Call for Papers: Surveillance

I See You, Seeing Me, See You, Seeing Me, See You: Surveillance, Pornography, Porn Studies

Narrative film’s increasingly frequent emulation of CCTV and surveillance footage has engendered a dialogue about the intersections between cinema and surveillance, and their historical and theoretical antecedents. Most of the dialogue revolves around formal changes and the ontological and political ramifications of the overlap between film and technologically mediated surveillance. Despite this growing exchange, work on how explicit sexual representation and pornography have been impacted by the rise of the surveillance society, and the overlaps between various personal and expressive apparatuses and surveillance technologies, if not the absorption of the former by the latter, are few and far between.

In Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible,” ([1989]/1999) Linda Williams’ Foucauldian inspired analysis explored narrative heterosexual pornography as one of the latest sources of “knowledge-pleasure.” Accounts of pornography as forms of audio-visual knowledge-power have proliferated since Williams’ work, but recent technological, social, and cultural political changes require that we think about the impact technologically mediated surveillance has had on pornographic representation, consumption, and production. Knowledge-power is “surveillance,” but the proliferation and ubiquity of various digital, computer, and recording technologies focus and transform the meaning and deployment of knowledge-power and knowledge-pleasure.

In “Surveillance is Sexy,” (2009) David Bell explores “sites where surveillance technologies and an emerging ‘surveillance aesthetic’ are being repurposed through their overt sexualisation,” pondering “whether the mobilization of voyeurism and exhibitionism can be read as ways of resisting surveillance” (203). But where does the line between surveillance and voyeurism exist in a hyper-visual and visible world? Voyeurism is predicated on the notion of privacy, but what is the meaning of voyeurism in an increasingly transparent world where privacy is not only being taken away but willfully given up? At what point does the same piece of technology go from being a tool for “voyeurism” to a tool for “surveillance”? How do the simulation of surveillance and the foregrounding of recording and simulation technologies alter pornographic texts and experiences?

In The Simulation of Surveillance: Hypercontrol in Telematic Societies (1996), William Bogard lucidly argues that “to understand what the technology of surveillance is and the effects it aims for today, increasingly we have to appreciate the fantasy that drives it, and that, in a word, is simulation” (9), going on to point out that “surveillance without limits is exactly what simulation is all about. Simulation, that is, is a way of satisfying a wish to see everything, and to see it in advance…” (15). How are simulation, surveillance, and voyeurism consonant with each other and how are these synchronicity expressed and experience? Conversely, what discords, be they overt or underlying, does their convergence produce at a representational, legal, political, social, and theoretical level?

There is a tendency in surveillance studies to think of surveillance wholly within the realm of the technological, the social, and the geopolitical, as if these discursive spheres are not directly implicated in the observation, regulation, dissection, and control of the body through sex. There is, likewise, a tendency for researchers to be blind to how surveillance is both implicitly masculine and heterosexual, particularly when mediated through technology. Conversely, works on pornography tend to focus on discipline and ideology, rather than how these ideas are refashioned by technology, due in large part to the legacy and residue of the ‘porn wars’. This special issue is inspired by a proposed panel for the upcoming Society for Cinema and Media Studies annual conference (Seattle 2014), and seeks to bring together research from the growing fields of surveillance studies and porn studies into closer proximity. It seeks to fill in intellectual and scholarly gaps, and hopes to create a foundation upon which further research and engagement can be built.

Submission Details

Possible topics and avenues of inquiry include:

Sexualizing authority, disciplinarity, and the police state (cops, the military, prisons, “torture,” superhero porn parodies)
Amateur pornography and self-surveillance (XTube, Grindr/Blendr, Cam4)
Sexualized representations of dystopia and the overly controlled society (Descent [1999])
Surveillance and/or spying as thematic element or narrative device
The use/representation of surveillance cameras/technologies, or the configuration of personal recording technologies as tools for surveillance in narrative pornography. (Focus/Refocus [2009])
Politicized representation (“Gaytanamo,” “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” porn-mashups)
Policing national borders and racial fetishization (“My Israeli Platoon”)
The theoretical and formal overlaps between surveillance, voyeurism, and ethnography
Sexualizing the violation of privacy (revenge porn, webcam spying/recordings)
Biopower and policed bodies (barebacking, fetishizing and criminalizing HIV transmission, transgendered bodies)
Censorship, bypassing censorship, copyright issues
“Social sorting,” sexual taxonomies, and pornographic categorizations
Risk, data mining, and the thrill of “getting caught” on the internet
Ethnographic studies of particular websites, and online communities and cultures (4Chan, Reddit)
Regional analysis of surveillance supra-structures and pornography (China, Iran, Turkey)
Policing porn mobility (sexting, filming and watching porn in public, Google Glass porn)
Please send manuscripts (6000-8000 words) and direct all inquiries to Evangelos Tziallas at

Manuscripts due September 1st 2014

Editorial information

Guest Editor: Evangelos Tziallas, Concordia University ()