install some form of privacy mirror to heighten the awareness and experience of each performance. By this I mean the formal or informal associations of people who are somehow “like-minded.” a “GoodTimeJoe. though Web sites may be able to track his activities. Construction of Community The second political function of coming out is the formation of community. his work activities could not be linked to his political activities. actors rely on the director to let them know what “plays.” It is within community that one ﬁ nds dates. ubicomp environments need to provide feedback. This could take the form of what David Nguyen and Elizabeth Mynatt have called “privacy mirrors”—interfaces that enable users to monitor the data impression they are exhibiting to others. do census forms permit subjects to occupy multiple racial categories. or none? Can one assume trans. From Privacy to Visibility 99 . are visible to its inhabitants. Socially informed design would also address the extent to which those identiﬁers and those models.” and a “CitizenJoe. Are those data records malleable? Do they permit novel structures and novel values? For example. so that. indeed the operation of the information environment as a whole.7 Ubicomp designers should incorporate such models of strong pseudonymity to protect separable performance contexts for these separable identities and install some form of privacy mirror to heighten the awareness and experience of each performance.
this involved “constructing a gay map of the city. This may involve development of technologies that permit knowledge of locality. It also acts as a public good. attains historical consciousness. designers of ubiquitous computing environments might provide means of contingently linking pseudonyms. like public parks or corporate meeting rooms. they are susceptible to change. It is also about negotiating the permeability of those boundaries: the wink. Phillips . contributing to a diverse.” 8 Yet the production of alternative cultures beneﬁts more than the members of that subculture. vibrant. we each interpret our social contexts using various frames of meaning inherited from numerous sources. Such distinctions are never concrete. codes. local knowledge. The cultural production of these consciousnesses. 100 David J. the appreciation of an “in” joke invite new participants to another region. George Chauncey describes how. are designed to avail themselves more easily to dominant notions of propriety within that space. Communities enforce insider-outsider distinctions and have codes and shibboleths for determining who belongs and who does not. Instead. in early-twentieth-century New York City. the particular quirks of our parents. and evolving civic life. meanings. To model this form of intimacy and community formation. and sensibilities protects members of subcultures and sustains those frames of meaning integral to subcultural identity. Interpreting a stop sign as other than a directive to stop is very expensive. for example). deeply ingrained religious or ideological orthodoxies.acquires senses of humor and fashion. rather than identity. The negotiation of social identity is not only about the construction and maintenance of boundaries. the grin. The production of alternative spaces. gay people developed private. common sense. and performances.” In part. models might be developed for overlapping and permeable spatial contexts of identity—circles of knowledge built on degrees of trust. monolithic community of meaning. another performance. groups. and boundaries—of the identity category itself— is constant and contested (the very existence of a “gay community” is routinely questioned in the gay press. That is. We never live in a single.” which “had to consider the maps devised by other. The formation of community involves strategic revelation. sometimes hostile. This dominance can be enforced in various ways. including shared generational experiences. instead of inviolably separate personae. regions. “developing tactics that allowed them to identify and communicate with each other without alerting hostile outsiders to what they were doing. Communities produce common meanings. vigorous. Signiﬁcant stigma can result from misinterpreting social situations and acting “out of place.” Spaces. The extent to which these frames of meaning are shared is a measure of their dominance.
how these texts are used will determine what they mean in a given context. Ubicomp environments can mediate such encounters and operationalize the surveillance that establishes trust relations through discretionary revelation of personal information. individual actors should have some means of determining whether other participants are group members. These multiple contested meanings of common spaces. they must follow two essential criteria. since this sort of symbolic exchange and meaning creation occurs within groups. and within which. a tendency toward interpretive closure is inevitable within From Privacy to Visibility 101 . When a ubiquitous computing system “perceives” the “context” of a situation and “decides” to take “appropriate” action. SecureId mimics. However. common texts.9 The second criterion for subcultural knowledge production is the availability of a public environment from which. be diverse and negotiated. In this way. generally speaking. To achieve this open system. The ethical distribution of these resources of visibility would allow gay men and lesbians to share a useful categorical link and discover circumstances in which their interests and identities diverge. They are the signs. informed by the cultural position of and the resources available to the reader. This policing of the in-group/outgroup distinction is a fundamental process of group identity formation. the visitor must answer a question that proves in-group membership. Just as Hamlet or the Fourth Amendment lend themselves to conﬂ icting reinterpretations. become texts once they are stored in databases. it is important to understand that ubicomp environments. different “appropriate uses. so may different participants ascribe very different meanings. the social signaling work of fashion and speech codes and uses those cultural codes to limit or extend social visibility and interpersonal trust. it is interpreting and constructing the meaning of the text. Management tools such as danah boyd’s SecureId allow users to segregate their personal information into “facets” of identity.” to the same space or set of activities. While the structure of the vocabulary and the decision to create certain textual entities and not others were made in response to a prior understanding of the context—a prior “common sense” and meaning—the meaning of the text-in-use can. in part. Of course. The context of ubiquitous computing environments should be open and available for contestation and sense making by special purpose knowledge engines. as well as human activities and other attributes of the environment in which they operate. the utterances from which sense and meaning are made. and common resources are at the core of struggles for social power. First.For ubicomp environments to facilitate the generation and sustenance of these circles of knowledge. Before a visitor can have access to a particular facet. the vocabulary. to make sense.
. But access to a public text is not sufﬁcient for subcultural knowledge production. In assessing ubicomp design. perhaps the most difﬁcult to understand and implement is the availability of text. But of course the collection.” context-aware computing designers should “design for recurrent situations of everyday life. a corporate business meeting? Who decides that a street or region is to be approached as a marketplace rather than as a cruising ground or a site of political discourse? Malcolm McCollugh proposes that rather than designing for “anytime/anyplace universality.institutional uses of texts. what we need is good theoretical work on the ethics and the economics of commodifying behavior through “dataﬁcation. and projects its own interpretation of the text available to it. their own set of appropriate relations and places. a ubicomp environment “needs to be able to support .” and that “[con- 102 David J. That’s what institutions do—they pattern and constrain possible actions/readings.” We need more and better work on the processes by which public behavior is captured. and dissemination of information is rife with political and ethical problems attendant to the contemporary political economy. and in what circumstances. At the very broadest level. It should be noted that this attempt bucks the current trend in intellectual property law. which seeks ever to enclose and privatize the cultural commons. To counter this tendency toward closure.”10 From a design perspective. and analyzed privately.11 Addressing these concerns would help establish not public or private activities or places per se. the action a pervasive computing system takes (a change in lighting. extends. storage. or the differential distribution of information to those present) inﬂuences the activities that the system itself is monitoring and responding to. perhaps. I referred above to a system’s data as if they were public and freely accessible to all. but some kind of equity in access to the raw material with which individuals and communities make sense and order out of the world. That is one arc of the recursive relation between institutions and action. We must incorporate in the design process legal philosophies such as Helen Nissenbaum’s extension of privacy protection to public actions. In this way. we should ask who. it reinforces. For example. decides what are appropriate actions within. repurposing. Phillips . Of these criteria. say. subcultures should be able to use public space to create their own maps. . Information environments must also facilitate communitybased generators of knowledge and meaning. within a community of practice. the range of possible actions within ubicomp environments tends to be delimited by recursive closures around the meaning of the text-in-use. this involves making the text and the means of interpreting that text available within ubicomp environments. Like the gay men of New York in Chauncey’s study. stored. As such. and needs to be able to support the communication of meaning through it.
If information infrastructures can be assessed according to the degree to which they facilitate equity.”12 I would argue instead that ubicomp designers should work to include the facility for accommodating multiple concepts of propriety rather than only those “appropriate by situational type. but also in principle users decide which drivers will forge knowledge from that data.” The same “space” must be available for different meanings.. gay markets. As an example of the ﬁ rst. gay men and lesbians publicize. In design terms. The PDA then calculates its own location. Not only is there access to the raw material with which individuals and communities make sense and order out of the world. The PDAs are constantly emitting identifying signals. This includes the public recognition not merely of a gay identity but of gay icons. People walk through this district with wireless-enabled personal digital assistants (PDAs). for any number of purposes. more socially available system. To illustrate. consider two examples of information environments.e.” This mode of coming out links in-group recognition with public representation. The PDA’s user can then refer to local information and guides previously downloaded to the PDA. interpret. one that serves centralized and system-serving interpretations of data and one that supports subcultural knowledge production. Those signals are received by networked stationary sensors placed throughout the district. From Privacy to Visibility 103 . These drivers are the conceptual models and algorithms that interpret data according to the design goals of each user or community of users. The network then correlates each individual’s location with a database of that person’s preferences and histories and serves “appropriate” information to that person.13 In this design. The “text” of the environment must be available for interpretation within various communities of meaning. and argue over the social value of a gay identity. this translates into a structure in which shared public space (i. the “queer eye.text-aware] design must include some layer of what is and is not appropriate by situational type. stationary transmitters throughout the district constantly emit signals that are received and triangulated by each PDA. the Place Lab model tips the balance in the distribution of informational resources toward the user. The network triangulates the received signals to calculate each individual’s location. Claiming Social Power With the third political function of coming out. gay political districts. The network then correlates each individual’s location with a database of that person’s preferences and histories and serves “appropriate” information to that person. As an example of the latter. consider Place Lab. data) is linkable with private “place-making” drivers. imagine a downtown shopping district. These guides may have been produced within any number of communities or cultures.
but how she is treated. After all. it is also about public visibility.”15 Differential treatment of social types. what a gay man does. victimized. Icons and imagery must be available before any individual can say “Look! I am that!” But they are also important because the public representations of identity form the ontological models that guide actions of individuals in that identity category. For stable. Identities classify and typify. It provides fodder for the public imagination. The social issue here is not so much that these descriptions are untrue or inaccurate but that they are useful. This stabilization is necessary if the political goal is to bring an excluded group within the mechanisms of bureaucratic power and to begin to exercise that power on behalf of that group. Phillips . and often all three simultaneously—essentially weak but still utterly dangerous.” brands. They turn humans into knowable objects. space claiming. The understanding of what a gay man is.” It also reconstitutes social relations through public moral demands to be treated at all (ﬁ rst) and appropriately (second). co-optation. and it constitutes the public identity that is a prerequisite for personal identiﬁcation and “coming out. “lifestyles. So the decision to be “out” comes with the decision to be out as what? What does the proclaimed identity do? Arguments over the representation of gay men and lesbian women in the popular imagination have a long history in gay and lesbian politics. “The difference between a lady and a ﬂower girl is not how she behaves. and they are used. and the outcome of. They thus reify the types they describe. informs political debate as questions of gay marriage and gay military service become public issues. They guide the decisions of marketers and policy makers. globally recognized identity categories come at a cost. as Eliza Doolittle noted. Activists have contested popular culture images where sexual minorities are depicted as sick. stabilization. It simultaneously addresses and reconﬁgures the social consciousness of sexual minorities and other cultural groups.Public argument over the social position of gay individuals. identities.14 Should aﬁcionados of sadomasochism be excluded from public events like pride parades? Are Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy steps toward liberation or throwbacks to pernicious stereotypes? These are important questions in part because the availability of public representations recursively refers to the ﬁ rst aspect of coming out: the personal claiming of identity. enduring social relations and interactions. It also informs the creation of demographics. and marketing strategies. especially in the marketplace for 104 David J. and communities is the core of the modern gay rights movement. These public identities will always be contested in a grand cycle of identity claiming. or criminal. and repression of the margins. These stable identity categories become both the tools for. Not only is this argument publicly visible.
The issue that designers of ubicomp systems must address is not what the proper representations are. to what degree does the environment make its workings known and avail itself for interpretation and contestation? Judith Butler and Donna Haraway both insist on the political necessity of seriously playing with the boundaries and meanings of constructed identities. these digital models may be more insidious than public representations. We must ask how widely queer readings of information resources can be disseminated and the extent to which it is feasible to institutionalize oppositional understandings of what is appropriate where. unavoidable. or of the demographic group to which the subject is assigned. mock. Another criterion for evaluating information infrastructures is the degree to which they facilitate making that subcultural sense visible. lesbians have been conﬁgured. and it is quite possible that one would not be offered ads for health insurance or particular vacation packages because of a private analysis of one’s Web surﬁ ng habits. In particular. or change how identity categories are created and used—that creation and that use must be visible. and so unavailable for public contestation. or change how identity categories are created and used—that creation and that use must be visible. because the models and the algorithms that guide their use are privately owned and circulated. designers should ask two questions. To facilitate this cul- To use established identities ironically—to analyze.essential goods. Since the representation of groups is a process of social structuring. Second. and analyzed as a market segment. manipulate. through the self-conscious signaling of identities. Public recognition of gay or lesbian markets—whether for Subaru cars or “I can’t even think straight” T-shirts—is certainly advantageous to some buyers and some sellers. The interests of the subject. how far does the environment permit individuals to occupy it as public space? I mentioned earlier the necessity of an available public environment in which and with which to make subcultural sense. manipulate. But interests are often at odds. Marketers use market proﬁ les for their own purposes.17 In a sense. represented.18 Ubiquitous computing has the capacity to feed the demographic process with almost limitless data. to a lesser extent. To use established identities ironically—to analyze. present. reentrenches pernicious discrimination and stereotyping. Butler asks how to “use [an identity] in such a way that its futural signiﬁcations are not foreclosed? How to use the sign and avow its temporal contingency at once?” 20 She answers that this may be possible through “drag. it is a political contest.16 Therefore arguments over typiﬁcation and representation have erupted as gay men and. First.19 In particular. mock. are considered only insofar as they align with the interests of the proﬁ ler. From Privacy to Visibility 105 . or how certain groups are to be treated. These interests may well be partially aligned. but rather how the system lends itself to claims and contests over those representations.” through ironic performance.
They mediate identity. there are several criteria by which the viability and desirability of information environments might be assessed. a public space. public and private spaces. and social power. Moreover. Phillips . Not only should that construction be visible. these are political systems. ubiquitous computing environments structure our daily life. they should facilitate in some equitable way the production of culture that can also contribute as a public good to a diverse. They should provide a common context. to what degree do environments permit the public claiming of their resources? They must make their own workings visible and facilitate the public visibility of the various knowledges produced by their members. it should be available for contest and for alternative use. and evolving civic life. as I have suggested. It involves a good working knowledge of the history and motives of the other participants in the region. from which to produce subcultural knowledge. vibrant. they should be designed with a critical awareness of the politics of visibility and the political economy of information.tural play. information infrastructures must make themselves evident. This awareness has at least three components: the statistical construction of the category itself. Second. to what degree do environments enable the subcultural generation of knowledge and the strategic revelation (in the multiple senses of the phrase) attendant to community formation? They should permit the formation of in-groups who are able to share insights and produce knowledge with each other while excluding out-group members. First. These systems scan regions for data and serve informational resources to individuals based on certain notions of what is appropriate for each individual in a particular context. But useful knowledge of the environment goes beyond mere awareness of information exchange. the “personal” data used to categorize a particular individual. ubiquitous computing environments should multiply the number of separable contexts and separable identiﬁers. On a personal level. social relations. Conclusion Increasingly. this 106 David J. They should be structured in such a way that individuals are aware of how their identities are constructed and used. The environment should permit subjects to mirror and hone their own performances and to be aware of the reactions of the audience for whom they perform. and the effect of that categorization. to what degree do they permit individuals to claim a particular social identity in a particular social context? To facilitate the expansion of permissible claims. In particular. As such. Finally. That is.
McDonald. NY: Cornell University Press. 2002). I make no claims as to the universality of my perspective. 1999 (accessed 12 January 2000. Paul Dourish. 11. Notes 1. Tygar.freedom. Oscar H. Jason Hong. no. 346. MIT. and the Making of the Gay Male World. I am a gay man.” Law and Philosophy 17 (1998): 559–96.mit. Bill N.net/info/freedompapers/Freedom_Architecture_protocols .” Georgia Institute of Technology Technical Report GIT-GVU-02–16. and J. though. Ian Goldberg and Adam Shostack. 1994). October 2003). “Privacy Mirrors: Understanding and Shaping Socio-technical Ubiquitous Computing Systems. 8. “Seeking a Foundation for Context-Aware Computing.cc. Schilit. Urban Culture. Here I should engage in self-identiﬁcation. speaking as a gay man. Gandy Jr. 16. to understand institutions. However. “Protecting Privacy in an Information Age: The Problem of Privacy in Public. ontological.” Brandweek. Helen Nissenbaum. 1984). “Freedom 1. 99.us/~dnguyen/writings/PrivacyMirrors. 75. Erving Goffman. 15. 9. 3. Nguyen and Elizabeth D. David W. From Privacy to Visibility 107 . WA. 1959). George Chauncey. quixotic. 4. Gaetano Boriello.atl. 13. 1993). Vito Russo. The Panoptic Sort: A Political Economy of Personal Information (Boulder.” Human-Computer Interaction 16 (2001): 240. 10. David H. D. 1996). and sociological implications of this type of identity claiming are. Ann M. 14. Mynatt.gt . “On Typologies of Situated Interaction.” www. 6. 7. 5. The Celluloid Closet (New York: Harper and Row. The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration (Berkeley: University of California Press. in this work. Bernard Shaw.pdf. The epistemological.edu/projects/SecureId/ writings/SecureIdOverview.ga.. James A. This kind of learning can be facilitated in the design of information environments. Seattle. 2002. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York: Doubleday. and I feel myself. CO: Westview. Privacy and the Politics of Intimate Life (Ithaca. 12. “Privacy and Security in the Location-Enhanced World Wide Web” (paper presented at the Workshop on Ubicomp Communities: Privacy as Boundary Negotiation. site is no longer active). but sincerely hope that others who do not share my social position can ﬁ nd this perspective useful.” HumanComputer Interaction 16 (2001): 337. See danah boyd. “Unplugged. 2. Landay. what this article is about. Pygmalion (Baltimore. see also smg.pdf. 1890–1940 (New York: Basic. 1951). “Faceted Id/entity: Managing Representation in a Digital World” (master’s thesis. in large part. I mention this particular identity here.media. Malcolm McCollugh.0 architecture and protocols. Mack. 187–89. UBICOMP.may come by listening to gossip or by learning from social errors. to explain my use of the masculine pronoun. Anthony Giddens. Gay New York: Gender. Patricia Boling. 42 (2000): 50.pdf (accessed 21 September 2003). 1981). 132–36. actors need a theoretically informed understanding of the political economy of information. MD: Penguin.
Phillips . ed. Butler. Judith Butler. Residence. 1991). “The Private Insurance Industry’s Tactics against Suspected Homosexuals: Redlining Based on Occupation.” American Journal of Law and Medicine 22 (1996): 477–502. K. and Marital Status.” in The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 18. Donna J..17. Haraway. 1998). D. 2nd ed.” 1518. 108 David J. and Women (New York: Routledge. Cyborgs. Panoptic Sort. 20. 19. Gandy. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination. Simians. Martin’s. H. Richter (New York: Bedford/St. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination. Chi-Wen Li.
and visible as a whole. and enlarge the audience for them. 8 September 2003 Margaret Morganroth Gullette A sweeping movement toward acknowledging state crimes against citizens has been one of the most striking signs of recent political statesmanship and broad-based efforts for social justice after the innumerable civil devastations of the twentieth century. The process leads to reintegrating those who had been othered (ANC members. and thus that these victims are collectively innocent.”1 All these national stories have their own speciﬁcity. “following Australia’s ofﬁcial apology to Aborigines delivered by Paul Keating. continuously produced over time. through novels. Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission read seventeen thousand testimonies before issuing a report in August 2003 about the twenty-year-long genocide of tribal peoples. Summer 2005. but one element is common to all.ER A T E S T I M O N I E S The Chinese character [han] shows a heart and it shows a head that’s turned away. other Left revolutionaries. the unofﬁcial story in all its harrowing detail became the ofﬁcial story.Suppressing Grief T H E P O L I T I C S O F “ M CC A R T H Y ” . A body of testimony becomes visible. Elsewhere. No. In any process of national reconciliation. That title unites Primo Levi and Shanghai Ghetto (2003). New Yorker. Quiché Indians) back into the Social Text 83. In Argentina. plays. Vol. making a collective of Jewish victims in death and in exile. typically. Copyright © 2005 Margaret Morganroth Gullette. from the ﬁ rst generation on. 2 To teach the ignorant and construct their new feelings may require that there be a body of testimony. 2. who together recharacterize the collective. sometimes produced by victims and sometimes by sympathetic nonvictims. 23. ﬁ lms. . Testimonies usually appear early in the process. —Philip Gourevich. ﬁ rst-person testimonies from the victims are crucial. ex-PM Murayama apologized for Japanese war crimes. “Holocaust testimony” is one such grouping. black and white. [and] Tony Blair expiated on behalf of the Irish potato famine. Sometimes this becomes a political movement. internationally if possible. and revisionist histories. contextualize their stories. Everything starts with a change of heart toward the victims and a change of vision—from seeing them as “enemies of the people” (or not seeing them at all) to believing that their sufferings were terrible and unjust. Clinton made amends to Native Hawaiians.
Even without apologies from a complicit government. El Salvador. Chile. Many who identiﬁed once as Communists refuse to say they were.” President Bill Clinton. Guatemala. In the United States. attempted extradition.”3 But the state apology. Andrew Ross calls this “far-ﬂung political style” apologitis because the symptoms are “empathy without mourning. has striven to make amends to them. convictions. the elderly victims who are still alive have not been waiting for an apology because they do not expect it. and to make sure violations do not shrink our freedoms—at a time when the foundations of liberty are once again under attack. forty years after the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. No government agency has been deputed to ask for their testimonies. No president. apologized to them and offered some restitution. from admiration to condemnation. There is no national archive hurriedly collecting statements while the aged primary informants are still alive and while their midlife offspring are eager to see justice done for them. of the American Lefts. public change of judgment about the high-level perpetrators. more evenhandedly. too. out of fear of provoking the heavy opprobrium constructed a half century ago and still kept 110 Margaret Morganroth Gullette . of healing psychic wounds before it is too late. can misuse power. more evenhandedly. The legendary Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa revised history by asking for oral testimonies of perpetrators willing to admit complicity. Another striking absence is any ofﬁcial acknowledgment of the damage done during the 1940s and 1950s by the “Red scare” to the innumerable people who suffered “McCarthy”-era repression. including slavery and the extermination of native peoples. now in a “war” against Islamic terrorism. There is another urgent issue. It would provide a chance to admit that our state. even since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Redress at this beleaguered site of memory would have signiﬁcant political consequences for the nation as a whole. to afﬁ rm the values central to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There are many absences in the short list of American apologies.” social shame and loss of power (as with Chile’s Pinochet). President Jimmy Carter amnestied the conscientious objectors who had shortly before been stigmatized as “draft dodgers. seems to be a sine qua non for other snowballing forms of ethical and political vindication. A change in historical memory would provide an opportunity to teach the history of dissent. An apology could be a springboard for the dominant media to revise their version of history—which is the ﬁ rst stage of any new mainstream understandings. prison sentences. of the American Lefts. In the United States. only a few years after the Vietnam War ended. some degree of redress may occur: the label of “human rights violators. There and in Argentina. and atonement without liability. trials. national family.A change in historical memory would provide an opportunity to teach the history of dissent. however pro forma. testimonies have also been followed by some general.
These are the still unforgiven. In no democracy in Europe. old hat. aims. Some later progressives—inﬂuenced by the civil rights. United States (1957) ruled that the government had failed to prove that either the Communist Party as an entity or the convicted individually had sought to incite any persons to engage in or prepare for overthrowing the government. anti-Vietnam.9 (“Who could imagine a House of Commons un-British Activities Committee?” asks the daughter of deportees. to the government.000 wartime Communist Party members sought information for the USSR. and powerful. or in print. They are treated monolithically. Some did it.”11 But it is still a long way from espousing anti-McCarthyism or antiMcCarranism to listening to the people who were attacked. this ruling ﬁ nally ended prosecutions under the Smith Act of 1940. An apology would be welcome either way. One dictionary deﬁ nition of McCarthyism is “indiscriminate allegations” and “unsubstantiated charges. motives. only a tiny percentage of the 50. But the population at large does Suppressing Grief 111 . led by elites who exaggerated the risks of communism. “‘If you center on this I think it’s going to shatter my life again. It is generally agreed that the era of the “witch hunts” and the FBI’s Security Index was a shameful period and compares with the Palmer Raids as the worst repression of the twentieth century in this country. and right-wingers who still do. It’s as if HUAC—the House Un-American Activities Committee—still rules many American minds. hostile. 8 In the postwar era. did governments use the Cold War to turn against their own citizens. Why can we in the United States not release this han and achieve whatever else might follow? Major historical investigations have concluded that red-baiting from Truman on was politically motivated. his mother said.7 Even given the highest estimate. exoneration demanded recanting your “subversive” loyalty publicly. In the 1950s. an ally of the United States.4 When Carl Bernstein started studying his parents’ political pasts. A Korean acquaintance of mine calls this han: it is suffering that cannot speak fully because the atmosphere is not nearly receptive enough for it to be fully heard. to employers. the number of party members was so reduced that even the FBI did not consider the Communist Party a threat. It would ease the suppressed grief.’ ” and he “could see her face was trembling.6 The Supreme Court in Yates v. with unaccountable activities.700 did not. over 49. says the British historian Eric Hobsbawm.alive today.)10 Nor did other Western democracies drive their communist parties out of existence. as duplicitous. and anti–Contra war movements.”5 Or they think no one would be interested: Old Left. But most did not think they were subversive. or by the many new historians of the Left—have softened toward the victims.
and rhetorical twists from which they have not recovered. A Communist writer who was on the blacklist for twelve years now says to college students. Nestor Kirchner. if she or he were. but it is certainly useful. not every “truth” needs to be rehashed without its context.” misinformation. do not wish to recover from their haunted close-mindedness about the victims. Some. I lived through this. an internationalist with an ethical urge to right past wrongs.” But a new president.’ Well. violated their civil liberties. say. What we possess are fascinating and humanizing stories.13 A president of the United States could step out ahead of the mainstream and lead. . sadly. and constructed the widespread cowardice that allowed the purges to spread so far. In Argentina. mischaracterized the victims. in an enormous 112 Margaret Morganroth Gullette . hardheartedness. wanted to end the amnesty. Right-wing writers still heighten the myth of the internal menace out of Cold War triumphalism or to support current goals. a reader of history and auto/biography. Many who were young in the 1950s imbibed from anticommunist belligerency lifelong habits—passionate contempt for “Commies. not much more to come—to pose them. ﬁ fty years after the events—with so much rich material in hand and perhaps.”12 Amnesia. harboring old resentments. and to the American audience she would then address? I raise more new questions than I can answer here. . How would such a person use the testimonies? How would a kitchen cabinet of cultural critics and political and autobiography theorists present them to her. What is still lacking in the United States to make national reconciliation possible? The easiest way to foreclose this inquiry is to say that this country needs a regime change before the evils of our version of the Cold War can really die. But liberals wary of state power also turn their backs on this group of fellow Americans.not know how to defend them. which by itself constructed a native Guatemalan collective and revalorized its members. a prolabor Democrat with a big majority. detentions for those who oversaw the killings were unthinkable until 2003. But when we want a civil truce and important educational and political beneﬁts. it’s a revelation [to them]. and in August 2003 the Congress annulled those laws. An American would scarcely know from the mainstream press or the “God-that-failed” histories or network TV that a sizable body of testimonies by those on the American Left and their now-adult offspring who shared their experiences from 1947 to 1960 amounts to a considerable bibliography. “‘I was part of it. We lack a single document with the international fame of Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia. . not every grievance needs to be aired as if it were still fresh. “when Argentina’s dark past seemed irretrievably buried under the amnesty laws and a host of presidential pardons. and defamation come from a refusal to look harder at the state apparatuses that fomented nationalist hysteria.
” The government’s coercive loyalty oaths. “Almost all New Dealers were attacked by the Right. it is clear that the party’s passions—like the Scottsboro case. One and a half million union members were subjected to the loyalty-oath process. The parents who stood beside their accused adult offspring. the Spanish Civil War—had once been nearly inevitable causes for moral agents and analytic minds across all class levels. Suppressing Grief 113 . denaturalizations. unjust arrests. as were government employees at all levels down to the cities—as many as one in ﬁve working Americans. L. even to progressives and cultural critics. anti-lynching legislation. Harry Truman’s and Dwight Eisenhower’s. This was a broad spectrum. hitting all levels of the movements revolving around the Communist Party. and evidence from some of the hundreds of thousands who actually had a living relationship to the Communist Party of the United States may come as quite a shock to North American readers. from “activists who formed the party. [to] the greater number of people—whether ofﬁcially members or not—whose experiences of agency. job loss. also need to be counted among the victims. those of varying degrees of commitment who worked within and around party organizations. Doctorow and Robert Coover to Tony Kushner’s Angels in America).” The testimonies refer to countless victims who were innocent of anything we would now consider a crime.15 If you read Grifﬁ n Fariello’s comprehensive collection. the tones of their narratives. Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition. prison sentences. and forced career change. anti-lynching legislation. moral urgency. and some sympathetic ﬁctionalizations (from Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible to novels by E. Brown describes it. as the cultural critic Michael E.17 Millions—73 percent: a sign of a desperately demoralized country—anticipated informing on their neighbors. The degree of one’s surprise can be used as a marker of how deeply anticommunist bias has burrowed into our associations and shaped our “knowledge.18 People who protested ﬁ rings were themselves ﬁ red. an Oral History. Everyone was “suspect. the Spanish Civil War—had once been nearly inevitable causes for moral agents and analytic minds across all class levels. deportations.”14 Many labor leaders and noncommunist radicals were targeted.” observed Alger Hiss. and politics were inﬂuenced by it.range of voices. and political. The purges of “the disloyal” radiated out from the government through two administrations. They The party’s passions—like the Scottsboro case. The moral and political qualities of the victims. suspension of passports. psychological. Apolitical people all across the country were also caught up in what the historian David Caute called the Great Fear. those of various backgrounds and persuasions who joined it in preference to other political options. led to dreadful consequences in civil life—employment related. Orthodox anticommunist writers still ignore such experiences.16 One small study suggests that working-class people suffered more job losses. who died protesting his innocence of the charges. and the children who endured their parents’ fates. FBI or “Red Squad” harassment.
the editor of a Communist Party labor journal. After 1989 the fall of the USSR made another. and Cedric Belfrage (respectively. Eisenhower failed to grant clemency. They still focus on spies. administrators. The right-wing’s “over-reliance on the experiences of the disaffected” as well as its terrorizing “Better dead than Red” rhetoric have led to neglect of the anguish of millions. mostly by adult offspring. 21 The unexpurgated letters of the Rosenbergs were published in 1995 by Garland. 20 Now the best-known books are probably two daughters’ accounts—Vivian Gornick’s thematic weavings of oral histories.S. A man whom Gornick quoted pseudonymously in 1977 published four volumes of autobiography in his own name—Carl Marzani—in the 1990s. By the late 1970s. and distorted the record of the activists’ grassroots activities on their native soil. and a British noncommunist radical writer and translator) wrote books in 1972 and 1973. Resistant victims as varied as Dalton Trumbo. Carl Bernstein’s Loyalties (1989). They implicitly deny the innocence of the political prisoners and all the other radicals by restricting their focus to anticommunist recanters or to the few remaining controversial “cases”—like that of Julius Rosenberg—that bind the CPUSA to the external enemy selected by Truman and the Right after ending the Soviet-American alliance that won World War II. 22 All the branches collaborated: the Supreme Court failed to intervene. some of it published by mainstream presses. an inactive Communist Party member who had been the highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood until being blacklisted. it seemed safer to write aggressively about one’s experience. and Kim Chernin’s In My Mother’s House (1983)—and one son’s memoir. A small spurt of life writings was published. Al Richmond. with Nixon and the Republicans repudiated and Carter on the way in. The best-known book was once Lillian Hellman’s Scoundrel Time (1976). In 1976 Professor Paul Buhle found a home for the Oral History of the American Left (OHAL) at the Tamiment Library at New York University: it includes many accounts about the 1950s and 1960s. ex-FBI informants. apparently even safer opening. government. as in Fariello’s Red Scare. or by better known victims.ignore the testimonies of the government perpetrators who repented: lawyers. the executive branches provided 114 Margaret Morganroth Gullette . Suffering “Only two” people were judicially executed by the U.19 The 1970s saw a stream of testimonial literature. which attacked liberals for not ﬁghting back hard enough as well as “Trumanism” for starting it all. delegitimized their voices. as in the collection Red Diapers. The Romance of American Communism (1977). a trade press.
23 Her brother lied about her to save his own life. guilt by Fifth Amendment use. Suppressing Grief 115 . they react by treating those constructed as enemies especially harshly. Julius. social psychologists show. 25 Civil libertarians now consider the evidence contaminated and ﬂ imsy. The electrocution of both Ethel and Julius in 1953. the legislative branch of government. She was in 1953 a young mother of boys aged ﬁve and nine. Tony Kushner in Angels in America gave Ethel a big purse and a big soul. their granddaughter Ivy Meeropol told me. according When people are exposed to heightened death anxiety. evading due process through administrative measures. including the fact that wisps of smoke came out of Ethel’s head after the switch was pulled. She curses Roy Cohn. expanding deﬁ nitions of wrongdoing through guilt by association. who cynically held her life hostage to force her husband.”24 Julius Rosenberg may or may not have been guilty of giving the Soviet Union (in 1944 still an ally) his brother-in-law’s worthless sketch of a lens mold for the bomb.”26 When people are exposed to heightened death anxiety. through HUAC. fanned the hysterical publicity about dirty and godless Commies. guilt by teaching (or reading) Marxism. the red-baiting lawyer who indefatigably hounded so many people like her.a background of administrative persecutions. “The next day the New York papers dwelt lovingly on every detail of the executions. the famous play that redeems both Commies and faggots. In 1993–94. raising bail levels arbitrarily high. but she ﬁ nally says kaddish for him when he dies of AIDS in a hospital bed. even the CIA conﬁ rmed. solid. It makes Ethel older than in life—matronly. to confess. hiding evidence from defense lawyers. 29 One of the “Red Diaper babies” remembers sobbing for hours. squared off on her feet. paying informers. Angels in America. an angelic exemplar visiting from the afterlife.”28 Yet ten thousand people came to their funeral. People “of the sort of the Rosenbergs can be swayed by duty where they cannot be swayed by considerations of self-interest. it is worth remembering the widening circles of legal abuse that accompanied the run-up to the executions: suborning perjury. 27 The bomb-hype heightened American death anxiety. but only after a victim’s bitter grief and pain have been publically shouted out and the persecutor dies. Robby and Michael. offered commutation. they react by treating those constructed as enemies especially harshly. is recorded in many testimonies as an act of “state terror” and intimidation—“an American version of totalitarianism. the culmination of reaction to the alleged Red scare. crediting the same link of Jews to “Bolshevism” that had guided the Nazis. What the Rosenbergs’ letters indicate about their probity.”30 It was not incidental that the two executed were Jewish. With the Department of Justice currently preparing for treason trials. social psychologists show. Kushner can imagine such a reconciliation. guilt by membership. Ethel Rosenberg was innocent even in the eyes of her prosecutors. guilt by silence. is widely produced. The CIA. amid hectic screams of “disloyalty.
Children felt.” says Sally Belfrage in Un-American Activities: A Memoir of the Fifties. and the suicides and divorces that followed the stress. losses of jobs and savings. 36 The FBI or police “Red Squads” often arrested their targets in the middle of the night. like many who had watched Germany decay under 116 Margaret Morganroth Gullette . but simply sympathized with its values. was so arbitrary that Sally Belfrage found someone who said he could get her into a less unpleasant camp in Arizona instead of the one she was slated for—not for her own politics but because her parents had been deported.” and lists were started of those who might ﬁ ll them. if the Rosenbergs would appeal to Jews in all countries to abandon socialist movements. 35 The children had their share of pain through their parents’ arrests. HUAC subpoenas.40 Diana Anhalt’s parents.to the historian Blanche Wiesen Cook. waking the children and alerting the neighbors. Chris Trumbo. daughter of the novelist Howard Fast.”37 Children were tormented simply because their families were denounced by the newspapers as commies. The Commies” who “dropped Russian bombs. was thrown into the junior high school furnace by fellow students. Even before 1953 some Communists rationally believed that “concentration camps” would be the next government step against the Left. 39 The Security Index. 38 Even children whose parents were in no way active in the movement. In 1949. or knew families who had been scarred. and not just in mobs. In New York City in the 1940s. adults were estimating how far legal repression would go. and their defense was absorbing funds that would otherwise have gone into activism and recruitment. in the words of Dorothy Zellner. like the other federal lists. federal trials under the Smith Act had put many leaders of the party out of action. Seven camps from World War II were “dusted off. a board of education purge “resulted in the dismissal of hardly any but Jewish teachers”: “some ﬁve hundred. jailings. whose father was arrested under the Smith Act. convictions. were intimidated. The McCarran-Walter Act had a section about incarcerating masses of suspected “dangerous persons” in any national emergency.”34 Stephanie Allen. Kim Chernin’s best friend chose the day after Kim’s mother was arrested to tell the kids at camp that “we weren’t really cousins. 31 Jew-baiting and baiting of “nigger-lovers” were allied to red-baiting in the United States. 32 Jewish anticommunists had something extra to prove. The Jews. deportations. If children were traumatized. that “we could actually be charged with something fantastic that we never did and ‘fry in the electric chair. son of the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo.” Ilana Singer vomited on the ﬂoor of her classroom when one child said it was “The Reds.’ ”33 Rachel Fast Ben-Avi. was “frantic” that her “parents would be killed” but never spoke to them about it. wrote that “there was no reason to believe that what was happening to [Robby and Michael’s] parents could not happen to mine.
Edgar Hoover. and bloated an ideologized FBI so much that it had agents available to monitor Carl Bernstein’s mother’s poker game until 1968. experience. was there “enough” suffering. Eisenhower and his). has it been adequately described. when the victims were viliﬁed as a collective. and is it well enough known? The second ones are. was the collective vision that inspired the victims a vision that Americans might once again appreciate? Are the victims’ voices convincing? In what ways does anticommunism still frame such questions. Two thousand functionaries selected by the party went underground. were “ﬁ rmly convinced that it was simply a matter of time before the United States became another Nazi Germany”. which was an isolating. And even when it appeared to begin to end—with Supreme Court decisions undoing some of the most illegal government actions—the punishing losses dragged on for decades.44 As a group backed into a bitter corner. Cohn. they moved to Mexico in 1950. their sense of security.45 Then. those who made laws delegitimating the party and those who had ever belonged to it years before.” making America a better place for the marginalized. but perhaps this list should stop Suppressing Grief 117 . The ﬁ rst questions for cultural and political historians are. The testimonies show how much harm the authorities did—those who invented the security oaths and expanded them (Truman and his attorney general. and established the indexes and investigations (J.Hitler.42 (Some people must have named names to HUAC out of fear of being sent to the camps: the writer Roy Huggins did. even though he had served his prison time. People who lost jobs.41 To Dalton Trumbo. the victims come out of the 1950s looking better than the persecutors. . income. and terrible. status. to delegitimate the experiences of the victims and prevent our hearing them? Patriotism People in the movements “didn’t think we were traitors. to a storm of abuse. Nixon). those in the FBI who threatened to put people’s mothers and sons in concentration camps. not to mention their party. those who ran the kangaroo courts and administrative hearings and set up speaker bans for Fifth Amendment pleaders. As Lillian Hellman said. McCarthy. we thought we were actually patriots. bankrupted the party’s adult-education schools. community respect. their employers ﬁ red them individually . . it seemed prudent to leave the country—as it did to many others. could never be made whole.” No one could tell how long the repression from the top would last. denied passports. they did less harm.) 43 The Rosenbergs’ executions convinced more people that America was turning “fascist.
Whatever the eclectic ideologies and rhetorics whose passions ignited the children’s dreams around those countless kitchen tables. Communists. and his goal was to see that people had that. worker compensation. journalists. labor organizers. about his work on the Lower East Side.50 Reading enough interviews—especially Gornick’s in The Romance of American Communism. in Gornick’s words. and—as all political parties must do51—resources.” passionate missions. After the novelist Julian Mayﬁeld left the Communist Party. librarians. “Yes. I feel pride in being a staunch and devoted person to a cause which I still believe was right. and discipline for those missions. And for one glorious moment—during the brief life of the CIO—they brought genuine worker politics to the American labor movement. “wholeness.” gives the Communist 118 Margaret Morganroth Gullette . friendships. writes. here.”52 Whatever the eclectic ideologies and rhetorics whose passions ignited the children’s dreams around those countless kitchen tables. which begins with an homage to her family’s kitchen-table debates—we can see how fervently the party educated and inspired people. antiracist and prolabor writers. the minimum wage.”49 “Most black people seemed to have a greater suspicion of McCarthyism than did whites. profeminists. gave them ideas and “the idea of ideas.” Randall Kennedy has noted. . a member of the party’s National Committee. “to be fair. public schools. solidarity. called it “this little Communist movement that was in bread-and-butter kinds of issues.” Carl Marzani grinned. asked in an OHAL interview about his twenty years in the party. antiracists. particularly those who participated in the organization of unions in the Deep South. respect. especially to racial integration and to the American labor movement. Not every perpetrator needs to be cited.54 Even the socialist Irving Howe.48 The party had a good record in the African American community.”46 Robbie Bridges. that to end bitterness not every truth needs to be retold. union reps. in practice most adults were reformers: teachers in worker’s schools. “fought for the eight-hour day. health and welfare insurance. on the principle enunciated earlier. coordination. in practice most adults were reformers. or universities. as well as explanations of current events. .”53 “Just like the neighborhood Democratic Party would have operated—only we always got there ﬁ rst. The Left made vast substantive contributions.” Steve Nelson recalls of his years in Pittsburgh. Carl Hirsch. the analytic tools for understanding the systems they lived in. Steve Nelson. son of a much-hounded labor leader. “Probably the most important thing I remember my father talking about is to have the security of a job for life.” access to collective experiences of high and popular culture.”47 “Some of the most courageous attempts at interracial political activism in American history involved black and white Communists . responds as others did. he recalled that “on the Left the young Negro writer found a haven and encouragement that existed nowhere else for him.
a party leader. . welcoming African Americans. . when a less dogmatic party might have been resurgent.”62 No one collected guns.56 An eighty-nine-year-old woman who still wishes to remain anonymous told me. “I never felt myself a tool of the CP. If they admired Stalin—and he is mentioned very rarely. . you know. You didn’t have to say.” by which she meant. On the contrary. . If the rank and ﬁ le had known about the show trials and been critical of the show trials. “The hard dirty work in the ofﬁce is done by them.60 “A revolutionary tradition may be politically moderate. if you use this as a basis for being in or out you are really losing sight of the main objective of the Communist movement. we just didn’t say yes to everything or deny everything.” Of people who left then. valuing women. I was the living purpose to which the joining of form and content was put. even Stalin built the revolution.”57 It is now possible on the basis of the testimonies to evaluate the goals. the American scene. There were “premature” anti-Stalinists among Communist Party members. said he had never heard anyone advocating violence. “Comrade was a term of high respect.58 A section organizer who became a potter said in the seventies. .” Eric Hobsbawm observes.”59 A woman interviewed in 1979 for the ﬁ lm Seeing Red observed that after Khrushchev’s disclosures “we were thinking as adults. no one believed them. .’” Marge Frantz spoke for many when she recalled. it wasn’t a trivial life. “There’s nothing like being actively engaged in the life of what’s happening in your time. . Rose Krysak said. But when ex-Communist professors testiﬁed that membership in the party did not require giving up intellectual life or lying. ‘He’s a comrade’ told the whole story. adding wryly. “That shows what great theoreticians we were—nobody had even thought about the road to socialism. . they could have had no more inﬂuence on the USSR than dissident Democrats had on the Truman Doctrine. ‘He believes in what we believe in. A willingness to idealize “revolution” does not necessarily indicate an extremist program.”55 If an army runs on its belly. rhetoric. So scant was evidence of illegality that laws had to be changed or bent to get convictions. . although interviewers were not necessarily unsympathetic—it was as a symbol of what the Soviet Union had achieved since its revolution that America could emulate: raising the condition of the working class. Even those who Suppressing Grief 119 . “They took this sad incident in the history [of international communism] and forgot one thing. and activities of American Communist Party members without having foreign gulags dragged in to stop discussion.61 Junius Scales.” Lillian Hellman said to Henry Wallace when he ran for president in the fateful election of 1948. It did feel like a very useful worthwhile life. an activist movement runs on its ditto machines. the CP was my tool.Party credit up to a point for being “a party like other parties.
haven’t read Hobsbawm, Caute, Michael E. Brown, Ellen Schrecker, and the other new historians may ﬁ nd the charge of “advocacy to overthrow” sinister. David Freidman, a “proud” member of the NYC Teachers Union, laughs when asked about “subversion.” “Well, there wasn’t talk about overthrowing the government. There was talk chieﬂy about changing the Board of Education. [Laughter.] Overthrowing the Board of Education.”63 One FBI special agent who had broken into homes to steal lists of names later declared, “I can’t think of anything we uncovered during those ten years that was worthwhile in terms of national security.”64 Many would have liked to admit that they were or had once been Communists. This is what some people say they should all have done, as if Americans in the 1950s could have acted like the rebels in Spartacus, who one after another bravely rose up in front of the military authorities to declare, “I am Spartacus!” The ﬁ lm was a fantasy for an unheroic time, written under a pseudonym by Dalton Trumbo. By a catch-22, if you answered the accusers about your own past you waived your right to privacy and “could not refuse to name other people, thus subjecting them in turn to the same public exposure and penalties.”65 If you did say you were a Communist, you could be convicted of perjury for not naming every other one you knew. It is striking how many middle-aged children of the afﬂ icted radicals still admire both their parents and their political legacies. It is even surprising. Given the misery inﬂ icted on their childhoods or adolescences, the adult offspring could have turned on their parents rather than the state apparatus. Ethel was portrayed as a bad mother, to murderous effect. J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, who knew she was innocent, decided to support the death sentence only because an FBI report represented her as a cold-hearted mother.66 In 2003 when one of the Rosenbergs’ sons, Michael Meeropol, published a book about his childhood, a reviewer in the Nation niggled away: why didn’t “the couple” save Ethel, after the Eisenhower Justice Department demanded she choose between her life and turning on her husband? 67 Ethel had answered long before: “These unctuous saviors, these odious swine, are actually proposing to erect a terrifying sepulchre in which I shall live without living and die without dying!”68 Some Red-Diaper babies whose childhoods were unhappy remain angry at their parents—a few because they forget that neglectful or hostile parenting is not a Left monopoly. Some are upset that their parents did not tell them they were Communists, forgetting that the terror was not created by their parents. Others learned lessons about political resistance that every generation needs. Stephanie Allen, who had been so frightened she became “a quintessential conformist” in her teens, concluded, “I was lucky to be a red diaper baby.”69 Anna Kaplan wrote, “I am exceptionally
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proud of my parents. I wish everyone could understand what people like them have done for our country. . . . I could never have their courage, commitment, strength and belief, which keep them ﬁghting to make things at least a little better.” 70 Al Lannon loved his father’s “tales of revolutionary heroism” on the waterfront and in racially mixed union meetings in the South.71 Dick Levins said, “Some principles had long been a part of my being, such as not crossing a picket line, not telling racist jokes, and not giving names to the enemy.” 72 Rachel Fast Ben-Avi concludes,“But I believe still—and I am glad I do—that the ideal of an integrated community, of common aims, shared wealth, of a socialist society, continues to be valid. Had I, by magic, the option to relive my life in a family of which the government of those days would have approved, I would refuse it.” 73
Letters written at the time, and life stories told twenty or forty years later, often use a rhetoric shared by members of the party and the movements. It was a mixture of humanistic universalism; religion (the Bible, especially Exodus); patriotic and Marxist metaphors; pulp ﬁction; folk, black, and popular music; journalese and “high” style, as nurtured in Popular Front circles. The cultural critic David Thorburn described the rhetoric of the Rosenbergs’ letters as mingling some of these strands.74 Paul Robeson’s line “This is America to me!” was to many their idealistic anthem. Insofar as they shared it, they sound now like members of an extended family. The language was not highly theoretical, but ordinary people used the concepts of class and race and gender in ways that were meaningful to them. Using such concepts, many thought proudly of themselves as “intellectuals.” The language was informed by a belief in self-improvement and progress for “the masses,” including themselves. The more one reads the philosophy of these activists in their own words, the more it looks like the American dream democratized. It was a comfortable, emotionally appealing rhetoric, and the victims did not forget it. Those who later felt free to speak claimed it again. Some of their adult offspring—like Levins and Ben-Avi—share it. Whenever we try to treat them as a collective verbally, however, we must warn ourselves that “Communists” were treated in the 1950s and after, and sometimes today, as uniformly brainwashed and congenital liars. Alfred Kazin, writing in 1978, mocked “souped-up patriotism” but sneered that “the Rosenbergs in the death house wrote the crudest Party slogans to each other in the form of personal letters.” 75 Taking the
Fifth was considered tantamount to lying. One informer, who had lied to HUAC about the internal danger posed by the Communist Party, still said later about the Hollywood Ten that he was “appalled by their lack of candor because they all pretended to be Jeffersonian democrats, and they weren’t.” 76 If the testimonies are elegies to the comradely life, they are called lies; but if they are diatribes about the failures of the party, they are proofs. It was also or especially the “petty-bourgeois” nature of Left cultural tastes, Andrew Ross argues, that drove 1950s liberal “intellectuals” into contemptuous repudiation of Communists’ “corrupt” rhetoric.77 Atomized by 1950s formalism and individualism, some also (I suspect) envied the unifying, unironic, warm vernaculars of socialist ideals, idealist rhetorics that anticommunism put forever beyond their reach. No critic steeped in recent auto/biography theory, alert to historical contingency, wary of all truth claims, would be caught libeling an entire body of witnesses, or ignoring the degrees of stress to which the speech of the victims was originally subject, or the degrees of liberty they felt thereafter. In a postmodern era of sampling and fusion, mongrelization is no longer a priori distasteful, tasteless, or corrupt. These are historical advantages that make it possible actually to hear these testimonies, not exactly as spoken of course, but at least shorn of some Cold War distortions. Merely to treat these people as native informants with distinct points of view, and as no more than normally subject to rules of discourse—to let them be human again, as I do here—is to lift a weighty repression. One curious relevant fact about the published testimonies is that many were written by people who were children in the 1950s, speaking on behalf of their tainted parents. They wrote not to appropriate their parent’s voices but as witnesses to the suffering or to the legacy, and because the dwindling of fear took so long that often their parents had died. But the children are not an issue in this country. They were not Commies and Fifth Amendment pleaders. Their loyalty to their parents, although moderated occasionally by ambivalence or chilled by Cold War intensity, does not necessarily rehabilitate the members of the movements, or a fortiori, the members of the party. The children shared a reﬂex of their parent’s terror, but most were removed from the worst by the buffer their parents provided. They were too young. They remember other preoccupations suited to their years, like 1950s dating. Fine witnesses to the troubles and value of their political inheritance, they cannot convey the experiences of the generation that bore the brunt. There are not enough vital ﬁ rsthand published testimonies by the adults. This is another catch-22 in this history of continual impediments to speech. Communist Party leaders wrote memoirs: Dorothy Healey, Gil
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life time. too matter-of-fact. their sense of injustice was more complete. history had been so cruel. the resignation of those who lost jobs. Trumbo’s theory was “people really don’t like solemn arguments about ‘Gee. But many adults who told their stories decades later held back in ways that might act as dilutions for readers. Decades later. understanding too well that they had been lightning rods. In their prison letters. in the death camps. Suppressing Grief 123 . reading Trumbo’s scathing 1956 letter to his daughter’s school. Their immediate need was to support their families. The reasons for this neglect are almost too obvious to bear stating. could stop themselves from turning their face toward him to share his indignation. She herself had shrieked in 1956 that Stalin’s terrors were carried out “in the name of socialism!” 78 She looked hard for “passion”—it is her theme—and she surrounded their talk with her own highly charged prose. Steve Nelson. When they did. like Arthur Miller or Lillian Hellman. that some energy had been spent. Trumbo’s career was made whole and he became a celebrity. the ﬁ lmmakers. and some had scarcely been readers. their calm might also derive from their knowledge that worse had happened elsewhere—in Spain. where most are untranscribed. But their stoicism may also be related to their sense of being listened to without belief or kindness—not by their interviewers but by those beyond the brick wall of made-in-America bias. and the other oral historians found them. and most were old enough or enough time had passed. who would ﬁ nd them credible? By the time Paul Buhle. Undeceived about history. or even their resistance. how you have injured me. they suffered the painful emotions of responsibility for family survival. their political understandings were better attuned and more authoritative.Green. Ethel and Julius remind each other to be digniﬁed and unmoved in public.’” 79 But Americans ought to know their collective injuries well enough to be able to recount them. Few. can be too calm. Dredging up their victimization. They were suffocated if not silenced. Who wanted early on to read the stories of the despised and condemned? Most continued to be afraid to announce they had been Communists. trust in the system. They could write. They were closer to the events than the children. Gornick did ﬁ nd people who were vehement about their cause as well as articulate. often in unfamiliar lines of work. About their children’s experiences they can be more compelling than the children. Theirs are the unforgettable moments. Few had been writers beforehand. It was not what they had done that brought down the bolts. But the rank and ﬁ le did not produce enough life writing. was too painful. They describe their daily work lives (which were often quite heroic even before the government shattered them) plainly and modestly. their memoirs often went into quiet repositories like the Tamiment. Once they had been collectively represented as liars.
(Is it residues of decades of knee-jerk red-baiting. adored her teachers. Of course it’s not easy to know about the death penalty and not worry about it sometimes. At the beginning of the 1955–56 school term we entrusted to your care a happy. strengthened in the 1990s after the USSR abandoned communism. healthy. to her husband directly. This slow murder of the mind and heart and spirit of a young child is the proud outcome of those patriotic meetings among a few parents in the Annandale School under the sponsorship of the PTA and the Bluebirds [Girl Scouts]. the weakness of the Lefts. I defy anyone to read Ethel’s sweet. We know that a car could strike us and kill us. It’s all right to feel anyway you like about them.I defy anyone to read Ethel’s sweet. or 124 Margaret Morganroth Gullette . we feel badly that we are separated from you but we also know that we are not guilty and that an injustice has been done to us by people who solved their own problems by lying about us. comparatively well-adjusted and demonstrably intelligent child [of ten] who loved school. Her one remaining friend is called “traitor” by the other children. strained eloquent voice in its context without the welling up of the heart that comes from the recognition of enormous careful love in the presence of profound injustice. and probably knew her mothering was being judged (although not how dreadfully much the verdict would matter). . Ed Harris read this unforgettably in an off-Broadway production of the two-man show Trumbo. Eight months later you have returned to us a spiritually devastated human being. we are the very same people we ever were. .” 81 Ethel knew her letters were being read. so long as your feelings don’t give you pain and make you unhappy. Small childish conspiracies are directed against her—patterned in secret after the conspiracies of the parents—and she is quietly and incessantly persecuted and boycotted and shunned as long as the schoolday lasts. . You see. and enjoyed the friendship of her small circle of contemporaries. but let’s look at it this way. . except that our physical selves are housed under a different roof from yours. the condition of Antigone before Creon. . Of course. written by Chris Trumbo’s son in 2003. 80 Here is an excerpt from Ethel’s letter suggesting to Julius what words they might say to their sons about electrocution. But no mother who was insensitive could have imagined her sons’ terror or worked so hard to invent a solution. There has been no large-scale movement outside government toward awarding the victims vindication or apologies or reparations. the condition of Antigone before Creon. then so will they. shame. “If we can face the thought of our intended execution without terror. . strained eloquent voice in its context without the welling up of the heart that comes from the recognition of enormous careful love in the presence of profound injustice. but that doesn’t dispose us to spend every minute being fearful about cars. She added.
” 85 In the 1990s the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave a lifetime achievement award to Elia Kazan. 84 The movie critic J. unproclaimed”: some people waited decades. in another someone covered it up. whom many had never forgiven for having named names to HUAC. commemorating National Women’s Month—was hung in the Department of Justice. TV images of stars refusing to applaud him were greeted with puzzlement by a populace that does not know the old scores. When Ethel Rosenberg’s image—on a poster with those of other American women.Figure 1. in one ofﬁce they took it down. and even in the apology their ﬁ ring was blamed on their refusal to testify publicly. U. denied that this was their motive. things happen only when a constituency forms and agitates. that great bass voice of Popular Front humanism and integration. a stamp of Paul Robeson. their being distracted by so many other contemporary causes?) On the little scale. Postal Service. Only in 1981 did some ﬁ red teachers receive an apology from the City College board of trustees. and never offered restitution. recently appeared. 83 The demise of the Hollywood blacklist was “unwritten. Even tiny efforts at justice encounter opposition.S. Hoberman notes that “ninety percent of those who had been driven from the movie industry never returned. 82 The New York Times ﬁ red a copy editor who had pleaded the Fifth Amendment. 86 The FBI kept its ﬁ les on more than a million “un-Americans” for decades. 87 Suppressing Grief 125 . After a long campaign. © 2004. Paul Robeson stamp from the Black Heritage Series.
. We in the United States are the more endangered for this failure. 126 Margaret Morganroth Gullette . and the reduction of civil liberties in the name of “security. peaceful internationalism before “globalization.” 89 The country’s incomprehension and indifference toward the victims accompanies a continuous mainstream unwillingness and lack of preparation to criticize the Cold War. This is one culture war that did not get vocalized. the power of labor. progressives were broken and disunited by the purges. the expansion of the death penalty. takes its familiar tragic course.Although McCarthyism became a national byword for undemocratic politics. the hopeful utopian vision. Although McCarthyism became a national byword for undemocratic politics. Now it’s nearly hush-hush. Americans lost a great deal as citizens because by the late 1950s.” and political dissent met. Perhaps it is time to overthrow these repressions. The international human rights community watches in dismay as state power.” You have to read the testimonies to know in your nerve endings how effectively repression can operate within a “democratic” society. escalating. the organization. the roundups and detentions of people “suspected” of terrorism without due process. even in academe.” we need the energy. This was once a heroic intersection. Finally. the legal weakening of the labor unions and afﬁ rmative action. 88 The tilt to the right limited the options of presidents: Kennedy said that if he had tried to pull out of Vietnam. Especially in an era where reform groups and labor unions can now be called “special interests. It was not yelled out. and it is not being debated. Our government’s current restrictions on due process harm the innocent and the not-guilty-as-charged in irreparable ways. and warm-spirited collectivism that communism and other cohesive Left parties at their best once provided. “we would have another Joe McCarthy red scare on our hands. it is not widely enough accepted as a warning against current threats like the Patriot Act . the initiative. it is not widely enough accepted as a warning against current threats like the Patriot Act. . We in the United States are the more endangered for this failure. witnesses believe that the state terror that began in 1947 narrowed the entire spectrum of political liberty in America. too. Class issues are muted. the right-wing backlash against the New Deal. particularly in the labor movement and the school systems. and the CPUSA is a charged nexus where class. as Ellen Schrecker demonstrates in No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities. The purges restricted scholarly inquiry.
my scholar-partner at the Women’s Studies Research Center. 2-3. 1989). Maurice Isserman and Ellen Schrecker.. New York University. 1998). to Paul Buhle and others whose interviews made it possible. Gary Wills contrasts Palmer’s “small force of federal marshals” to the vaster post–World War II FBI. 1976). by Lillian Hellman (Boston: Little Brown. 1945–1960. “McCarthyism and the Decline of American Communism. “Peru Doubles Estimate of Death Toll Stemming from Violent Decades. On the relations between the party and the much larger “dynamic social. 194–95. Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir (New York: Simon and Schuster. 159. Frank Rosengarten. 123–40. My thanks to Sara Gruen. Jude Webber. 1994). 7. The Great Fear [New York: Simon and Schuster. 2. who helped with research and read this with a ﬁ ne editor’s eye. Ross. 17.Notes This essay is dedicated to Mike Brown.” in Brown et al. On the new historiography. ed. Suppressing Grief 127 . On current means of keeping red-baiting alive. The Age of Extremes: A History of the World. Communism (New York: Monthly Review Press. Series IV. Real Love. 3. 1978]. Tamiment Library. preface to New Studies in the Politics and Culture of U. 5. Norah Chase and Alix Kates Shulman offered important comments. Carl Bernstein. in the fall of 2003. 194. 236. 69. 1. Real Love: In Pursuit of Cultural Justice (New York: New York University Press. eds. Andrew Ross. 1993). Oral History of the American Left (OHAL). David Caute says that the Palmer raids and deportations of 1917–20 were worse. in the introduction to Scoundrel Time. from a woman of seventy-nine years who was a housewife during the era. 7–13. and to my son’s generation. which should have been taught national reconciliation in school. Brown. but “the second repression was the more profoundly corrupting. society. Telephone communication. Randy Martin. 2004).” in Schrecker. the more corrosive of habits of tolerance and fair play” (Caute.” see Ellen Schrecker. 1987). See page 125 for the “populist” versus “elite” interpretation of the origins of the red-baiting era. 6. “‘Papers of a Dangerous Tendency’: From Major Andre’s Boot to the VENONA Files. 4. foreword to Cause at Heart: A Former Communist Remembers. New Studies. 29 August 2003.” Boston Globe. 8. and George Snedeker..S. Cold War Triumphalism. see Ellen Schrecker. but whose husband lost his job as a union leader.” see Ben Gray. 9. She wishes to remain anonymous. 20).S. xvi. Cold War Triumphalism: The Misuse of History after the Fall of Communism (New York: New Press. to historiographers like Ellen Schrecker who provided the missing record. 2003. to the brave progressives of earlier generations.. Eric Hobsbawm. cultural and political movement that challenged the status quo and served as the primary conduit for a socialist critique of U. 1914–1991 (New York: Vintage. see Michael E. Telford Taylor. Brandeis University. On still being penalized for “continuing to hold the same philosophical outlook. by Junius Irving Scales and Richard Nickson (Athens: University of Georgia Press. especially the Communists.
. ed. Michael E. “Bittersweet Remembrance. The laws had been in effect since 1986–87. there could be another way of phrasing it. 11. Argentina Repeals Amnesty. On the uselessness of the sketch. 1994). “Only 253 aliens were ofﬁcially deported . 1995). 326. 12. Brown. but the lowness of the number. 1992–95). Marjorie Garber and Judith L. 1995). 1990). 18. 25.” Boston Globe. Ellen Schrecker is quoted in Irene Sege.. 19. 17. Fariello notes that the famous survey was done by Samuel Stouffer of Harvard (Red Scare. New Studies. 146.10. 16. Walkowitz (New York: Routledge. “She [Ethel] was killed because the government wanted to pressure her husband to confess” (Boston Globe. The dictionary that Grifﬁ n Fariello cites in Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition. 13.” 131). Blanche Wiesen Cook. 24. I would never say that publically” (Michael Meeropol. Carl Marzani. xxx). between 1946 and 1966” and “only 28 of the 145 party leaders indicted under the Smith Act actually served prison sentences. Fariello. Seamus E. The Education of a Reluctant Radical. . 23. an Oral History (New York: Norton. 28. “Introduction: The History of the History of U.” in Brown et al. Alger Hiss. in Fariello. see pages 6–21. 41). “Introduction. Sally Belfrage.” saying.” since Truman instituted the loyalty oaths (Scoundrel Time. 247. or the effectiveness of the victims’ lawyers. ed. 17. 21). is MerriamWebster’s Collegiate. Gary Wills said the era should have been named (“genetically”) “Trumanism. “Taking on the Past. 20.” writes Schrecker (“McCarthyism. Brown. Red Scare. Harvard University. in Fariello. Communism. “Only two” satirizes the tendency of historians of Communism. 25. 4 vols. Reed Lindsay. Gornick presumably offered everyone pseudonyms as late as the 1970s. 22 August 2003. on the rhetoric of the orthodox historians. even the “new” historians. 14.” in Secret Agents. Red Scare. (New York: Topical. “The Rosenbergs and the Crime of the Century. Red Scare. David Cole says that “as many of one in ﬁve working Americans were subjected to the loyalty review process in one way or another” (Cole.. 380.S. Un-American Activities: A Memoir of the Fifties (New York: HarperCollins. lx–lxi. 22.” 16. Kearney interviewed fourteen adults for Defensive Strategies of Red Diaper Babies during the McCarthy Era (MA thesis. 21. 128 Margaret Morganroth Gullette . 15. to construct locutions or comparisons in which what readers are meant to be surprised by is not the high number of punishments successfully inﬂ icted by the government during this period. Even if the point is the weakness of the government’s case. the government agreed soon after the trial. 19 June 2003). The Rosenberg Letters: A Complete Edition of the Prison Correspondence of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg [New York: Garland.” Harvard Civil Rights–Civil Liberties Law Review 38:1 : part D). The general in charge of Los Alamos said early on that the data “was of minor value. 227). “Only 13 political denaturalization actions succeeded between 1945–56. Frank Tarloff.” says Caute (Great Fear. “The New McCarthyism: Repeating History in the War on Terrorism. 1994]. and the disservice they do to history.
“Dead Men Tell No Tales. Suppressing Grief 129 . 32. 175. Randall Kennedy. Red Scare. 131. “Proletaria and Me. MA: MIT Press.” in Kaplan and Shapiro. quoted in Victor Navasky. Judy Kaplan and Linn Shapiro (Urbana: University of Illinois Press.” in Red Diapers. “When Life Was a Party. 66. 45. 117–18. 196. ed. 32. conversation in Boston after a showing of her ﬁ lm.” in Kaplan and Shapiro. “New McCarthyism”.” in Kaplan and Shapiro. “Resuscitating Corpses: Memories of Political Exile in Mexico. Nelson [Cambridge. 224. 62. Romance of American Communism. Red Diapers. Gary Wills calls the FBI “bloated and ideologized” (Scoundrel Time.” in Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice against Older Persons. 34. Quoted in Patrick McGilligan and Paul Buhle. 1980). Kim Chernin.” Socialism and Democracy 17 (2003): 246. 271. 1998). 36. 35). in Fariello.” in Kaplan and Shapiro. She was on the Security Index. 120.” in Garber and Walkowitz. 47. 44. David Wellman. see Loyalties. see Kaplan and Shapiro.” in Kaplan and Shapiro. Un-American Activities. Red Diapers. Diana Anhalt. Red Diapers.” 86. 6 June 2004. and Andy Mertens. Heir to an Execution: A Granddaughter’s Story. Belfrage. Rachel Fast Ben-Avi. 1986). 33. No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities (New York: Oxford University Press. “When Black Writers Were on the Left.” 40. She includes some painful testimonies of life underground. Todd D. 96. in Fariello. “Mistaken Identities. Ivy Meeropol. In this experiment. 61. Un-American Activities.26. 164. Zellner. Naming Names (New York: Viking. 87. 28. 31. 46. 17). Red Scare. 30. The ﬁgure of two thousand comes from Vivian Gornick. On Bernstein’s mother’s poker game. Belfrage. Huggins. 29. 260. Secret Agents. For others who went into hiding or left the country voluntarily. Gornick. Kearney. Bridges.” part C. “Contrasting Fates of Repression. 1977). Cook. 25. 37. Ellen Schrecker. Martin’s. The Romance of American Communism (New York: Basic. 42. Cole. Cole gives the details of the Justice Department’s program and congressional action to fund the detention centers in “The New McCarthyism. ed. Dalton Trumbo. 1997). 27. Stephanie Allen. Red Scare. Fariello. “A Memoir. 2002]. Defensive Strategies of Red Diaper Babies. 45. “Proletaria and Me. 41. 174–75. 132. Red Diapers. 48. “From In My Mother’s House. judges reminded of their own death set an average bond [for an alleged prostitute] of $455. 177.” 25. Red Diapers. “Ageism: Denying the Face of the Future. especially 28. Red Diapers. while other judges not so reminded set it at $50 (Jeff Greenberg. 177. Red Diapers.” in Kaplan and Shapiro. 43. Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist (New York: St. Zellner. 94. Dorothy Healey reports on these threats in Fariello. 262. “Emergency Administrative Detention. 38. Dorothy M. Jeff Schimel. 44. Red Scare. 40. 146. 35. Ilana Girard Singer. 39. Quoted in Alan Wald. 60. “Rosenbergs and the Crime of the Century. 49.
1973). No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge. 315. Roy Huggins. Romance of American Communism. The spelling of his name may be a transcription error. Quoted in Gornick. 62. in Fariello. Ashe. “When Life Was a Party. Quoted in Gornick. Secret Agents. 95. 1994).” in Garber and Walkowitz. 75. Series 4. Warshow suspected that it had been distorted by the ﬁ rst editors. Red Diapers. Red Scare. Jerry Frug. OHAL. He was echoing the critic Robert Warshow. 24. 9. Labouring Men (New York: Anchor. who published his autobiographies in the 1990s. 67. 180. Socialism and America (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. and Meeropol. The point about the roles of political parties in modern mass politics is from Eric Hobsbawm. 217–18. “Born Underground. writing in the 1950s. Revolutionaries (New York: New American Library. Rachel Fast Ben-Avi. 10. 212. 26–27.” Nation. 134. transcripts of Seeing Red. 73. 68. OHAL. James R. M. 53. 14 July 2003. Red Scare. 63. Hellman. Secret Agents. Romance of American Communism. Quoted in David Thorburn. 440. Joyce Antler. “A Memoir. “Rosenberg Letters. 61. 240–43. New York Jew (New York: Vintage. Scoundrel Time. 228. Thorburn. 73. 71. PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. 57. “Commiebastid. 54. 77. 59.” in Garber and Walkowitz. “A Bond of Sisterhood. Allen. 55. 228. 30–37. 1985). Weiss even asks (page 30) why Meeropol does not forgive his uncle (who changed his testimony to incriminate his sister. Steve Nelson: American Radical (Pittsburgh. OHAL Series 4. Eric Hobsbawm. 291. 74. in Fariello. Red Diapers. in Fariello. 121. 206n25. 1989). 72. 262. Steve Nelson. 66. 1981). Red Scare. Anna Kaplan. 56. 130 Margaret Morganroth Gullette . 69. “The Rosenberg Letters.” in Kaplan and Shapiro. See also in the same volume. Dick Levins. 60. Both were reading a corrupt text.” Harvard Civil Rights–Civil Liberties Law Review 22 (1987): 675. “Eric Lanzetti” is probably Carl Marzani. Philip Weiss. Red Diapers.” in Kaplan and Shapiro.” in Kaplan and Shapiro.50. 58.” 179. Junius Scales. “Touch Red. “Secrets and Lies. Barrett. Series 4. 29. Irving Howe. 76. 99. 51. Un-American Activities.” 70. 203–7. “McCarthyism and Critical Legal Studies. 1978). Rob Ruck. 197. 65. Ethel). quoted in Navasky. Gornick gave all her people pseudonyms. Belfrage. Hirsch. citing Schrecker’s No Ivory Tower. The Age of McCarthyism: A Brief History with Documents (Boston: Bedford Books of St. 104. Andrew Ross. Interview with David Freidman. 64.” in Kaplan and Shapiro. Alfred Kazin. Red Diapers. Albert Vetere Lannon. Nelson. 1967). 285. Quoted in Ellen Schrecker. 52. Wesley Swearinger. transcripts of Seeing Red. 97. Interview with Rose Krysak. 130. Martin’s. Naming Names. 120. 263.
Meeropol. 338–39. New Studies. preface to Trumbo.78. 79. “Purging the Profs: The Rapp Coudert Committee in New York. 16. 247. “Wartime Lies. 82. Ellen Schrecker. 85. 1940–1942. Hoberman.” in Brown et al. “Bond of Sisterhood. Barnet. 361. 11. Stephen Leberstein. 9 October 2003. Additional Dialogue. 46. spring/summer 2003. Quoted or paraphrased by Chris Trumbo in Fariello. in Fariello. 1998). 89. Gornick. 412–13. Dalton Trumbo. 80. See. Red Scare. Belfrage. 84.” New York Review of Books. Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Boston: Little. Brown. Helen Manfull.” Lincoln Center Theater Review. 1942–62 (New York: Evans.” 212. 174. 83. for example. 1970). 65. 335. Quoted in Jonathan Mirksy. 86. Un-American Activities. 87. 119. Romance of American Communism. Suppressing Grief 131 . Red Scare. Additional Dialogue: Letters of Dalton Trumbo. Antler. “Hollywood Blacklist. 176. The reference to “people who solved their own problems by lying about us” is to Ethel’s brother David Greenberg and his wife. 81. Rosenberg Letters. 88.. J.
Summer 2005. The VCD copy.e. .”2 As Evans had arrived in Beijing only the afternoon before. 23. defend globalization.S. 1 (dir. U. according to Evans. Quentin Tarantino. pirates). Bush’s reelection campaign. this economic mission was a crucial item in George W. countries then either join the ranks of ‘most-favored nations’ or are placed on the U.. celebrate market liberalization. With a pirated ﬁ lm in hand. In the last twenty-four hours. criticize protectionism. was found all over Beijing.’”3 While Hollywood—as revealed in Kill Bill. Once classiﬁed as ‘copyright partners’ or ‘copyright enemies’ (i. and Evans chose to attract media’s attention and solicit the American people’s identiﬁcation by picking up on a pirated Hollywood ﬁ lm as the ultimate symbol of China’s disrespect of fair trade in general and the country’s robbery of American wealth speciﬁcally. which I discuss below—is itself a major pirate of global trends and tropes. task for this high-proﬁ le China visit. No. Copyright © 2005 by Duke University Press.”1 Evans was on the mission to coerce the Chinese government to further open its markets for American products and services.Copying Kill Bill Holding a pirated VCD copy of Kill Bill: Vol. his assertion simply implies that hitting the streets of the capital to locate a bootlegged version of a recent big-hit Hollywood ﬁ lm was the ﬁ rst. I was able to purchase a CD on the streets of Beijing. it is always the accuser against other countries for violating Laikwan Pang Social Text 83. 2. The bootlegged Kill Bill VCD effectively condensed a basket of capitalist ideology into one sublime object. Vol.S. ‘Watch List. “New narratives such as the ‘copyright story’ and new data such as ‘piracy statistics’ enable the self and the others [of the United States] to be redeﬁ ned. 2003) that he found on a Beijing street. yet the ﬁ lm had begun its ﬁ rst run in movie theaters in the United States just two weeks before and was not available in U. As Ngai-Ling Sum demonstrates. Evans told members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing that “it didn’t take long. and probably the most important. stores in video or DVD format. Commerce Secretary Don Evans solemnly warned the Chinese government in his Beijing press conference: “We have been patient but our patience is wearing thin.S. Evans could praise American creativity. and curse political authoritarianism all at the same time. Behind this sublime object is the American interest and power governing the current copyright discourse.
production. capitals.S-centric copyright discourse. I want to complicate the national-transnational dynamics of Hollywood on two dimensions: its transnational textual appropriation and its global distribution. always fails to fully control the global cinemascape precisely because a ﬁ lm is not only an industrial product but also a complex system of representation.5 An uncritical use of national cinema is also often accused of being ignorant of “nation” as an illusive and oppressive concept. only reinforces the American control. Film scholars have repeatedly stressed the difﬁculties of conceptualizing the structure and practice of national cinema because of the transnational nature of today’s cinema—in terms of ﬁ nancing. I am interested in exploring how Kill Bill is understood as “copy” on the levels of both representation and industrial product. still a legitimate academic use of national cinema: as a hypothetical model against Hollywood. and reception. Hollywood’s “transnationality. In other words. which continue to be fed back to the cinematic apparatus to mold the global taste according to a fantasized American standard.6 There is. both in terms of its own transnational nature and its hegemonic position condemned as the enemy of all national cinemas. Focusing on Kill Bill. therefore.” which traverses both its production and its market. although a handy and powerful tool for Hollywood to reinforce its global interests.7 Hollywood.9 But Hollywood’s “transnationality” describes only its investment and production. the concept of national cinema is often more a convenient hypothesis than a real practice of ﬁ lmmaking and ﬁ lm viewing. both of which are protected and complicated by the U. I also want to analyze how the copyright discourse. To situate the global status of Hollywood textually and contextually. and labors. The media conglomeration process begun in 1985 also made all the major studios transnational. however.Hollywood works. But relatively few have discussed if Hollywood can be considered a “national” cinema. as it forges a national cinema through the construction of its enemies. is always the opposite of national cinema. 8 There has been an exodus of production from Los Angeles to anglophone countries with lower production costs.4 Although widely used. the brand name continues to be American. As Toby Miller and others in Global Hollywood summarize the contradiction between labor and control: 134 Laikwan Pang . Copyrighting Hollywood Scholars have reminded us that Hollywood’s hegemony is maintained by many industrial mechanisms that regulate its transnational markets. Most of its revenue comes from its international markets.
Hollywood. almost no producers outside the United States ﬁ le lawsuits against the American studios for related matters. However. director of ﬁ lm-physical production of Shaw Brothers. 1. is a trustworthy enterprise. Shaw originally wanted Tarantino’s production company to put the credits in words instead of indirectly through the Wide Screen title card. Wong complained that the copyright legal protection in Hong Kong is very weak. to seek more copyright of their works. Lawrence Wong revealed that Shaw never seriously investigates if the copyright of its works is being encroached on. when its major rival Copying Kill Bill 135 . In an interview I asked Lawrence Ka Hee Wong. such as Shaw. particularly by Hollywood’s productions. The underlying logic of the universal application of copyright is its indifference to the nationalities of the products and parties involved.”10 A major player sustaining the order of this transnational control is the copyright discourse. Wong believes that things related to copyright “always” work properly in the States. about the “Shaw Scope Wide Screen” title card that appeared in Kill Bill: Vol. Unlike the situation in Hollywood. yet both Hollywood as a cultural product and copyright as a global political discourse are ﬁ lled with national interests. It does not mean that Shaw has no copyright concepts. For similar cases Shaw would need to watch the ﬁ lm before it made the decision.11 Wong disclosed that Tarantino’s Super Cool ManChu production company did contact Shaw for the title card. so Shaw registers the copyrights of its ﬁ lms not in Hong Kong but in the United States.“There are highly-developed efﬁciencies available from a skilled working class in places that nevertheless continue to import what is made on ‘their’ territory—but never under their control. according to Wong. While Americans are bringing legal actions against everybody for copyright infringements. In fact. Shaw was so honored by this credit that it released the copyright without watching the ﬁ lm beforehand. and Shaw happily conceded. This copyright discourse has a strong national tag: people believe that the United States is the leader of the copyright discourse and thus should be held up as the standard to which all other countries’ copyright protection should aspire. as shown in some previous cases when Hollywood producers properly sought copyright permissions from Shaw. Secretary Evans’s arrogance and Wong’s humbleness reveal one interesting feature in the present copyright discourse governing the ﬁ lm industry: America’s dominant position versus the rest of the world. as Wong revealed. the increasing global popularity of Hong Kong cinema has not led Hong Kong’s major studios. According to Wong. Super Cool ManChu refused the request based on some alleged artistic concerns. the only legal copyright case Shaw has ever launched took place in 1971. In fact. but for the case of Kill Bill. To my surprise.
and never vice versa.12 Arguably. with American corporations accusing people of other countries of infringing copyright. Therefore the current copyright discourse circulating in commercial ﬁ lm industries is highly conscious of nationality. The United States is both the leader of world cinema and the owner of global copyright. or Black Mamba) to engineer the castration of Bill. Golden Harvest brought Wang Yu and the Japanese star Shintaro Katsu together to make the ﬁ lm The Blind Swordsman Meets His Equal (Shin Zatôichi: Yabure! Tojin-ken. which as 136 Laikwan Pang . saying that it infringed on Shaw’s earlier box-ofﬁce hit One-Armed Swordsman (Dubidao) (dir. the United States as a nation and Hollywood as a culture industry composed mainly of transnational corporations are conﬂ ated into one single monolithic power that deﬁ nes what copyright is. which to Shaw should be as “guilty” as Golden Harvest’s borrowing was thirty years ago. this is the only legal case Shaw has ever pursued involving copyright matters. Dubidao dazhan mangxia) (dir.The United States is both the leader of world cinema and the owner of global copyright. as clearly shown in Kill Bill. particularly in the case of the character Soﬁe. of course. But. in which the title role is also played by Wang Yu. is legitimated to ask for revenge (similar to The Bride in Kill Bill). the United States is always the victim and. not only the copyright of products but also the discourse of copyright itself. Tarantino is consciously using and stealing the image and the symbolization of the one-armed swordsman for his own ﬁ lm. Shaw ﬁ led a suit against Golden Harvest’s production. As copyright discourse becomes an American diplomatic tool. Under the protection of the globally applicable yet U. although today’s major cultural conglomerates effectively manipulate copyright for their own interest. The underlying assumption is that Hollywood productions are superior to the local ones both in terms of creativity and in the legal sense—only Hong Kong plagiarizes Hollywood. Kimiyoshi Yasuda). but only in one direction. The irony is that the image of the one-armed swordsman is so frequently seen in Kill Bill that it almost becomes a parody. a violent act that symbolizes the desire of The Bride (Beatrice Kiddo. whose arms are brutally chopped away. However. According to Wong. 1. not only the copyright of products but also the discourse of copyright itself. the ability of the legal discourse to regulate the order of world cinema is less powerful than what Evans would like it to be.S. A ﬁ lm is not only a commodity but also a complex system of cultural representation. the reference to Shaw ﬁ lms in Kill Bill is read as an honor instead of an infringement. in which cultural exchanges are so complex that today’s copyright discourse can never clearly differentiate between copyright infringement and cultural appropriations. ironically. One interesting example that demonstrates the complexity and contradictions of this “copyrighting” discourse of Hollywood is again the “Shaw Scope Wide Screen” title card seen in Kill Bill: Vol. 1967).-centric copyright discourse. Zhang Che.
A major foundation of today’s copyright discourse is the “ideaexpression” dichotomy. against those. the title card is a secret code that marks a network of community. From Tarantino to Wong and the fans. only to see it discarded by the next court. trademarks. I ﬁ rst examine some of the fundamental principles of the current copyright discourse. something the copyright discourse never addresses or is equipped to understand. as it aims to provide incentive to create and distribute creative works. However. which upholds the universal right to freely access and recycle ideas but prevents anyone from using creative expressions without the consent of the copyright holders. probably the majority of its viewers who are teenagers in the West. like Tarantino himself. The card differentiates those Shaw fans. It is clearly an indication of piracy. The present scope of intellectual properties includes patents. as well as its representation politics allowing it to be embraced by viewers all over the world. Tarantino’s piracy becomes an act of honor. An assumption behind this universal right to access ideas is the limited number of ideas existing. so that everyone should have access to them in order to continue to create new expressions. As the copyright legal expert William S. because the title card not only is a trademark but also calls attention to a speciﬁc representation politics. trade secrets. and copyright. and it has created countless debates inside and outside courtrooms. Ideas are considered the taproot of all creativity. Idea Copying versus Product Copying To understand the complicity between Hollywood and the copyright discourse serving it. it is against the trademark law. whose possibilities are inﬁnite. But expressions are linked to creativity. which should be protected.far as I know is included in versions for all regional markets. restricting them to the ownership of a few people harms the well-being of human civilization in general. copyright is ambiguous. or. And the ﬁ lm would be read very differently by those viewers who recognize the Shaw title card and those who do not. and therefore concerns the complex cultural domain. Stone claims. But in this case.”13 Copying Kill Bill 137 . While the ﬁ rst three protect business interests and can more easily be conceptualized within legal discourse. the differentiation between idea and expression is riddled with ambiguities: “Many a court has formulated an all-embracing theory. In the following. this idea-expression separation cannot be easily differentiated. I elaborate on the complexity of Hollywood as a national cinema by focusing precisely on these two levels of cultural circulation in Kill Bill: the legal copyright discourse deﬁ ning and protecting the ﬁ lm’s commodity status. who do not know Shaw ﬁ lms. more correctly.
which. in general fall outside legal protection. Hollywood might always incorporate foreign ideas. While independent producers are responsible for the production of more ﬁ lms than major Hollywood studios. time and effort (sometimes called the ‘cost of expression’). from video/disc to the Web. Plagiarism. Once created. however. can freely use ideas of other cinematic traditions without worrying about being sued. while the major studios still directly control the distribution arms. whose reproduction and distribution rights are subsequently fully protected by copyright laws. however. which suggests no ambiguities in the idea-expression dichotomy. as they introduce almost nothing new to the product. distribution. is an ethical issue. The Hollywood producers. as long as it concerns the infringement of idea instead of expression. have all the legal and commercial rights they need to stop all kinds of piracy. are rendered into new expressions. not a legal one. while continuing to beneﬁt from new ideas of other cinemas. among the three major sectors of the movie industry—production. the majors are the only organizations that have a global network 138 Laikwan Pang . many copyright-related issues about commercial ﬁ lmmaking could also be comprehended by translating this idea-expression dichotomy to the differentiation between idea copying and product copying. and Hollywood. In the case of Kill Bill. This logic makes much sense in view of the economy of today’s culture industry. Creating these works involves a good deal of money.14 On the other hand. for example. piracy is direct product copying. straightly speaking. and exhibition—Hollywood’s most proﬁtable component is the distribution. such as the graphic violence and action designs. as most of the investment goes into production rather than distribution. The two poles of the idea-expression foundation of copyright discourse can be further linked to the practice of Hollywood ﬁ lmmaking in its basic production and distribution industrial structure: that the copyright discourse allows the producers to borrow ideas of other cinematic traditions on the production levels while it strictly prohibits unauthorized distributors (pirates) to make and sell the products. “[Copyright protected] works all have in common what economists call a ‘public goods aspect’ to them. As is widely known. Pirates are clearly parasitic to the existing creative products and processes. the cost of reproducing the work is so low that additional users can be added at a negligible or even zero cost. in this case. speciﬁcally the global distribution. all the ideas being appropriated.Despite their legal complexity. because of high up-front costs and the relatively low cost of duplication. as the major studios are increasingly relying on smaller production houses to make the movies more cheaply. with exceptions I discuss in the last section of this article.”15 Hollywood itself is exploiting this ﬁ nancially uneven productiondistribution system.
prove infringement. is where the proﬁt is made in the movie business. However. thus legitimizing Hollywood.18 The global cities. showing the strong tie between the two global cities in the production and exchange of higher order information. Kill Bill can be seen as transnational on two levels: that the ﬁ lm itself is one of these Federal Express parcels (as products) circulating between different areas yet is also a creative combination of many of these parcels (as ideas). to chase after pirates. as a national cinema. copyright law naturally developed around that area. to continue appropriating and thereby reaping the beneﬁts of any new ideas from other cinemas. including the colossal Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).for the distribution of a movie. major Hollywood studios invest lavishly in setting up various copyright enterprises. But as a ﬁ lm. in the way that it is not only a commodity circulated transnationally but also a system of representation itself composed of many transnational “information ﬂows. Because of the weight of proﬁt in distribution. Combined with the government’s painstaking diplomatic efforts. of which Hong Kong is certainly one. a pirated ﬁ lm and a pirated computer program produce the same political signiﬁcation: an American product being violated by another country. according to Manuel Castells. as most obviously shown in the gesture of Evans equating American interests with Kill Bill. However. so that the small production houses must collaborate with the major studios. which constitute the bedrock of the new global economy. can all be reduced to knowledge generation and information ﬂows. while both the Hollywood major distributors and the pirates engage in the same relatively low-cost section of ﬁ lmmaking—the distribution—the current copyright is designed to protect the interests of the Hollywood majors against the pirates. Kill Bill is culturally more complex than a piece of computer software.8 percent of New York’s total Federal Express exports. The originally nationality-blinded “idea-expression” principle ends up ﬁtting into and strengthening the present global wealth hierarchy. and sanction copyright violators. coerce other countries to comply with copyright principles and policy. which. whether legal or illegal.” An example may help illustrate the point: in 1990 Hong Kong received 9. Kill Bill is a uniquely rich text: not only does it Copying Kill Bill 139 . would there have been any difference if the disc Evans held was a piece of computer software with an American brand rather than a Hollywood ﬁ lm? To Evans and the political ideology he represents.19 Using this analogy.16 Distribution. while piracy—product-expression copying—is criminalized. play the key role in facilitating transnational ﬂows of knowledge and information.17 Sociologists have insistently pointed out that today’s global economy is organized around command and control centers coordinating and innovating the intertwined activities of ﬁ rms.
government is seeking globally does not mean that the American culture industry need not “consult” the ideas of others.” Alan Williams identiﬁes an eternal Hollywood problem: “Where to get the basic narratives for the huge number of ﬁ lms to be made each year?”23 Kill Bill. we also need to examine the ﬁ lm text itself. few viewers would miss the “postmodernist” style of Kill 140 Laikwan Pang . Hollywood has always actively appropriated both ideas and expressions of other cinematic traditions. I argue. which reﬂects and manipulates many cultural exchanges simultaneously. In fact. one major deﬁ ning feature of Hollywood as a national cinema. on the level of representation that copyright becomes the least pertinent. we cannot just read the ﬁ lm as an inert commodity being thrown around the world.”20 Such active pirating practices were particularly important to the development of Hollywood in the beginning of the twentieth century. Quite the contrary. consciously or not. the U.S. As such a proliﬁc culture industry producing hundreds of featurelength ﬁ lms annually. Lawrence Lessig reminds his American readers that “our outrage at China notwithstanding. as it shifted from its free and easy adaptation of works from copyright-rich literary authors to become in itself a global enterprise highly protective of its own works. We were born a pirate nation. we should remember that before 1891. The Eternal Problem of Hollywood The United States has become such a strong cultural power partly because it was a pirate nation in the nineteenth century. As Siva Vaidhyanathan demonstrates. but it could also be seen as a metacinematic text that selfreﬂexively comments on the “appropriating” mechanism of Hollywood. 22 The rapid and effective appropriation of other cinematic traditions into its own might be. and it also usurps ideas directly from other cinematic traditions.present itself as a hyperpluralistic ﬁ lm with so many origins and sources of inﬂuence that a clear remapping of these inﬂuences is impossible and meaningless.S. As is well known. ironically. foregrounds this eternal Hollywood problem by stating almost explicitly the ﬁ lm sources that it borrows. it is clear that Hollywood cannot afford the doctrine of “originality. allowing it to become the largest ﬁ lm factory in the world. although copyright rules precisely cover representations. ﬁ lm industry has always imported cultural workers from around the world for their creative ideas. It is. 21 The thick copyright protection the U. Hollywood transformed from copyright-poor to copyright-rich during the twentieth century. To understand the system of transnational circulation of Hollywood ﬁ lms. the copyrights of foreigners were not protected in the United States.
the “House of Blue Leaves” sequence. As we all know. Although Tarantino claims his authorship by asserting his “rewriting” process. is that we do see the originals everywhere in Kill Bill. Bruce Lee is almost the god of the ﬁ lm. Tarantino is honest about the inﬂuence of Hong Kong movies on him. It was just like the whole rest of the script. many of the actions are supposed to be Japanese samurai ﬁghting Copying Kill Bill 141 .” as shown in the opening titles—one to Shaw Brothers and one to Kinji Fukasaku—and the numerous pilfered soundtrack cues clearly directed to the Japanese and Chinese ﬁ lm traditions to which the ﬁ lm “pays homage. who starred in the U. He admits in an interview about the ﬁ nal “House of Blue Leaves” sequence ending Volume 1 that I didn’t write it as a stand-alone action scene. Although in Kill Bill. Japanese samurai. so that’s how I did that. played by David Carradine. But an interesting statement Kill Bill made. this confession tells us partly how Hollywood creativity operates. dir. Hidden Dragon drastically redeﬁ ned the ﬁ lming of human actions in Hollywood. Hong Kong action movies. whose work on The Matrix and Crouching Tiger. But when I didn’t have a middle section. which are retouched to the point that viewers can no longer identify the originals.S. particularly in Volume 1. Kill Bill is frank about this web of “intertextuality. spaghetti westerns. A cool moment that Samo Hung did in that movie or Yu Wang did in that movie and let that be the space in between. But Yuen. a series allegedly based on a concept by Bruce Lee. you know. the ﬁ lms to which Kill Bill pays tribute and which it copies. of course. in relation to Tarantino’s comment on the ﬁ lm. and the character Bill. who himself is also highly inﬂuenced by Japanese samurai ﬁ lms and Hollywood westerns. television series Kung Fu (1972–75) as Kwai Chang Caine. which clearly was modeled after the ending scene of Fist of Fury (Jingwumen. what I would do is I’d think of something I’d seen in a cool Kung Fu movie. according to this interview. I was kinda working my way through it. Luo Wei. Then over the course of a year I’d constantly rewrite it and rewrite it until all those things I’d take from other movies were gone and it was all ﬁ lled with original stuff.Bill. as seen in Uma Thurman’s yellow jumpsuit. which resembles that of Bruce Lee in Green Hornet.” As many audiences would also notice. the mask of the Crazy 88 team. 1972). 24 If Tarantino is a distinct cult ﬁ gure representing American cinematic creativity. the ﬁ lm is choreographed by “Master” Yuen Wo Ping. Originality. the ﬁ lm itself betrays that Tarantino has introduced relatively little new to the sequence. and. which freely takes and parodies François Truffaut’s ﬁ lm The Bride Wore Black. is nothing but free appropriation and transformation. also choreographed many Hong Kong action ﬁ lms. blaxploitation ﬁ lms.
and the new Web culture helped shape a new generation of cinephilists who are able to watch foreign ﬁ lms rather systematically. such diversiﬁcation of meanings holds a fantasized Americanness together. Most American viewers watching Tarantino’s ﬁ lms know 142 Laikwan Pang . “American dominance . Kill Bill is a Hollywood remake of Hong Kong ﬁ lms. both in terms of themes. . However. which themselves remade Japanese and Hollywood ﬁ lms: it becomes difﬁcult to differentiate between homage. like female revenge. or simple knockoffs. [is] harmful not simply to everyone else in the global market but also. David Desser illustrates a new cinephilic culture beginning in the 1980s when video stores sprang up around the world. foreign ﬁ lms accounted for 10 percent of box-ofﬁce receipts. and when new ﬁ lm thugs. and ﬁ lm style. watched the many foreign ﬁ lms that in the end turned him and others into a new generation of ﬁ lmmakers. including videos and later DVDs. archetypes. above all. like the bird’s-eye view. 26 Tarantino admits that he is heavily inﬂuenced by Hong Kong martial arts movies of Angela Mao and Li Hanxiang.”29 Tarantino is deﬁ nitely one of those self-selected die-hard fans of Asian cinema. the number had fallen to 0.instead of Hong Kong kung fu. to which Tarantino belongs. at least in terms of theatrical attendance. while Hollywood actively appropriates and beneﬁts from foreign cinematic creations or production environments. . Transnational borrowing also helps facilitate Hollywood’s global receptions. to America itself. Hollywood cannot but continue to copy ideas and expressions from other cinemas in order to maintain its annual output and global domination. remains the pursuit of a small population. and it took him a lot of effort in studying and enjoying many Asian movies to come up with ﬁ lms like Kill Bill. 25 The mythologized American nationality portrayed in Hollywood ﬁ lms is made possible through a narrative structure that tends to produce plural meanings to suit different viewers. the actions are almost all identical to ones seen in Yuen’s earlier productions. the American people in general are watching fewer foreign movies. As many scholars have demonstrated. Two decades later. 30 But the new cinephilia Desser describes.5 percent. Hollywood’s cultural imperialism is built on an effective appropriation or copying of transnational ideas. 27 Desser rightly points out that new carriers. like Tarantino himself. In the mid-1970s. the American people watch fewer and fewer foreign ﬁ lms. which can both be found in Kill Bill. and tropes into the ﬁ lms. But in contrast to this cinephilia culture. encouraging diverse populations to read them as though they are indigenous. parody. Instead of debauching a uniﬁed national identity. While Yuen remakes his own works. 28 As Peter Wollen concluded about Hollywood’s global reign. These narratives have meaning to so many different cultures because they allow viewers in those cultures to project their own values.
portrays O-Ren Ishii (Cottonmouth). queen of the Tokyo underworld. a major problem that results is a cultural conﬂ ation among the different cinemas and cultures that it appropriates. The architecture of this Japanese restaurant is so un-Japanese (despite the few Japanese icons such as ﬂower arrangements) that it resembles less a Japanese restaurant than the traditional Chinese teahouse or motel (kezhan) so often seen in Shaw costume pictures. the Crazy 88. If Kill Bill. i. neither the Japanese nor the Hong Kong cinemas being credited in Kill Bill remained uniﬁed. Deliberate or not. lame concept of scheduling. while the ﬁ lm is supposed to be an homage to Kinji Fukasaku. or Hollywood in general. As James Steintrager claims. The climactic Japanese restaurant “House of Blue Leaves” scene in Volume 1 was ﬁ lmed in Beijing. It inserts a “Shaw Scope” title card in the ﬁ lm’s beginning. the ﬁ lm is full of such Japanese-Chinese conﬂ ation.little about Asian cinemas in general. for the cult phenomenon of Hong Kong cinema in the United States. Combining Japanese animation (anime) and the Hong Kong style of kung fu. although the hilarious Master Pai Mei in Volume 2 does remind viewers of the racism in Hong Kong cinema against the Japanese. working along the Generation X mentality. But the distinct Hong Kong ﬂ avors correspond not only to the production logic behind the scene but also to the general tone of the ﬁ lm. The ﬁ lm is clearly too self-reﬂexive for us to believe that Tarantino is so confused by the two distinct cinematic cultures to misread one as the other. from the skilled labor (Yuen Wo Ping and his crews) to daily logistics (the lame scheduling). Lucy Liu.e. “We are led to infer that the fan’s biggest crime is really that he does not care for the hermeneutic task of understanding the other at all.31 According to Tarantino. everything is there to be mocked. Tarantino is attracted to the Hong Kong way of ﬁ lmmaking. in the same way that Steintrager reminds us not to use cultural Copying Kill Bill 143 . including both Hollywood itself and the Asian cinemas to which the ﬁ lm supposedly pays tribute. in which the Japanese and Chinese ﬁ lmic traditions merge into an undistinguished whole. and exoticism. for which Hollywood is largely responsible. a vividness and invigoration of Chinese cinema that Tarantino aspires to. and shooting in the Chinese way. or parasitic. practice of Tarantino.. who is a Chinese American. composed of speed. there are three main advantages of this location: “The Beijing team of master Woo Ping. As a result.”33 However. People are attracted to Kill Bill by its diffused Asianness. Or what they have is a generic image of Asian cinema. Kill Bill can be seen as distinguishably American. Instead. I am not condemning this plagiaristic. as it is neither Japanese nor Hong Kong.”32 Clearly. violence. with ﬂying bodies freely tossed away from the second ﬂoor to the foyer. beneﬁts from its free appropriation of foreign cinematic practices.
If Kill Bill plagiarizes Hong Kong cinema. to station in Hong Kong to produce standardized generic works. which in their own ways are connected to Japan. ﬁ lmmakers. The several rapid zoom ins on Pai Mei in Volume 2 so clearly calling viewers’ attentions to Shaw ﬁ lms was also likely a technique Zhang Che and his generation of Hong Kong ﬁ lmmakers learned from Japanese costume epics (Jidaigeki) on ﬁ lm and in television dramas. 36 In fact. Plagiarism is not only an eternal problem of Hollywood but also an eternal problem of cinema as a culture industry. The two most distinct Hong Kong cinematic entities Kill Bill refers to are Shaw Brothers and Bruce Lee. it was the Japanese cinematographer Nishimoto Tadashi who patented the Shaw Scope Wide Screen process. mutually inﬂuence each other constantly. and some less famous but highly talented Japanese directors. Kill Bill is unique largely because it highlights instead of conceals such acts of plagiarism.criticism to legitimize a “right” kind of spectatorship against the “wrong” kinds. like all national cinemas in the world. Hong Kong cinema has often plagiarized Hollywood and other cinemas. the “House of Blue Leaves” sequence is modeled after the ending scene of Fist of Fury. Bruce Lee himself.34 It is unproductive and ignorant to hold onto individual cinematic traditions as discrete and independent. which always works hard to maintain the pseudo-individualization of its indeed very standardized products. who reproduced it in Kill Bill. of whom Uma Thurman’s yellow jumpsuit and Asics Tiger shoes 144 Laikwan Pang . 37 whose title card was shown in the beginning of Volume 1. and the recruits included masters like Mizoguchi Kenji. the ﬁ lm appropriates a lot of Japanese cinematic stylistics. as we all know that they. who directed Princess Yang Kwei Fei in 1955. The studio was engaged in elaborate cooperation with Japanese studios. 35 The 1970s Shaw Brothers Tarantino pays homage to was a quintessential dream factory. which produced a steady output of formulaic ﬁ lms in the most efﬁcient and effective way. We must notice that while Fist of Fury preaches an anti-Japanese sentiment. partly reﬂecting the practice of Hong Kong cinema at that time. On the other hand. such as Inoue Umetsugu. 38 Li Hanxiang’s famous “bird’s-eye ﬁ ghting shot” that fascinates Tarantino. particularly from the samurai ﬁ lms. the Shaw kung fu style developed in the 1960s and 1970s was highly indebted to Japanese cinema. As I have mentioned earlier. Shaw ran the same way during its peak. in which the space— shifting through the Japanese sliding doors—gives both Thurman and Lee different layers of spatial and emotional dimensions. the ﬁ lms of Bruce Lee also have a strong Japanese dimension. and talents beginning in the 1950s. If it is famous for Hollywood to recruit foreign talents to support its empire. While the climactic ﬁ ghting scene in the Japanese restaurant is distinctly Hong Kong. can also be found in Japanese cinema as early as 1943 in Akira Kurosawa’s ﬁ rst ﬁ lm. Sanshiro Sugata.
yet that it is better. Kill Bill. as shown in the highlighting of his yellow jumpsuit. It is only through Tarantino’s remake. In other words.”41 According to Leitch. Tarantino is also calling attention to Bruce Lee’s datedness. they are often competing with the very ﬁ lms they invoke. who are mavericks.” As Leitch comments. “Although remakes by deﬁ nition base an important part of their appeal on the demonstrated ability of a preexisting story to attract an audience. therefore.”39 The yellow jumpsuit may represent precisely such an attitude of rule breaking. When advertising Volume 1 in London.unmistakably remind us. Thurman’s gender-ambiguous Lee look could be seen as the sublimed cultural symbol of “having no style as style.42 If Kill Bill is a remake paying homage to the Asian ﬁ lms it alludes to. it is also an update and a transcultural rewrite of Asian cinema for serving and entertaining a new generation of American and global audience members. but it gives the wearing subject the freedom and power to adapt to any form of ﬁghting. which might also accurately describe Hollywood as a national cinema. as literary critics such as Mikhail Bakhtin would suggest. violence is often involved in every act of appropriation and alternation. which has to be fed by the rapid recycling of ideas and expressions? Notwithstanding its diverse sources of appropriation. also incorporated Japanese martial arts into his Jeet Kune Do.” Since Hong Kong cinema always freely appropriates ideas and expressions from other cinematic or cultural traditions. that Bruce Lee can still be “fun. the ﬁ lms being appropriated are as honored as defamed. the fundamental rhetorical problem of remakes is to mediate between two apparently irreconcilable claims: that the remake is just like its model.40 Instead. particularly in commercial cinema. however. which in this case would mean that the white woman Uma Thurman is more relevant to today’s ﬁ lm viewers than the Asian male Bruce Lee. In other words. remakes in the end always deny their originals. or parody. by so stylistically calling attention to Bruce Lee. I must emphasize here that such a “dialogic” system of mutual borrowing is not necessarily egalitarian and receptive. or rule abiding? Or is the question “who is copying whom” still a meaningful one in today’s global culture industry. According to Thomas Leitch. Leitch calls this paradox disavowal: the combination of acknowledgment and repudiation in a single ambivalent gesture. The remake. Tarantino explained to British reporters his favored style of movie making: “I like movies about people who break rules. But what are the rules to break? In what ways can cultural appropriation with such elaborate intertextuality be seen as rule breaking. the sources that Kill Bill plagiarizes are not “original” as such. The yellow jumpsuit allegedly represents no speciﬁc style of martial arts. implicitly criticizes the original as outmoded. many of Hollywood’s Copying Kill Bill 145 . is not a metatextual celebration of Hong Kong and Japanese cinema.
remakes of foreign ﬁ lms are imperialistic, as the goal of the remake “is to translate not a language but a culture.”43 The Hollywood remake tries to tame the uncompromising, difﬁcult, and ultimately unresponsive elements of the original ﬁ lms to the demands of American consumers. In the case of Kill Bill, despite the same jumpsuit, Thurman is purged of the animalistic nature of Bruce Lee: she kills because her child is killed, while the narcissist Lee kills often for the sake of self-performance and self-mythologization.44 Although in Volume 2 Bill reminds The Bride that she is obsessed with killing, at the end she happily recedes to the mother role she has so much desired. In the ﬁ nal scene of Fist of Fury, Lee hops into the camera, posing a direct confrontation with the viewers; in contrast, Thurman smiles gently and romantically at the ends of both volumes, a gesture that tames all the previous anger she shows in the ﬁ lms.45 Therefore the kind of transnational cinematic appropriation shown in Kill Bill is more than a cobweb of intertextuality that few contemporary cultural productions could avoid; it also reveals necessary blending of cultural speciﬁcities in the mutual copying of ideas in today’s commercial cinema, on which Hollywood as a (trans)national cinema is based. Hollywood cinema constantly borrows elements from other national cinemas, but at the same time the cultural identities of these details are deliberately confused and diffused. These foreign inﬂuences, which themselves are not culturally pure to start with, are either concealed by Hollywood packaging or highlighted as cultural gimmicks, which are put back in the market to be consumed by viewers all over the world.
Piracy and Its Demystiﬁcation of Hollywood’s (Trans)Nationality
If the eternal problem of Hollywood, as Alan Williams claims, is to ﬁ nd new ﬁ lm expressions, copyright also becomes its eternal problem, as copyright supposedly prevents people’s free appropriation of cultural creativities. The biggest irony, of course, is that the current copyright discourse ends up protecting Hollywood but not protecting the sources it appropriates. Despite the extremely complex politics of transcultural appropriations in Kill Bill, Secretary Evans is able to resort to the totalizing discourse of copyright to forge the ﬁ lm as a national product. Seeing piracy as an economic crime, the American movie industry is determined to annihilate it as a production and distribution system outside the control of the U.S.-centric cinema order. We can go back to the pirated disc of Kill Bill that Evans held in his hand to discuss why movie piracy is so threatening to Hollywood. I also
picked up a pirated DVD version of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 in an obscure shopping mall in Hong Kong, which might reveal partly how this Hollywood (trans)national identity works. The visual quality of the DVD was quite satisfactory, and its prompt availability indicated that the version was taken from a screener copy, leaked out during the postproduction process.46 Despite the good visual and audio quality of the pirated disc that very much resembles ofﬁcial copies, one major element deﬁ ning the unique pirated-Hollywood-movie-watching experience is the ridiculous subtitles. While the pirates try to invest as little as they can in their businesses, they are the distributors of these pirated ﬁ lms and have to assume one major duty: dubbing or subtitling. The screener copies that serve as the master version usually do not provide subtitles yet. So the subtitles in the pirated copies are interesting on the grounds that, ﬁ rst, they are the most obvious components the pirates add on the product, and, second, they demonstrate how people outside the United States understand Hollywood ﬁ lms. Predictably, we run into translations of very low quality in pirated ﬁ lms. The results are sometimes incredible, with subtitles suggesting little of, or sometimes meanings opposite to, the real dialogues, thereby subverting the meanings of the story. One interesting mistranslation I found in my pirated Kill Bill DVD is in the scene of the kitchen of Vernita Green (Copperhead), when the two ﬁ ghting women are taking a break after Green’s daughter comes back home from school. The dialogue between the two is as follows (copied from the subtitles of the ofﬁcial DVD version):
Green: “You bitch, I need to know if you will gonna starting more shit around my baby girl.” The Bride: “You can relax for now, I’m not going to murder you in front of your child, ok?” Green: “I guess you are more rational than Bill led me to believe you are capable of.” The Bride: “It’s mercy, compassion, and forgiveness that I lack, not rationality.”
But the subtitles of the pirated version translate the dialogue as follows:
Green: “You bitch, never want to hurt my daughter.” The Bride: “Can we have a chat? I won’t hurt your child.” Green: “I can’t believe you have such a temper.” The Bride: “That’s my way, passion; not nationality.”47
This set of subtitles, as clearly shown, corresponds little to the real dialogues, and even suggests incorrect information, as The Bride originally says she does not have any passion, while the subtitles of the pirated ver-
Copying Kill Bill
This beautiful American lady has been too violent to comply with the stereotypical Chinese reading of the American people. . . . No matter how much Kill Bill incorporates features of other cinematic traditions to become a global product, the American tag is always in its global receptions.
sion suggest otherwise. These kinds of subtitling mistakes are everywhere in pirated movies, sometimes to the extent that the story line becomes incomprehensible. But the most astonishing mistake in this clip is the term “nationality” replacing “rationality.” The viewers do know that The Bride is an American, and the nationality she refers to would be her American identity. So she is really saying: “Yes, I am a rude person, in spite of my American nationality, which is supposed to make me otherwise.” Not grasping the dialogue, the interpreter has to rely on his or her prior cultural assumptions—the American people, at least seemingly, are not rude—to make sense of the scene. In the ﬁ lm, this beautiful American lady has been too violent to comply with the stereotypical Chinese reading of the American people, for which Hollywood is partly responsible. This subtitle translation demonstrates that no matter how much Kill Bill incorporates features of other cinematic traditions to become a global product, the American tag is always in its global receptions. There is another subtitle mistake in the pirated Kill Bill. In the ending scene of the “House of Blue Leaves” sequence, The Bride is engaged in the ﬁ nal ﬁ ght with O-Ren Ishii in the snowy backyard. Ishii hits The Bride in her back, and The Bride is seriously wounded and dying. Ishii says, “Silly Caucasian girl likes to play with samurai sword. You may not be able to ﬁ ght like a samurai; but you are going to die like a samurai.” But the subtitle says: “Like the sun-rising ﬂesh blood, your attack is just like the blazing sun of the summer; because that’s your style.” Unlike the earlier section, in this scene The Bride’s ethnicity/nationality is repressed instead of highlighted in the pirated version. The effect is very different: while the original line presents itself as a self-reﬂexive metacriticism of the ﬁ lm, or of Hollywood in general, the pirated version maintains a poetic general tone, highlighting not the individuality of The Bride but the general cultural feelings of samurai–kung fu cinema: the “your style” mentioned here can refer to the general style of samurai ﬁ lms. So that while the earlier set of translation mistakes highlights the concealed American identity of the ﬁ lm, this second set of mistakes evades its cultural identity. But these two sets of subtitling mistakes reveal a common logic of the cultural reception of Hollywood cinema in general—the extremely diversiﬁed local readings. Subtitling is in fact a critical component in the global circulation of ﬁ lms, speciﬁcally in the context of Hollywood being “properly” received globally. Notwithstanding the increasing weight of spectacles, the story line of a Hollywood ﬁ lm is still largely conveyed through dialogue, which is spoken most of the time in English. Proper and effective translation seems to be intrinsic to Hollywood’s global regime, which, however, is the only feature that piracy cannot directly copy. At times when the translator/viewer fails to grasp the exact dialogue, he or
However. while the translator misses the wittiness. both sells American ﬁ lms in other countries and buys the copyrights of foreign ﬁ lms for the U. There has been a Web petition appealing to Disney. of Tarantino. etc. Copying Kill Bill 149 . he or she substitutes for it a general cultural feeling of Japanese–Hong Kong swordplay. whose main task. Such diversiﬁed local readings are deﬁ nitely not allowed to be manifested in the ofﬁcial version. in the second case.S.48 This homogenizing effect is fabricated not only in Hollywood productions but also in international ﬁ lms whose distribution rights major Hollywood studios acquired. As the petition’s statement claims. Disney claims exclusive distribution rights for many Asian ﬁ lms not only in the United States but also in many parts of the world. Translations of the dialogues are standardized around the world. no matter how important such diversiﬁed local readings are for Hollywood ﬁ lms to access different markets. The “creative” subtitling of pirated movies reveals a nightmare of Hollywood’s global marketing. particularly in their irresponsible editing. among others. they are not allowed to be manifested in the ofﬁcial versions. While the Hollywood distributors seldom alter their American ﬁ lms to be screened in different parts of the world.50 A major rationale behind the alterations done to the original ﬁ lms to be shown internationally is the comprehension ability of the American audience. or (most often) simply because they want to make the movie shorter and/or change its pacing. the translator relies on his or her own imagination to reach the missing meanings of the American product. which owns Miramax and Dimension Films. In both cases. because it contains Chinese/Asian cultural and/or political references which North American viewers may not fully understand. market. “The movies often have footage removed by Disney because they consider it objectionable (violence. to cease altering Hong Kong ﬁ lms that they distribute. the translator adds in his or her readings of American femaleness. very much overseeing and engineering the entire global ﬁ lm ﬂow. they always alter the foreign ﬁ lms they purchase in order to cater to the American market. so that the world is watching the Hong Kong ﬁ lms in the versions supposedly most comfortable for American viewers. is to efface the diversiﬁed transnational receptions by forging the unity of the product. so that its major story line and dialogues are the same globally. and distributors would generally not allow regional markets to include their own taste and values to alter the original dialogues. Pirated ﬁ lms might be able to escape this total Hollywood control.she adds in his or her own interpretation to complete the meanings.”49 In fact. These subtitling mistakes reveal that diversiﬁed readings are always at work in the receptions of Hollywood ﬁ lms. In the ﬁ rst set of mistakes shown above. drug use.). thus deciding how these Asian ﬁ lms should be watched worldwide. or the speciﬁc auteur mark. Miramax. for example.
but only on the policy level. rules. we cannot consider piracy subversive at all. As I have mentioned elsewhere. 150 Laikwan Pang . 2. 28 October 2003. speech. and discipline. Movie piracy can be seen as the largest crime collectively committed by the people against the authority of both the state and the capital. But pirated ﬁ lms might be one of the few cultural products that demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the U. However. Ibid. forging a national identity composed of transnational inﬂuences. 4. 2001). which is the major guardian protecting Hollywood’s global hegemony. Notes An earlier version of this article was presented at “Hong Kong/Hollywood at the Borders: Alternative Perspectives. not surprisingly. 1. The copyright discourse. Andrew Higson argues that national cinema can be a real practice. The Global Media Atlas (London: British Film Institute.. I thank Gina Marchetti for her kind invitation to the conference. But this piracy by no means creates a self-empowerment of the people. Alternative Cinemas.” South China Morning Post. Piracy demonstrates a lack of authorship. 3. tame. resurfaces where copyright fails—pirated ﬁ lms reveal the underlying transnational components the Hollywood ﬁ lm tries to incorporate. American Chamber of Commerce. 5. Ngai-Ling Sum. see Mark Balnaves. Quoted in Chow Chung-yan. ﬁ lm is seen as just a commodity instead of a system of representation. Don Evans. “Informational Capitalism and U. and cover up.so that global viewers could resort to pirated Hong Kong ﬁ lms to bypass the mediation of U.51 Producing and watching pirated movies must not be romanticized as guerrilla warfare against media conglomerates. The ﬂ awed subtitles help us see through a national myth.S. Economic Hegemony: Resistance and Adaptations in East Asia. the myth that Hollywood ﬁ lms are global because they are national. James Donald.S. The complex politics of representations.S. and a lack of authority.-centric global media order. state funding. in the areas of censorship. Beijing. For some relevant data. 33–43.S. “China Will Take More Imports from U.” Critical Asian Studies 35 (2003): 378. the cultural meanings of movie piracy are precisely not its implications of (anti-)capitalist will and discipline but its dissemination and disorder. Hollywood constantly copies ideas and expressions of others as its own. distributors.” a conference at the University of Hong Kong in April 2004. and local economics. the pirating industry itself maintains many other forms of exploitations. 29 October 2003. and Stephanie Hemelryk Donald. chooses to be blind to this cultural trafﬁc and violence.
NJ: Princeton University Press. Paul Goldstein. See. was the trademark of Shaw Brothers production in the 1970s. Can China Make Movies. Ana M. Landes. Paul Willemen. Tokyo (Princeton.” boundary 2 25. 2000). 116. 106. ed. 6. Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams (London: Arnold. “Hollywood as Industry. “The Flow of Information in a Global Economy: The Role of the American Urban System in 1990. Copyrights and Copywrongs. Douglas Gomery.” in Cinema and Nation. 25. Wheeler. “Copyright. 206–19. 1. 19. Power. 82. 15.” in Reinventing Film Studies. Looks and Frictions: Essays in Cultural Studies and Film Theory (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 409. MA: Blackwell.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 84 (1994): 99. 18. Mette Hjort and Scott MacKenzie (New York: Routledge. 1994). John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson (London: Oxford University Press. 1996). Lawrence Ka Hee Wong. UK: Elgar. London. 17 December 2003. 22. 2001). and Chris Berry. Philip McCalman. William M. MA: MIT Press. 33. Do Movies Make China? Rethinking National Cinema and National Agency. The Rise of the Network Society (Maldan. telephone interview with the author. 13. 9. only one of Soﬁe’s arms is chopped away. 11. Saskia Sassen. and Richard Maxwell. 17. Nitin Govil. 8. 10. “Reconceptualizing National Cinema/s. Aida Hozic. or. Toby Miller. Ruth Towse (Cheltenham. Hollywood World: Space. NY: Cornell University Press. 132.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 14. See Frederick Wasser. 8. 23. “Facing up to Hollywood. “If China Can Say No. “The Raven and the Nanny: The Remake as Crosscul- Copying Kill Bill 151 .” in American Cinema and Hollywood: Critical Approaches.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 12 (1995): 423–37.See Andrew Higson. 2000).” Journal of International Economics 62 (2004): 111. 1993). 2003). Ronald L. Mitchelson and James O. Stephen Crofts. while both of her arms are lost in the ﬁ lm’s Asian version. Lawrence Lessig. Stone. no. ed. for example. 63–74. John McMurria. In the American version of Kill Bill: Vol. 3 (1998): 129–50. together with its famous jingle. The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (New York: Random House. This particular title card. William S. “The Limiting Imagination of National Cinema. 21. “Is Hollywood America? The Transnationalization of the American Film Industry. 3 (1993): 49–55. ed. 2001). 16. 20. Alan Williams. 14. Manuel Castells. 7. The Copyright Book: A Practical Guide (Cambridge. Global Hollywood (London: British Film Institute. 2001). 12. “Foreign Direct Investment and Intellectual Property Rights: Evidence from Hollywood’s Global Distribution of Movies and Videos. 63. Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity (New York: New York University Press. Siva Vaidhyanathan.” in A Handbook of Cultural Economics. and Fantasy in the American Economy (Ithaca. 2001). Vaidhyanathan. 14. Copyright’s Highway: From Gutenberg to the Celesial Jukebox (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1991). 2000). ed. 2003). López. 419–37. The Global City: New York. no.
Bruce Lee did not make any ﬁ lms with Shaw Brothers. 30. Steintrager.” news. 38. G. Peter Wollen. Darrell W. and Stephen Ching-kiu Chan (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. “Inoue at Shaws: The Wellspring of Youth. Meaghan Morris. M. “Hong Kong Film and the New Cinephilia. 31. as the new 1970s Hong Kong action ﬁ lms are in general very much indebted to the inﬂuence of Japanese cinema and television. “Kill Bill Interview: With Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman. Jennifer Forrest and Leonard R.” in The Shaw Screen: A Preliminary Study. Ricci (London: British Film Institute. 35. “Tarantino Defends Kill Bill Violence. which shows the unbreakable links between the two companies. ed. 25.” 32. he is the Golden Harvest prodigy. “Hollywood’s Transnational Appeal: Hegemony and Democratic Potential?” Journal of Popular Film and Television 26. 24.asp (accessed 1 May 2004). See. For the concept of dialogic. 34.viewlondon. 1999). Mikhail Bakhtin. Siu-leung Li.co.bbc. Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. for example. “Tinsel and Realism. Ibid. forthcoming). “Kill Bill Interview.” 33. “Kill Bill Interview. ed. Mehdi Semati and Patty J. 1 clearly state: “Produced with assistance of China Film Co-Production Corporation. 37. “An Unworthy Subject: Slaughter.uk/home_feat_int_killbill2. Matthew Turner. Culture.uk/1/hi/entertainment/ﬁ lm/3157596. 29. Nowell-Smith and S. although Golden Harvest’s boss Raymond Chow had been production manager of Shaw. 259. 152 Laikwan Pang . 36. 39. 26. Wasser.. Cannibalism. James A.” in Masculinities and Hong Kong Cinema. 40. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. ed. Scott Robert Olson. but the Hong Kong ﬁ lmmakers more likely pilfered it from the Japanese source. 4 (1999): 176–89.co. for example.” 28. Koos (Albany: State University of New York Press. 2002). Ibid. 134. 1998). Thanks to Darrell Davis for the advice. There have been many new Web sites set up and numerous dialogues surging on the Web tracing the intertextual cobweb of Kill Bill. David Desser. 1999).” in Hong Kong Connections: Transnational Imagination in Action Cinema. forthcoming). Global Media and the Competitive Advantage of Narrative Transparency (Mahwah.” www. 2003).tural Encounter. Laikwan Pang and Day Kit-mui Wong (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. 1981). see. 255–71. The ending titles of Kill Bill: Vol. Sotirin. demonstrating the speciﬁc kind of appeal of the ﬁ lm to the cinephilia Desser describes. ed. 151. These zoom-in shots are also frequently seen in spaghetti westerns. Michael Holquist. ed. 27. “Is Hollywood America?”. Turner. National Identity.” in Hollywood and Europe: Economics. McChesney. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Wong Ain-ling (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Film Archive. and Postcoloniality. trans. 1945–1995. Rich Media. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press.” in Dead Ringers: The Remake in Theory and Practice. ed. Robert W. 38. Davis and Emilie Yeh Yueh-yu. no.stm (accessed 1 May 2004). Turner.
and Critique 45 (2004): 19–32. The subtitles in the pirated DVD have both English and Chinese versions. Annette Kuhn (London: Verso. Disney sometimes purchases the distribution rights to certain ﬁ lms for parts of the world with no intention to show the ﬁ lms there. 44. Ibid. Laikwan Pang. “Mediating the Ethics of Technology: Hollywood and Movie Piracy.” boundary 2 31.” in Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema.. See Barbara Creed. Ibid. which sometimes are more promotional gimmicks than real considerations of cultural differences. 48. “Appeal to Miramax: Web Alliance for the Respectful Treatment of Asian Cinema. 51. Copying Kill Bill 153 .hellninjacommando. 44. “Piracy/Privacy: The Despair of Cinema and Collectivity in China. “Twice-Told Tales: Disavowal and the Rhetoric of the Remake. 45.htm (accessed 1 May 2004). the Asian version of Kill Bill is advertised as being more violent than the Western version..” Culture. This ﬁ nal scene of Kill Bill: Vol. see Laikwan Pang. no. 50. 53. Thomas Leitch. 46. Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment (Cambridge. to create a situation where there is less competition for Disney’s own productions. ed. MA: Harvard University Press. there are always exceptions. 42. 2000). Dead Ringers. Theory. 1990). “Alien and the Monstrous-Feminine.” alliance. Of course.41. See David Bordwell.net/faq. 3 (2004): 116. 43.” in Forrest and Koos. 53. 56. 49. 47. In fact. 128–41. 1 can be compared with that of Alien. For a more elaborate discussion about the technologies involved in the making of pirated VCDs or DVDs. on which the Chinese ones are based. and this quotation is the English one. for example.
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