Building a Feminist Internet: Feminist Perspectives on Surveillance

  • 1st July 2018

I recently had the great pleasure to speak at an inspiring conference organised by the Gunda Werner Institute at Heinrich Böll Foundation: Building a Feminist Internet, Feminist Internet Policy in Practice. That’s my own (partial) translation of the original title, ‘Building a Feminist Internet: Feministische Netzpolitik in der Praxis [German].

Whether in academia, in activism against surveillance, in politics, or in the media – contemporary debate around surveillance often takes place without much attention to feminist analyses. Feminist theory, methods, and practice, however, have a lot to contribute to a more holistic understanding of various modes of surveillance and how they affect different groups of people differently. What are the theoretical entry points for a feminist analysis of surveillance? What work is currently being done on the topic? How can we think surveillance intersectionally and why does that matter? What does a feminist response to surveillance look like? These are some of the overarching questions I organised this input lecture around.

On pupular request, I’m making available the full bibliography (download here) for anyone who’d like to read up on the various entry points to feminist surveillance studies. A few we discussed were situated knowledges, anti-discrimination, the rather complicated relationship between feminism and privacy, feminist reflexivity, intersectionality, along with critical race and historical perspectives that ask us to also think surveillance on a smaller scale (not just in terms of big data) and keep the continuities between past and present modes of surveillance at the forefront of the discussion.

Some others that we didn’t discuss but that nevertheless present productive paths for thinking about surveillance through a feminist lense might be feminist media and cultural studies, affect theory or other feminist neo-materialist approaches. Feminist work around the Deleuzian notion of assemblage, for instance, almost seamlessly finds its counterpart in the Haggerty and Ericson’s ‘surveillant assemblage’, a very prominent approach in surveillance studies.

I’ve also written on the topic of gender, sexuality and surveillance elsewhere, see for example here [English] or here [German].

And below are the lecture slides: