By Simone Browne
In Dark Matters Simone Browne locates the stipulations of blackness as a key website during which surveillance is practiced, narrated, and resisted. She indicates how modern surveillance applied sciences and practices are expert by means of the lengthy heritage of racial formation and via the equipment of policing black existence lower than slavery, resembling branding, runaway slave notices, and lantern legislation.
Placing surveillance stories into dialog with the archive of transatlantic slavery and its afterlife, Browne attracts from black feminist thought, sociology, and cultural reviews to investigate texts as diversified because the equipment of surveilling blackness she discusses: from the layout of the eighteenth-century slave send Brooks, Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon, and The ebook of Negroes, to modern artwork, literature, biometrics, and post-9/11 airport defense practices.
Surveillance, Browne asserts, is either a discursive and fabric perform that reifies limitations, borders, and our bodies round racial strains, rather a lot in order that the surveillance of blackness has lengthy been, and remains to be, a social and political norm.
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Additional info for Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness
Seeing without Being Seen: The Plan of the Panopticon The Panopticon was conceived by Jeremy Bentham in 1786 and then amended and produced diagrammatically in 1791 with the assistance of English architect Willey Reveley. Bentham first came upon the idea through his brother Samuel, an engineer and naval architect who had envisioned the Panopticon as a model for workforce supervision. Pan, in Greek mythology, is the god of shepherds and flocks, the name derived from paien, meaning “pasture” and hinting at the root word of “pastoral,” and in this way the prefix pan- gestures to pastoral power.
Such exercises of power are not ones of pomp and pageantry, like a queen’s coronation, a state funeral, or a royal 34 chapter 1 F I G U R E 1 . 1 . The plan of the Panopticon (1791). Published in 1843 (originally 1791) in The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. IV, pp. 172–173. wedding, or of the overt kind of spectacular violence that often accompanies sovereign power. Instead, in this instance, power is covert and achieved by a play of light. If an act that is deemed criminal is an assault on the sovereign’s power, an exercise of sovereign power is that which seeks to make the sovereign’s surplus power plainly understood by all.
11 The inspection tower is divided into quarters, by partitions formed by two diameters to the circle, crossing each other at right angles. For these partitions the thinnest materials might serve; and they might be made removeable at pleasure; the height, sufficient to prevent the prisoners seeing over them from cells. 12 With Bentham’s plan for prison architecture, we can see how light, shadows, mirrors, and walls are all employed in ways that are meant to engender in many a prisoner a certain self-discipline under the threat of external observation, as was its intended function.