Master Student Workshop “Experiencing Surveillance in Fiction and Theory”

Surveillance, a fully pervasive feature of today’s lifeworlds, challenges borders of self and other, of institution, freedom and development. Surveillance technology has long since experienced a function creep from its intended, managerial uses into uses as devices that structure narratives and express emotions, as in the well-worn split screen of films that employ surveillance camera footage as part of their plot development, or for the enhancement of affective reaction. Most interesting in this respect is the link that surveillance as a theme, and the evocation of surveillance technology as part of narrative construction, have developed with narratives of becoming, novels of education, and especially, young adult and children fiction. This speaks, on the one hand, to an increasing normalisation of surveillance technologies and surveillance epistemes as aspects of becoming in today’s societies, while, on the other hand, it enables further experiential ways to express states of being under surveillance. In texts that envision specific lifeworlds of an imaginary today or a tomorrow, surveillance can be both an obvious topic and form a nearly unmentioned undercurrent, that nevertheless pre-shapes ways of capture and agency for protagonists. In Fiction and theory, surveillance today crosses borders of expression by tentatively developing future ways of experiencing surveillance. In this workshop, as a closing event of the DFG-Project “CCTV beyond Surveillance”, Master Students will discuss the borders of expression that are crossed by experiencing surveillance in fiction and theory.



Friday, June 8 2018                        In Room Breisacher Tor 107, University of Freiburg


9.45-10.00           Introduction: Surveillance, Media and Affect

Nicole Falkenhayner


10.00-11.00        “I can’t find anywhere anymore – where they can’t see”: Self-Surveillance and Mental Illness  in Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon. 

Julia Ditter


11.00-12.00        “My main Superpower would be Invisible”: Representing Surveillance in Children’s Fiction

Grace Bellejah Toby


12.00-14.00 LUNCH BREAK


14.00-15.00        Blurring Boundaries in Dystopias of Surveillance

Tanja Kapp


15.00-16.00        “Men Act, Women Appear”: A Kristevan Approach to Surveillance in Film Industry Concerning the Male Gaze and Its Subversion

Seda Fikriye Yilmaz

—- if you wish to attend, please send a short notice to:—-




Grace-Bellejah Toby (Swansea, UK): “My main superpower would be invisible”: Representing Surveillance in Children’s Fiction

Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English (2011) and Catherine Bruton’s We Can Be Heroes (2011) instantiate responses to contemporary Britain’s surveillance society in children’s fiction. Surveillance pervades these texts, transcending spatial boundaries and reaching from the context of an inner-city council estate setting to deceptively quiet suburbia. Its representation befits a young readership, the protagonists are children themselves, yet, this paper argues, surveillance is encoded in these narratives for a younger readership in complex and varied forms. Lyon’s control and care aspects of surveillance as well as Andrejevic’s interpersonal concept of lateral surveillance in particular can be shown to be underscoring and configuring them. Both novels demonstrate that the topic of surveillance is not confined to be solely broached in fiction targeting adults, just as surveillance itself does not recognize any borders delineating its targets according to their age.


Julia Ditter (Freiburg, D): Experiences of borders in Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon (2012)

Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon (2012) plays with Bentham’s architectural design and its disciplining powers. The Panopticon of the novel was once a mental hospital that has been transformed into a correctional institution for young offenders and becomes the new home of the protagonist Anais Hendriks, a 15 years old working-class girl who is diagnosed with a personality disorder and experiences schizoid (often drug-induced) visions. Anais’ daily life is structured by an anxiety of being watched by a group of faceless men she calls the experiment who she thinks hide inside the watchtower of The Panopticon. This paper will read Anais’ mental illness as a result of patriarchal

structures, suggesting that Anais’ fear of being surveilled by a plural and faceless male Other can be seen as criticism of enforced female self-surveillance in a patriarchal society as a result of an internalisation of the dominant dualistic hierarchies.

Tanja Kapp (Freiburg, D): Blurring boundaries in dystopias of surveillance

Kurt Wimmer’s 2002 film Equilibrium and Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One envision dystopian versions of the future in which the realm of the human perception is manipulated through both biological and digital surveillance technologies. These technologies represent two of the most communicated anxieties of the 21st century: the ever-increasing control through, one the one hand, pharmaceutical modification of the human and, on the other hand, the substituting of the real world with cyberspace. Surveillance here, as the call for papers states, is “ranging from the genome to the universe”. These anxieties, as Wimmer and Cline show, ultimately rest in the absolute power dynamics enforceable onto the human as a species through the observational nature of the aforementioned technologies, as well as on the blurring of boundaries between the human and the non-human, the biological and the synthetic/ artificial.

Seda Yilmaz (Freiburg, D / Istanbul, TUR): “Men Act, Women Appear”: A Kristevan Approach to Surveillance in Film Industry Concerning the Male Gaze and Its Subversion

The discursive practices of patriarchy, embedded in the film industry, are used as a medium to objectify women through the male gaze by means of surveillance. The impacts of surveillance in the field of gender studies was left in the background until the feminist surveillance studies brought to the foreground that the practices of surveillance contribute to the patriarchal system and its ideologies. In the light of Mulvey’s essay and Kristeva’s ‘abject’ theory, I will examine how Peeping Tom perpetuates the patriarchal tradition, and how Red Road both challenges the male gaze, actualised through the practice of surveillance, and unearths the potential of feminist counter-cinema, which is subverting that practice. I attempted to show the radical potential of films that will promote the idea of feminist counter-cinema either to create a rupture in the patriarchal system or to subvert it.




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