Unsettling aerial surveillance: surveillance studies after standing rock

J. D. Schnepf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
111 Downloads (Pure)


Aerial surveillance by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones played a prominent role in the “water is life” actions undertaken by “water protectors” to defend the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation’s water source from the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). By considering how the water protectors deployed drones in their actions, this article shows that decolonizing surveillance studies in the settler-colonial context must follow the work of Indigenous studies scholars in accounting for existing colonial relations. To that end, this article argues that while aerial sousveillance measures constitute a subversive tactical response to organized surveillance by law enforcement and private security firms, the technologies and visualizations on which protest drones depend are imbricated in the workings of capital and empire.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-751
Number of pages5
JournalSurveillance and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 10-Dec-2019
Externally publishedYes


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