On the Aerial Gaze: Surveillance and Counter-Surveillance

    Activiteit: Academic presentationAcademic


    Mon, October 11, 2:00 to 3:45pm, (Eastern Standard Time), Virtual 5

    Session Submission Type: Experimental Session

    In this experimental, questions-driven session, “On the Aerial Gaze: Surveillance and Counter-Surveillance,” we examine the aerial perspective as a mode of imperial and colonial power through figures such as the drone, geospatial technologies, and aerial photography. We draw on scholarship from visual culture, critical surveillance studies, communication and media studies, geography, and transnational American studies to query the relationship between the aerial perspective, imperialism, and insurgency. Inspired by emerging scholarship on the aerial perspective, we intend to stoke this line of inquiry to consider how creative practices of insurgency and revolt respond to aerial dominance.

    We locate the aerial perspective as a technology of territoriality through which imperial, colonial, and counterinsurgent forces establish, represent, and reify their power. We simultaneously consider how (if at all) the aerial perspective is taken up to challenge those forces. We ask: How does the aerial perspective shape spatialities of conquest and revolt? What conditions of possibility are foreclosed by the aerial perspective? How is the aerial gaze experienced affectively on-the-ground in daily life? What possibilities of creative worldmaking emerge when viewed from above?

    Our panelists (Madiha Tahir, Patricia Stuelke, JD Schnepf, and Elspeth Iralu)
    and chair (Ronak Kapadia) write about U.S. imperialism, visual culture, the aesthetics of war, drone surveillance, Indigenous geographies, and militarism and domesticity. To that end, our questions-driven discussion centers on nodes of common interest, particularly around drones, affective experiences of imperialism, and (counter)insurgent aesthetics. Our conversation is not limited to a particular geographic area. Rather, we are interested in the intersecting, transnational, and borderless nature of U.S. imperial practices of aerial surveillance and insurgent practices of counter-surveillance . Our conversation aims to provoke further questions, offering the following as jumping-off points:

    Inderpal Grewal has identified the security mom and the security feminist as examples of exceptional citizens that uphold the US national security regime. How have other forms of care labor, affective labor, and domestic labor been conscripted on behalf of the US military-surveillance state?

    How have drones been reframed as tools of humanitarianism? What are the gendered implications of this development?

    Lisa Parks argues that atmospheric policing can “modulate moods, reorder lifeworlds, and alter everyday space.” How do these effects manifest in the domestic sphere?

    What is the impact of aerial surveillance on the material and affective dimensions of domestic life for those who live under the shadow of the drone (in Waziristan, US-Mexico border, etc)?

    How and to what ends has the aerial gaze become an aesthetic tool for environmental writers and activists? How might the aerial gaze assist environmental humanities in narrating climate change and visualizing environmental disaster? Are there risks or trade-offs to this approach?

    What kinds of aesthetics and tactics do artists and activists use to challenge aerial surveillance? Can drone aesthetics be effectively repurposed, or is it better to bring the drone down?
    Gehouden opAmerican Studies Association, United States
    Mate van erkenningInternational