2nd Surveillance in Latin America Symposium

Following the success of the first Surveillance Studies symposium in Brazil last year, here is the call for the next one, this time in Mexico next year.



In modern societies, identification systems have been used as an important mechanism to govern, manage, classify and control populations; in other words, to surveil them. This has meant the employment of certain technologies (passports, national identity letters, RFID, among others), providing interconnected data base systems with information according to specific institutional protocols. In this way, we define identification as visibility and verification of specific details of people’s lives. Likewise, these identification systems have responded to various functions: security, migration control, goods and service administration, as well for territory, space and group access.

The historical, social and politic contexts shape the particular purposes to which each identification system responds. Large-scale surveillance systems to identify the population have been installed in Latin America after decades of colonial, military and single-party governments In addition they have been prompted by increasing multiculturalism in cities, Population growth, migration rates, the perceived rise in terrorism, public security and health risks, as well as the creation of public policies (to aid poverty and unemployment) and globalization.

These conditions have caused the harmonization and articulation of corporations, institutions, technologies and specific protocols for citizen identification in Latin American countries, , depending on each country or region’s particular situation, and its relationship with other regions worldwide. Nevertheless, the Latin American environment allows us to consider the construction of privacy, identities, forms of government and the possibility of resistance policies.

Paper Proposals

In line with this analytic framework, the University of the State of Mexico, Faculty of Politics and Social Studies, hereby invites scholars, analysts and activists in Latin America and worldwide, interested in identification and surveillance, in relation to such matters as cultural or ethnic identities, privacy and data protection, new identification technologies (biometrics, RFID, etc), public policies, security, communication, ethics, law, or modes of critique or resistance; to participate in the International Symposium “Identification, identity and surveillance in Latin America”, by sending a lecture proposal.

Please send an abstract, 300-500 words long, Arial 12, space line 1.5, to the following e-mail: surveillance.studies.mexico@gmail.com, before October 30th 2009. Due to the nature of this event, the abstracts and papers are to be accepted in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

Note: There is no registration fee for this event. All participants are expected to seek their own funding for travel and accommodation. A number of rooms will be reserved with reasonable rates in a nearby hotel. More details to follow.

Main subjects

1. Governmental and corporative policies of identification

2. New technologies for identification and surveillance.

3. Purposes of identification systems in Latin America.

4. Communication and information technologies.

5. Privacy and transparency.

6. Identification, identities and subjectivities.

7. Relationship between global and local, in identification systems.

8. Postcolonial logics and political regimes.

9. Identities, surveillance and resistance.

10. Identification, identity and surveillance in Latin America: new theories?

Important Dates

Call for Papers Publication: July 30th 2009.

Abstract reception deadline: October 30th 2009.

Accepted lectures list publication: December 15th 2010.

Complete paper remittance deadline: February 15th 2010.

Complete program publication: February 28th 2010.

Second Symposium on surveillance in Latin America: March 16th, 17th y 18th 2010. University of the State of Mexico, Faculty of Politics and Social Studies. Toluca, México.

Organizing Committee

Nelson Arteaga Botello

Roberto J. Fuentes Rionda

Faculty of Politics and Social Studies, University of the State of Mexico

Rodrigo Firmito

Postgraduate Program in Urban Management, Pontifical Catholic University of Parana, Curitiba, Brazil

Fernanda Bruno

Postgraduate School of Communication, Federal University of Río de Janeiro, Brasil

Marta Kanashiro

Further Studies Laboratory of Journalism and Knowledge, Technology and Market Group, University of the State of Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas, Brasil.

Danilo Doneda

De Campos Faculty of Law, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

André Lemos

Federal University of Bahia, Brasil

With the support of:

David Lyon

David Murakami Wood

Department of Sociology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Proposal reception, Information and Contact


Surveillance in Latin America

For the last three days, I’ve been at the Surveillance, Security and Social Control in Latin America symposium, organised by Rodrigo Firmino at PUCPR (with help from Fernanda Bruno, Marta Kanashiro, Nelson Arteaga Botello and myself). The conference was the first to be held on surveillance in Brazil and will be the start of a new network of surveillance researchers in Brazil and more widely across Latin America.

All of the presenters had something interesting to say and I learned a lot from the event, however it is worth noting some individual presentations and sessions that were really insightful. There were great keynotes from David Lyon, Luiz Antonio Machado da Silva and Nelson. Two sessions stood out for me: one on Rhetorics of Crime and Media which had an exceptional central presentation by Paola Barreta Leblanc, a film-maker and currently a student of Fernanda Bruno’s. Her paper (and films) on the way in which we impose narrative onto CCTV images argued cogently that we see CCTV with a (Hollywood) cinema-trained eye and consequently overestimate (or over-interpret) what we are seeing. The other papers in the session were also good, in particular Elena Camargo Shizuno on Brazilian police journal of the 1920s and how they trained the vision of middle and upper-class Brazilians of the time through a combination of reportage, fiction, and advocacy. The session as a whole left me with many new questions and directions of thought.

The other really sparky session was on the last day and was on the Internet and Surveillance. The first paper was from was Marcelo de Luz Batalha on police repression of community and activist networks at the State University of Campinas, which linked nicely into concerns I have been following here on the surveillance of activist networks in the UK. Then there was Hille Koskela’s theoretically sophisticated and searching paper on the Texas-Mexico border webcam system (that I noted back in January) which explored the ways in which this participatory surveillance system both succeeded and failed in inculcating an attitude of patriotic anti-outsider watchfulness and responsibilization of citizens. Finally there was an interesting if not entirely successful film from Renata Marquez and Washington Cancado which used Charles and Ray Eames’ famous Powers of Ten, one of my favourite bits of pop-science ever, as an inspiration for an exploration of the uneven gaze of Google. They provoked some very interesting thoughts on the ‘myopia’ of the new ‘god-like’ view we are afforded through interactive global mapping systems. I think their approach could be very fruitful but it is still missing some key elements – having talked to them, I am convinced they will turn this into something really excellent. I have asked them and Paula to submit their work to Surveillance & Society’s special on Performance, New Media and Surveillance, because I think both are exactly the kind of explorations we are looking for. If Fernanda Bruno’s excellent paper on participatory crime-mapping has been part of this session, it would have been perfect! See Fernanda’s thoughts on the seminar over at her blog – she was also Twittering throughout the event but I’m afraid I just can’t get on with Twitter!

Other memorable papers included Danilo Doneda’s on the new Brazilian ID system, which sparked our post-conference considerations on where to go with this new network, which will probably be a project on Identification, Citizenship and Surveillance in Latin America. Nelson Arteaga Botello has already generously agreed to host the next symposium on this theme in Mexico City next March! Fernando Rogerio Jardim gave a passionate paper on the the SINIAV vehicle tracking pilot in Sao Paulo and I was most impressed with the careful Gavin Smith-style CCTV control-room ethnography by one of Rodrigo Firmino’s students, Elisa Trevisan, and Marta Kanashiro and Andre Lemos both gave insightful presentations too – I’ve already come to expect both care and insight from Marta in the short time that I’ve known her. I hope we’ll be able to work more closely together in the future. Let’s see…

The event as a whole was a great start for the study of surveillance in Latin America, despite the disappointing lack of Spanish-language interest. This is just the beginning, and the new networks of scholars here will grow. I was just happy to be there a the start and play a small role. As for my keynote, I took the opportunity to do something a bit different and instead of doing my usual tech-centred stuff, I gave a talk on the emotional response to surveillance and how this might form the basis for reconstructing (anti-)surveillance ethics and politics. I have no idea whether it really worked or what people got out of it…

Surveillance, Security and Social Control in Latin America symposium

SSSCLA poster 2
SSSCLA poster 2

This week I will be mostly preparing for and attending this symposium which we (Rodrigo Firmino, Fernanda Bruno, Nelson Arteaga Botello and myself) have been organising. Today that means looking after our main keynote speaker, David Lyon…

We have a great set of papers and around 100 people coming mainly from Brazil. This does mean that I will not be posting a lot here, although I will try to note any really interesting papers and presentations.