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In contemporary societies, few of our activities are anonymous. From paying with credit cards to browsing the internet, an increasing amount of information is stored and processed in the interest of public safety. But who is monitoring these data, and why? Looking at ethnographic and historical analyses of new and old methods of surveillance, this subject explores the “Deep State” and its transformations over time. Throughout the semester, we will examine the networks of economic, political, and military interests that covertly enable different forms of state surveillance. Looking ethnographically at how the experiences of diplomats, spies, and soldiers changed over time, we will understand how states adapt to the digital era—and how common citizens navigate a world without privacy. Students will be required to engage with interactive activities in order to finish this assessment.
Intended learning outcomes
Students that successfully complete the subject should
- Have a thorough understanding of the diverse theoretical perspectives that anthropologists have brought to bear on the study of state surveillance and the state more broadly
- Understand how to use ethnographic evidence to critically evaluate large-scale claims about privacy (or lack thereof)
- Develop a historically nuanced awareness of the roles that states and state-surveillance have played in both creating and responding to socio-cultural change
- Demonstrate an appreciation of the ethical and methodological challenges of 'studying up,' with a particular focus on the strengths, limitations, and challenges of conducting ethnographic fieldwork in secretive environments
- Be able to communicate in a variety of written and oral formats and to collaborate effectively in groups with people whose disciplinary and cultural backgrounds may differ from your own.
Last updated: 22 November 2023