Note: MA students require consent of instructor.
Spectacle and surveillance have been central tactics in the production of political power since at least the early modern era, when the pageants of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, were accompanied by the spies of Cardinal Richelieu, who kept careful watch for potential rebellion in the provinces. The British empire’s musterings of uniforms, ribbons, and banners in mass formations of loyal subjects were probably as important to the maintenance of imperial power as the actual mustering of armed conflict. At the same time, Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon envisioned a world of incarcerated subjects, all exposed to the gaze of power at all times. How does it stand with the relation of spectacle and surveillance today, the age of total information storage, retrieval, and big data? The overall purpose of this seminar will be to reflect on the dialectical pairing of spectacle and surveillance as modes of image power—that is, power over subjects in the case of spectacle, over objects in the case of surveillance—and as modes of governing in our contemporary age of Big Data. While we are interested in the history of this pairing in theoretical discourses on visual culture, politics, law, media, and iconology, our major emphasis will be on contextualizing and analyzing the present state of the surveillance/spectacle dynamic, as well as exploring all the forms of resistance.
Readings will include Michel Foucault, Guy Debord, George Orwell, Glenn Greenwald and selected films dealing with surveillance and spectacle.