Informatic Afterlives and Database Erotics: The Performativity of Surveillance in Economies of Fidelity
Jarvis, Sean Christopher
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Informatic Aterlives and Database Erotics explores the tension between coercive documentation and violent erasure in surveillance studies by centralizing the role of the body in the political and cultural transformations that have accompanied the rise of mass surveillance. Through an interdisciplinary exploration of queer historiography, legal history, and affect theory, I use the surveilled body as a central text through which to explain the rise of a mode of governance in which mass surveillance is preferable not just to the state, but to many of the populations it governs. Using a queer and feminist lens, I argue that, as mass surveillance has permeated the interactions of both citizens and noncitizens with state institutions, surveillance has gained a performative function, in addition to the inquisitive role it has historically served. This performativity means that surveillance isn’t just a means of acquiring information on behalf of state institutions but a mechanism of reification for the power of those institutions to ask invasive questions and collect personal data. The performativity of surveillance has produced a transformation of citizenship and governance that has cleaved wide gulfs between proper and improper ways of providing data to state institutions and private corporations, a cultural shift with which both scholars and activists must contend.