Tag: Surveillance

Premediations of Carcerality: Notes on Targeted Surveillance in Postcolonial India

This post explores the surveillance of letters across two time-periods in postcolonial India: mail letter interception immediately following India’s independence in 1947, and the contemporary use of letters as incriminating evidence against human rights activists in the ongoing Bhima Koregaon-16 (BK-16) case. The BK-16 is a group of activists including academics, journalists, lawyers, artists, poets, and dissenters who were imprisoned through a series of coordinated arrests by the police in different parts of India June 2018 onwards. They were arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), India’s anti-terror law that empowers the government to arrest citizens without any judicial process. Many of them are Dalits, representing India’s most marginalized caste. The BK-16 advocate for the human rights of India’s poorest and most oppressed communities, and overtly oppose the ideology of Hindutva, a Hindu supremacist nationalism espoused by the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) since 2014. (read more...)

Staring Contest

It’s 3 in the morning. I’m sitting at the end of the hallway of the boomerang-shaped intensive care unit (ICU) where I work, looking into the darkness beyond the unit’s only window. When I’m on the unit, the world outside the hospital transforms into something entirely remote—intangible, imperceptible, inconsequential. I force myself to imagine the scent of the fresh air I will inhale when I leave. It’s hard to remember that the world is pulsing with life outside these walls. The hospital’s resistance to darkness and quiet permeates the boundaries of reality itself. The fluorescent lights transform me into something other than a person, washing out the details that make me Sophie. In here, I can lose myself. In here, I am lost. (read more...)

Violence/Freedom: Gender and the Politics of Surveillance in Public Parks

Cities all over the world have witnessed a surge in the use of surveillance technologies, such as data-gathering phone apps, facial recognition software, and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras among others, to address crime and safety in public spaces. While it may appear that these technologies unequivocally create a safe environment regardless of social identities, unresolved incidents of violence against women and transgender bodies in public spaces suggest otherwise. Surveillance technologies intersect with predisposed social systems and ideas around morality and power in complex ways and may not always achieve the desired results. (read more...)

“Emeryville is Weird”

When I would tell people I worked in the small San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Emeryville, they would almost always say, “Emeryville is weird.” And then the conversation would usually stop there, they couldn’t put their finger on quite what they meant. But there’s a strangeness that hangs over the city that everyone feels, and no one can quite describe. Emeryville is mostly made up of tech campuses – the occasion for my fieldwork – and new condos, big box stores and biotech and software companies, along with some bars and restaurants for people on their breaks, and that’s nearly it, because the whole city is one square mile. Emeryville is busy during the day with professionals, who never stay more than a drink or two after work, and the place is mostly cleared out by night. It has a too new kind of feeling where all the buildings (read more...)

Envisioning a Different Park: Border Walls, Transborder Ties, and Militarized Ecologies

When news broke out on January 20th, 2021, that newly inaugurated President Joe Biden signed a proclamation ending Trump’s Executive Order 9844, which declared a national emergency at the U.S. southern border, funneling emergency funds to construct his infamous border wall, immigrant rights activists and leaders rejoiced. Biden’s proclamation explicitly called to “pause work on each construction project on the southern border wall.” Yet, the next day, construction crews replacing the existing 18-foot border fence with the 30-foot rusted steel border wall between San Diego and Tijuana carried on with business as usual. (read more...)

Indian Food Delivery Networks During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the past decade, the concept of the gig economy has gained momentum in academic discourse. Often linked to temporary employment created by multinational technological corporations through digital platforms, the gig economy has transformed conventional discourses of labor and economy. It brought to the fore the increased precarity in employment, transformed modes of mobilization, fueled workers’ unionizing efforts, and produced new vocabularies (Vallas and Schor 2020; Khreiche 2018). In India’s dynamic economic landscape, these changes are particularly visible. One can argue that the use of digital technologies has reached a new peak in the ongoing global pandemic–as we have observed the changes in techno-bio-political regimes associated with COVID-19-tracking and increased reliance on mobile applications (Battin 2020; Segata 2020). In this light, focusing on India in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic becomes especially useful considering the narratives of hegemony and precarity often associated with gig labor within this geographical context, (read more...)

Quantum Arms Race

A lot has been said and written about the impending unleashing of quantum technology in the world. Whereas many sing paeans to the potential of the technology to better the world, many a soothsayers forebode a much grimmer reality. While the future might sound alien, it evokes, frankly, familiar feelings in the minds of those who imagine. We’ve all witnessed the world transform in front of our eyes in the past century, from this tech revolution to that, from nuclear promises of infinite power to laser-sharp visions of cameras better than the human eye; such is the oxymoronic, remarkable mundaneness of technological progress that the more the world changes, the more it remains the same. One might even be forgiven for feeling a sense of security at the thought of a world run by quantum technology. After all, the great leaps forward have all served us well and promise more. (read more...)

STS and Electoral Politics

In the context of the upcoming US presidential election and increasing evidence of the importance of voting infrastructure, this week we revisit past posts that highlight the key role STS must play in these conversations. (read more...)