CFP: Theme Issue: Surveillance and Performance

Call for Papers: Surveillance and Performance

Theme Issue of Surveillance & Society

edited by Rachel Hall, Torin Monahan, and Joshua Reeves

submission deadline: October 15, 2015 for publication May 2016.

This special issue calls for critical scholarship on the cultural convergence of surveillance and performance in what we call monitored performances. We define monitored performances as embodied human processes that are tracked or verified by surveillance technologies and/or trained human monitors (or some combination thereof). In monitored performances, the fact of having been monitored alters the performance—its meaning, power, form, or value—and/ or places the performer at risk of regulation from within or without. Monitored performances, therefore, are symptomatic of a larger shift toward forms of power that thrive on mobility, enterprise, personal initiative, morality, and health. Take, for example, the performance reviews characteristic of American corporate culture and high-tech industries in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In these professional arenas, workers and technologies “perform . . . or else”—that is, they get fired, defunded, canceled, or discontinued.[1]

This is perhaps best illustrated by the ways in which contemporary security cultures compel citizens to demonstrate their innocence via performances of transparency. Citizens in airports, for example, find themselves performing patriotic transparency for the privilege of mobility. Each time we enter an airport, we are reminded that, just like our bosses, teachers, administrators, and parents, the state asks us to perform—or else. We can also see this shift toward “monitored performances” in popular culture, where there has been a recent turn away from the performance of authentic self-transformation first described by Mark Andrejevic.[2] “Authenticity” has now become an effect of subjects performing self-sameness across different contexts, which requires verification by pervasive surveillance technologies. Reality television, therefore, provides a venue for characters to perform an authentic self, which among other things promotes a sense of naturalness that reinforces cultural norms of whiteness, heterosexuality, and gender roles.[3]

Thinking across security and popular cultures of surveillance, then, can illustrate how performances of transparency and authenticity—performances which must be verified by surveillance technologies and/or trained human monitors—reinforce exclusionary legal, moral, and aesthetic codes and values. Such performances are repeatedly carried out in the name of “reality”—through appeals to objectivity and neutrality in security cultures shaped by the turn to preemptive warfare, and via claims to authenticity and the therapeutic value of remaining “true to one’s self” in popular cultures cultivated by reality T.V. and social networking. These trends become even more troubling as biology and physiology have become the new proving ground for technologically verifiable performances of innocence, fitness, and health. Now that surveillance technologies developed for the security, health, and fitness industries are reaching into the depths of our bodies—measuring heart rates, pupil dilation, and hormonal levels—we are beginning to see new trends in self-scrutiny and self-performance based on the capacities of these technologies to render our bodies more transparent to ourselves, our peers, and the state.

As the power of performance breeds new cultures of monitoring, verification, and accountability, performance provides an innovative lens for reimagining the ways in which surveillance functions in the contemporary moment. For this special issue we are particularly interested in work that acknowledges the asymmetries of power operative across different contexts of surveillance and performance. While some persons and populations are presumed capable of performing well (or at least up to standard) under the pressure of human or technological monitoring, others are presumed incompetent and, consequently, thought to require performance management from without. Within networked social arenas, some individuals enjoy the privilege of self-fashioning while others enjoy hours of time spent gaming and engaging in other types of play that occurs within monitored spaces. Everyday performances of self-improvement or self-sameness serve to validate some subjects as capable of improvement and/or authenticity, while narrow performance standards may discriminate against persons with a wide range of abilities. Yet these developments also give rise to significant space for experiments in resistance and rebellion.

Possible research areas might include (but are not limited to):
· Performances of citizenship under state surveillance in contexts of war, prevention, and disaster
· Prepped citizenship as a post-disciplinary performance of self-monitoring
· New perspectives on reality television
· Media technologies used to measure and monitor health and fitness
· Performance monitoring in schools and the workplace
· Performances of identity in popular cultures of surveillance
· Surveillance as a privileged site of self-fashioning
· Surveillance and the performance of disability and accommodation
· Use of surveillance technologies to perform monitoring functions once performed by medical professionals
· Resisting surveillance and the performance of illegible, low-risk, or threatening identities

This is not intended to be an exclusive listing of possibilities for this issue. Other possibilities are encouraged and can be discussed in advance with the guest-editors: Rachel Hall, Torin Monahan, and Joshua Reeves.

Submission Information:

We welcome full academic papers, opinion pieces, review pieces, poetry, artistic, and audio-visual submissions. Submissions will undergo a peer-review and revision process prior to publication. Submissions should be original work, neither previously published nor under consideration for publication elsewhere. All references to previous work by contributors should be masked in the text (e.g., “Author, 2015”).

All papers must be submitted through the online submission system no later than October 15, 2015, for publication in May 2016.

Please submit the papers in a MSWord-compatible format. For further submission guidelines, please see:

For all inquiries regarding the issue, please contact the editors.
[1] Jon McKenzie, Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance. New York: Routledge, 2001.
[2] Mark Andrejevic. Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched. New York, NY: Bowman & Littlefield, 2004.
[3] Rachel E. Dubrofsky and Emily D. Ryalls. “The Hunger Games: Performing Not-performing to Authenticate Femininity and Whiteness.” Critical Studies in Media Communication (2014): 1-15.