“I am conducting surveillance even as I research it”: Interview with Bryce Newell

by Catherine Whittaker and Alena Zelenskaia

Lecture by Bryce Newell „Radical Visibility. The Information Politics of Police on Camera“ via Zoom at the Collaborative Research Centre 1369 “Cultures of Vigilance”, LMU Munich, 17.06.2020.

In June 2020, the “Cultures of Vigilance”-Team was honored to welcome Dr. Bryce Newell as a guest lecturer at the Collaborative Research Centre 1369. At a time when Black Lives Matter protests were making waves worldwide, his insights on racism, police, surveillance and sousveillance (counter-surveillance from below) could not have been more timely.

Assistant Professor Bryce Newell teaches at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon (USA). Beyond researching issues of privacy and surveillance, technologies, information law, and policy, Newell is also a documentary filmmaker, who successfully exhibited his work at museums and campuses in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands. In his workshop, “Radical Visibility: The information Politics of Police on Camera,” we were happy to see some parts of the feature-length documentary “The Tinaja Trail” and learn about US-Mexican border control techniques, migrant deaths and responses to them. Postdoctoral researcher Catherine Whittaker and PhD Student Alena Zelenskaia, who both study migration and control over it from an anthropological perspective, went deeper into the topic and interviewed Newell on his academic career path and ethnographic field.

Poster of Bryce Newell’s film „The Tinaja Trail“ (2014). A trailer can be found here.

CW/AZ: What motivated you to study police surveillance, privacy and migrant experiences? How did your scientific interest in these and adjacent topics develop?

BN: My motivation to study migrant experiences and border enforcement began in early 2010, when I became aware of how many people were dying along the US-Mexico border while trying to cross clandestinely into the United States. This was a shocking revelation to me. Because of my background in documentary and video production, I wanted to produce something that would have the capacity to inform others. So, I started to produce a film on this topic, travelling to the border multiple times over the next few years. In 2014, as the film was being finished, I decided to continue working along the border with the migrants and migrant-aid communities I had gotten to know – this time by conducting qualitative social research that would help build my research agenda as a budding academic researcher. Those efforts initiated my ongoing collaboration with Ricardo Gomez and others (including Sara Vannini, Veronica Guajardo).

“I am conducting surveillance even as I research it”: Interview with Bryce Newell weiterlesen

When Did You Realize You’re White?

by Catherine Whittaker

with contributions from Christiane Brenner, Eveline Dürr, Hannah Michel and Brendan Röder

Black Lives Matter protests in San Diego, California, 8/8/2020. Photo: Catherine Whittaker.

When was the first time you became aware of your Whiteness?

In light of the recent Black Lives Matter protests around the globe, the conversation about racial privilege and the need to become “woke” has gained new urgency. To what extent are we aware of our Whiteness and how does that shape our actions?

At the interdisciplinary “Subjectivation Working Group” of the conspicuously White Collaborative Research Center “Cultures of Vigilance” at the LMU Munich, my colleagues and I routinely reflect on why people become vigilant and in what ways that vigilance comes to shape who they are. Vigilance often involves self-observation, such as when Christian individuals seek to avoid falling into sin, or when Black Americans anticipate how they will be perceived by White Americans.

This led us to some self-reflection of our own. How vigilant are we ourselves with respect to our “White privilege”?  What is it and how do people become aware of theirs?

When Did You Realize You’re White? weiterlesen

Vigilanza / vigilare. Der Vigilanzbegriff im Italienischen

von Maddalena Fingerle und Florian Mehltretter

Courtesy of wordart.com

Dieser erste Eintrag der Blog-Serie „Vigipedia“ beschäftigt sich mit dem italienischen Wortfeld vigilanza / vigilare und ist ein Vorgeschmack auf einen längeren Artikel der beiden Autoren, welcher in den „Mitteilungen“ des Sonderforschungsbereichs „Vigilanzkulturen“ erscheinen wird. Zugleich will der Eintrag dazu anregen, Ausdrücke und Fundstellen aus anderen Sprachen und Kulturen zu diesem oder einem verwandten Begriffsfeld (Wachsamkeit, Überwachung, Aufmerksamkeit etc.) zum Blog beizusteuern.

1. Bedeutungsspektrum (lexikographisch)

Carlo Emilio Gaddas unvollendeter Roman Die Erkenntnis des Schmerzes (La cognizione del dolore, 1963) spielt in einem imaginären Andenstaat namens Maradagál, einem verzerrten Abbild des faschistischen Italiens, und hier treibt eine geheimnisvolle Wach- und Schließgesellschaft namens Nistituos provinciales de vigilancia para la noche ihr Wesen. Diese Einbettung spanischer Elemente in eine italienische literarische Welt hat ihre Entsprechung in der Wortgeschichte von vigilanza im Italienischen selbst.

In der Tat haben die Ausdrücke vigilanza/vigilante/vigilare/vigile im Italienischen ein breites Bedeutungsspektrum, das sich sprachhistorisch in zwei Zweige einordnen lässt: eine ältere Entwicklungslinie von lateinisch vigilantia/vigilare/vigilans und eine jüngere von spanisch vigilancia/vigilante (welches natürlich seinerseits wieder auf das Lateinische zurückgeht)1.

Italienische Wörterbücher in der Bibliothek der Accademia della Crusca, Quelle: Wikimedia Commons.
Vigilanza / vigilare. Der Vigilanzbegriff im Italienischen weiterlesen
  1. Vgl. AAVV: Vocabolario della lingua italiana (Treccani). Rom 1994, IV, 1179 []

“Cholera is portrayed as the disease of the dirty, the colonized, the poor”: Interview with Aureo Lustosa Guerios

Interview by Loredana Filip

An illustration representing cholera personified. Wikimedia Commons.

Aureo Lustosa Guerios is a PhD student at the University of Padua interested in Comparative Literature, Cultural History and Medical Humanities. His research surveys the literary representations of epidemic cholera in the 19th and early 20th centuries. He writes and presents the podcast “Literatura Viral” in Portuguese in which he discusses how epidemics influence history and art. He holds a master’s degree in “European Literary Cultures” and wrote his thesis on the Divine Comedy. While pursuing his BA in Brazil, Aureo’s research focused on literary modernism (Joyce, Baudelaire, Mann) and the translation of children’s literature (Dr. Seuss).

Aureo Lustosa Guerios

LF: Your PhD dissertation deals with literary representations of epidemic cholera in the 19th and 20th centuries. Can you tell us more about it?

ALG: My dissertation is part of a collective effort to address a gap in the research on this disease. Cholera was the great pandemic disease of the 19th century. It started to spread around 1817 and it circumnavigated the globe four or five times before the 1920s. From this point onwards, some believed that cholera had been eradicated. However, a new wave hit in 1961, which has never been declared over. Today we are still living in the 59th year of the 7th Cholera Pandemic. Cholera has been a scourge for so many and for so long, and it has definitely left its mark on literature and art. But this has often been neglected. Only in the last decades have literary scholars started to pay closer attention to representations of disease. However, most of them focus on tuberculosis and syphilis, so other diseases such as cholera, malaria, typhus or even the Spanish Flu have been ignored. 

“Cholera is portrayed as the disease of the dirty, the colonized, the poor”: Interview with Aureo Lustosa Guerios weiterlesen

The French “Corporate Duty of Vigilance” Law: An Example of Bottom-up Vigilance?

by Eda Güçlü

Rana Plaza commercial building one year before the collapse (2012), Photo: Sean Robertson, Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which housed shops, a bank, and garment factories, collapsed on the 24th of April 2013. The upper four floors were illegally constructed on an already weak structure that had been initially designed for shops and offices. The garment factories, which employed around 5000 workers, produced clothes for major international brands including Gucci, Prada, Benetton, Versace, Mango, and others. The heavy weight of the machinery and the vibration it generated in these factories overwhelmed the strength of the columns, and it resulted in what trade unions called “mass industrial homicide.” The death toll was 1134, and the number of the injured was around 2500 people. Such an extent of loss and suffering captured international attention on the lack of safety measures in the garment industry in Bangladesh. It also underlined the concerns for the risks created by the complex and unregulated outsourcing models across global supply chains, which exploit cheap labor and insufficient health and environmental regulations in less developed countries.

Side view of the collapsed Rana Plaza building (2013), Photo: Sharat Chowdhury, Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Rana Plaza collapse gave a stimulus and wider legitimacy to political campaigns and global movements that had started earlier advocating an international legal framework to put an end to corporate impunity and make parent companies responsible for the consequences of their subcontractors’ operations along their supply chains. The campaign of several civil society organizations which had begun before the presidential elections in 2012 in France was one of these efforts.1 The French campaign was organized by a coalition of NGOs including Amnesty International France, Sherpa, CCFD-Terre Solidaire, ActionAid France-Peuples Solidaire, Amis de la Terre France, and Collectif Éthique sur l’étiquette. Their struggle came to fruition in 2017 when the French Parliament finally promulgated the “Corporate Duty of Vigilance” law (loi relative au devoir de vigilance des sociétés mères et des entreprises donneuses d’ordre). Olivier Petitjean, a journalist who wrote a book on the law, considers it “atypical legislation“, because it was initiated by a coalition of NGOs with the support of a group of deputies whose support they secured before the elections. In that sense, it is an example of “citizens’ initiative legislation.”

The French “Corporate Duty of Vigilance” Law: An Example of Bottom-up Vigilance? weiterlesen
  1. For other examples of similar campaigns, see https://lieferkettengesetz.de/; No Courage to Commit: Comments of German non-governmental organisations on the German government’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (Revised version, 6 February 2017): https://germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/publication/17767.pdf; Huib Huyse, Boris Verbrugge, Belgium and the Sustainable Supply Chain Agenda: Leader or Laggard? Review of Human Rights Due Diligence Initiatives in the Netherlands, Germany, France, and EU, and Implications for Policy Work by Belgian Civil Society (KU Leuven HIVA Research Institute for Work and Society, 2018): https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/report-assesses-compares-human-rights-due-diligence-initiatives-in-3-eu-countries-with-belgium%E2%80%99s-agenda-for-sustainable-supply-chains. []

La peste de Marseille et le coronavirus (1720–2020) : deux épidémies, deux expériences

par Sébastien Demichel

(Eine deutsche, leicht abgewandelte Version des Artikels findet sich hier oder hier als Podcast)

Tableau de Michel Serre (1658-1733) représentant l’hôtel de ville de Marseille pendant la peste de 1720, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Depuis le début de l’année 2020, l’apparition d’un nouveau virus met à mal la quasi-totalité du globe et l’intérêt pour l’histoire des épidémies et des pandémies est à son comble. Alors que la lutte sanitaire contre le coronavirus bat son plein, la recherche scientifique et universitaire travaille d’arrache-pied sur les moyens d’endiguer le fléau. À différents niveaux de la société, le virus entraîne une vigilance accrue, marquée par des normes sanitaires très strictes. Une pandémie, terme dont l’étymologie grecque signifie « tout le peuple » (πᾶν = tout, δῆμος = le peuple) comporte effectivement une dimension transnationale. Dans les 100 dernières années, la grippe espagnole de 1918, le SIDA ou encore le COVID-19 en constituent des exemples marquants.

Dans ce propos, j’aimerais m’intéresser de manière plus particulière à la peste – une des maladies mortelles les plus répandues dans le monde jusqu’au xxe siècle. Dans cette optique, je prendrai l’exemple de la peste de Provence de 1720–1722, épidémie durant laquelle les autorités ont décrété certaines mesures qui ont une forte résonance actuelle. Il s’agira donc de faire le point sur l’état de la recherche sur la peste de Provence, d’en étudier les origines et dans un dernier temps de mettre en exergue certains parallèles et certaines différences avec la pandémie de Coronavirus. La vigilance face à un fléau épidémique a en effet traversé les siècles.

La peste de Marseille et le coronavirus (1720–2020) : deux épidémies, deux expériences weiterlesen

Announcement: Working Paper 02/2020 „‚A sanitary war‘. Corona, medical power(lessness) and responsibilization“

by Mariacarla Gadebusch Bondio and Ylva Söderfeldt

Cover Working Paper SFB 1369 ‚Vigilanzkulturen‘ 02/2020 (detail), Design: Sofarobotnik

In this working paper the authors offer a review of the first medical and political reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Addresses to their nations made by political representatives of four European countries (Sweden, Italy, France and Germany), all of which were affected by the novel coronavirus at different times and with different severity levels, form the foundation of our study. How these addresses serve to legitimize restrictions to freedom and appeal to the sense of responsibility of citizens, reveals contrasting ways of controlling bodies in the interest of preserving health. Crucially, public health concerns are at the center of both types of pandemic control. Here, past promises of an all-powerful medical field, equipped to overcome any ailment and to reshape human life, clash with a reality in which the medical world in turn is reliant upon political and social dynamics.
To the working paper

Sport et vigilance : comment je suis devenu responsable covid-19 dans mon club de tennis de table

par Sébastien Demichel

(Deutsche Version siehe unten)

Photographe : Samuel Conor, source: Unsplash

Après deux mois d’arrêt complet, le 11 mai 2020 est le jour de la reprise pour les pongistes helvétiques. Ceux-ci peuvent à nouveau pratiquer leur sport préféré, mais à quel prix ! 

En tant qu’historien, je devais être actuellement à Marseille pour travailler dans les archives sur des sources traitant de la lutte contre la peste au 18e siècle. Privé de voyage, je suis resté en Suisse et je me consacre aux conséquences d’une autre épidémie, le Covid-19. Avec mon club de tennis de table de Fribourg, je suis occupé à mettre en œuvre la pratique de mon sport dans le respect des mesures sanitaires. Situation inédite qui demande une vigilance accrue ! 

Certes, le tennis de table n’est pas un sport de contact (si l’on excepte la poignée de main avant et après le match). Pourtant il n’échappe pas aux mesures sanitaires, loin s’en faut !

En accord avec l’Office fédéral du sport et l’Office fédéral de la santé publique, Swiss Table Tennis (STT) a ainsi développé un concept de protection Covid-19 qui doit permettre aux clubs, joueurs et entraîneurs d’organiser la reprise de l’entraînement.  Sport et vigilance : comment je suis devenu responsable covid-19 dans mon club de tennis de table weiterlesen

Hypervigilance: Stayin’ Alert and the visual tropes of the war on Corona

by Christopher Balme

Image: Boris Johnson answers questions on UK’s plan to lift lockdown. 11.5.2020. Screenshot.

We are told to “stay alert”, but if alertness could conquer this virus, we would all be fine. The anxiety many of us are experiencing is actually hypervigilance. Alertness implies we can create an antiviral force-field around us. Well, it’s cheaper than personal protective equipment, testing and all that faff. (Suzanne Moore, The Guardian, 11 May, 2020)

Few public announcements by Boris Johnson, the UK’s notoriously publicity-hungry PM, have earned such mixed if not downright dismissive reactions as his call to ‘Stay Alert’ announced on 11 May, 2020. Conceived as a liberalising measure from the restrictive ‘Stay at Home’ policy, Johnson’s appeal to his fellow citizens’ innate propensity for vigilance went down like a cold kipper on Brighton beach.

But why such a lukewarm reception, when everybody should have been relieved that they could finally get out and play a round of golf or replenish their supplies of compost at the garden centre?

Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore pointed predictably to the implicit class distinctions contained in Johnson’s examples but more importantly, and almost en passant, she grasped the culture of vigilance at stake here. Hypervigilance: Stayin’ Alert and the visual tropes of the war on Corona weiterlesen

„Der liebe Bürger“ oder Warum so viele Menschen Corona-Verstöße melden – Teil 2

von Felix Grollmann

Photograph: Marco Verch, Bildquelle

(hier geht es zu Teil 1 des Artikels)

Während der Staat und seine Amtsträger sich beim aktiven Einwerben von Anzeigen und Meldungen mit finanziellen Anreizen also schwertun, werden einmal eingegangene Mitteilungen ohne große Ausnahmen als Basis eines Ermittlungsverfahrens akzeptiert. Weder ein verwerfliches Motiv des Anzeigenden noch die Anonymität der Mitteilung einer Straftat stehen einem anschließenden Untersuchungsverfahren zwingend entgegen.

Das ist das Ergebnis einer jahrhundertelangen Entwicklung, welche die Strafanzeige zugänglicher machte und für Deutschland ihren Abschluss Ende der 1870er Jahre infolge der Justizreformen im Kaiserreich fand: Die Anonymität wurde mehrheitlich von der Gesetzgebungskommission, welche für die 1879 in Kraft getretene Reichsstrafprozessordnung zuständig war, als unschädlich erachtet und im Gesetzestext nicht zur Grundlage eines Verwertungsverbots gemacht.1 Den Schlussstein für die erleichterte Nutzung bildete schließlich eines der ersten Urteile des ab 1879 tätigen Reichsgerichts. Demnach könne jedermann eine Anzeige erstatten, „selbst wenn dieses aus Motiven geschieht, welche vom sittlichen Standpuncte keine Billigung verdienen“.2 Damit war die Strafanzeige seitens des Staates in größtmöglichem Umfang ermöglicht worden. Dies kompensiert in gewissem Maße die Tatsache, dass die Motivierung von Anzeigen mittels finanzieller Anreize heutzutage politisch kaum noch durchzusetzen ist. „Der liebe Bürger“ oder Warum so viele Menschen Corona-Verstöße melden – Teil 2 weiterlesen

  1. Dazu Arnd Koch, Denunciatio. Zur Geschichte eines strafprozessualen Rechtsinstituts (Juristische Abhandlungen 48), Frankfurt a. M. 2006, S. 254f. []
  2. Reichsgericht in Strafsachen, Band 1, S. 80 (hier S. 81). []

„Der liebe Bürger“ oder Warum so viele Menschen Corona-Verstöße melden – Teil 1

von Felix Grollmann

Photo von Fusion Medical Animation auf Unsplash

Gegenwärtig braucht der deutsche Staat bei der Durchsetzung der Corona-Schutzmaßnahmen die Mitwirkung von Bürgern und Bürgerinnen dringender denn je. Dies klingt zunächst kontraintuitiv, wird doch in der Öffentlichkeit momentan eher über Vorzüge und Nachteile des (zurückgekehrten) „starken Staats“ debattiert.1 Den Wert dauerhaft vigilanter, sich gegenseitig beobachtender Bürger für den Gesetzesvollzug hat indes Baden-Württembergs Innenminister Thomas Strobl (CDU) in einem Video-Interview mit der Bild, der auflagenstärkten deutschen Tageszeitung, in ungewöhnlich direkter Weise adressiert:

„Ich finde es in Ordnung, wenn die Menschen wachsam sind. Es geht darum, die Ausbreitung der Seuche zu verlangsamen und Menschen zu schützen. Und am Ende des Tages geht es ganz konkret darum, Menschenleben zu retten. Wenn es Uneinsichtige gibt, die vorsätzlich oder fahrlässig dagegen verstoßen, müssen unsere Sicherheitsbehörden das wissen, damit sie das unterbinden können. Und deswegen sind aufmerksame Bürger mir eigentlich auch ganz liebe Bürger.“2 „Der liebe Bürger“ oder Warum so viele Menschen Corona-Verstöße melden – Teil 1 weiterlesen

  1. Etwa: Peter von Becker, Ein starker Staat braucht eine starke Zivilgesellschaft, 07.04.2020, https://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/die-corona-krise-ist-kein-krieg-ein-starker-staat-braucht-eine-starke-zivilgesellschaft/25719410.html (abgerufen: 05.05.2020); Werner Kolhoff, In der Corona-Krise ist der starke Staat gefordert, 08.03.2020, https://www.wz.de/meinung/kommentar-in-der-corona-krise-ist-der-starke-staat-gefordert_aid-49436275 (abgerufen: 05.05.2020). Bezeichnenderweise stand der „starke Staat“ zuletzt so stark bei der Bankenkrise von 2007 im Fokus, als es staatlicherseits zu massiven Eingriffen in die Wirtschaft kam. []
  2. https://www.bild.de/video/clip/news-inland/ba-wue-innenminister-strobl-ein-anruf-bei-der-polizei-schadet-nie-69716468-69719010.bild.html []

Self-Help in Times of Corona: Vigilance vs. Positive Thinking?

by Loredana Filip

Leaflet in shopwindow, 23.04.2020, Munich. Photograph: Alina Enzensberger

A battle between fear and hope, anxiety and positivity, panic and opportunity. This is how the coronavirus crisis is sometimes depicted. Not only as a battle against a virus, but also an inner struggle between our feelings of hope and anxiety. This dichotomous perspective may be better understood if we consider the culture of self-help, which is bent on overcoming negative feelings. Finding routines, creating to-do lists, acquiring new skills or habits and even starting your own ‘side hustle,’ self-help explodes online. Motivational speakers give tips and advice on how to deal with stress and anxiety. From quarantine workout plans to meditation, building mental resilience or finding opportunities to grow, calls for personal development abound online. A few critical voices also begin to emerge: see for example the call to “stop romanticizing lockdown”.

But does positivity hinder the vigilance of citizens who are expected to be more careful than ever? Self-Help in Times of Corona: Vigilance vs. Positive Thinking? weiterlesen

Vigilanzkulturen

Der Blog des Sonderforschungsbereichs 1369 „Vigilanzkulturen“ der LMU München soll den Mitgliedern und externen AutorInnen Gelegenheit geben, über aktuelle Forschungen zu Vigilanz Beiträge zu veröffentlichen. „Vigilanz“ steht für die Verknüpfung persönlicher Aufmerksamkeit mit überindividuellen Zielen. Dies geschieht alltäglich im Bereich der Sicherheit, des Rechts, des Gesundheitswesens oder auch der Religionen: überall dort, wo wir auf etwas achten, gegebenenfalls auch etwas tun oder melden sollen. Der SFB 1369 untersucht die Geschichte, kulturellen Varianten und aktuellen Formen dieses Phänomens.

The blog of the Collaborative Research Center 1369 „Cultures of Vigilance“ at LMU Munich is supposed to give researchers and external authors the opportunity to publish blog posts about their current research on vigilance and related topics. The CRC 1369 “Cultures of Vigilance” aims to research the historical and cultural foundations of vigilance. Within this context, “vigilance” refers to a linking of individual attentiveness to goals set by others. This linking occurs on an everyday basis, be it in the realm of public security, religion, law, or the healthcare sector; wherever and whenever we are asked to pay attention to something specific and, if necessary, also to react to, or report anything we have noticed in a specific way. The CRC’s goal is to analyse the history, cultural variations and current forms of this phenomenon.

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