Posted by Dustin Jenkins

Narratives on the Watch: Bodies, Images, & Technologies of Control in Contemporary Surveillance Cinema


This thesis explores surveillance cinema though a body of films that thematize the increasing presence of surveillance images in social life. Suggesting a shift from two dominant representational modes, dystopic and conspiratorial cinema, recent surveillance films normalize the practice, diffuse the technology’s paranoiac connotation, and transcend the rhetoric that surveillance scenarios only target white men formerly a part of the surveillance apparatus. I argue that with new forms of the image, through cinema’s figuration of the surveillance image, “othered” subjects appear as “to-be-surveilled”—targeted bodies due to the determinants of their gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, or class status. The films I discuss thus raise an important question relevant to contemporary surveillance theory: does cinema normalize forms of control or does it challenge these structures through a critique of the power relations found within them? As surveillance cinema integrates images of surveillance into its texts, it critiques the power disparities that exist between hegemonic disembodied surveillors and controlled bodies.

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