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“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

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 []