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Introduction to Surveillance and Policing

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

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Course Description

This course offers an anthropological perspective on policing and surveillance, moving beyond the headlines to explore what these topics mean as part of the fabric of everyday life and how they relate to power, neoliberalism, and the state.

Surveillance - whether through government monitoring of activists' social media accounts, public-private partnerships that give city police access to businesses' cameras, or companies watching for theft or dissent on a factory floor - is an increasingly integral part of social life across the world. Police have found new ways of using it, to track protests, find stolen cars, and monitor cell phones. This course provides an introduction to anthropological theories of surveillance, asking how we can move beyond simplistic debates on privacy vs. security to better understand the contemporary moment. It also introduces students to anthropological theories of policing, including theories of power, the state, race, and gender. Then it brings the two together to ask what they can tell us about modern life.

Students will read ethnographies of policing and surveillance, as well as news clips, blog posts, and other media. We will also screen documentaries. The course will be mainly structured around lectures and discussion. Students will also conduct a short research project on their own to learn about ethnographic methods. This project, which will serve as the final component of the class, will allow students to choose between interviewing or shadowing a law enforcement official (including campus police), or conducting media research on a topic of their choice related to the class. Students will then compose a brief research paper on their topic. They will also have the opportunity to give a short presentation on their project to help them practice presenting to peers.

This course will give students an overview of anthropological theories of policing and surveillance, both key topics in the field. It will also give them an entry point to larger theories such as power, neoliberalism, and the state. Students will gain experience conducting research, either ethnographic or with documents, and with composing research papers. They will acquire critical thinking, media analysis, reading, and writing skills that will benefit them wherever they go.

Students will understand and be able to talk and think critically about policing and surveillance. They will become familiar with basic anthropological theories of power and the state, and with how anthropologists write about and discuss theory and ethnography in general. Furthermore, they will advance their writing, research, and presentation skills.

No prerequisites necessary.

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