ÜberwachungsRäume / Spaces of Surveillance

An International Workshop Series at Europa-Universität Flensburg (2016/17)

When Edward Snowden met film maker Laura Poitras at a hotel room in Hong Kong in 2013, his disclosures steered public perception toward a phenomenon that had long shaped the relationship between individuals and governmental as well as corporate institutions. While the collection of data as a systematic practice was nothing new, most tacit assumptions about citizens’ privacy and individual freedom were shattered by the extent of transnational datamining. The cultural imaginary of surveillance was up for a radical revision: from the images of individual spies and government agents (most often American or Russian) to an invisible, data-based system of control to which citizens inadvertently or consciously contribute with their cell phones or social media accounts across the globe and on a daily basis. The conversation in the hotel room—recorded for Poitras’s documentary film Citizenfour (2014)—became a microcosmic miniature site of exposure for a global culture of surveillance.

This international and interdisciplinary series of workshops will highlight a broad spectrum of spaces of surveillance, not only in their material, but also in their figurative sense, as settings for surveillance practices and as sites of reflection and reconsideration. In six intense workshops (and one lecture), fifteen scholars from six different countries (including Denmark, Sweden, the United States, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Germany) will engage with questions of surveillance from different disciplinary angles and with case studies from around the globe. Based on theoretical approaches to historical and contemporary surveillance societies (Foucault 1975, Bogard 1996, Staples 1997, Lyon 2001), we will investigate "spaces" in society, literature, popular culture, film, TV series, and visual arts from the methodological angles of geography, philosophy, sociology, political science, literary and cultural studies. We invite perspectives on surveillance and society, security, insecurity, concepts of risk society, historical patterns of surveillance culture, participatory surveillance, dataveillance, interveillance and other related topics.The workshops (90 minutes each, every 2 weeks) consist of short presentations from different disciplinary angles, bringing at least two experts into dialogue with each other and with the audience.

Abstracts & CVs

Anders Albrechtslund (Aarhus)

Participatory Surveillance: Performing and Negotiating Family Tracking

The presentation explores the use of tracking technologies in the sphere of intimacy, particularly in matters of family life. In recent years, a wide variety of devices, apps and services have become available for family use, such as tools for parents to track their children’s activities and home camera devices to capture and document moments and events in the private space of the family. This leads to discussions about parental overprotection opposite child independence as well as questions of trust and security in family relations. The use of tracking technologies in families implicate negotiations about the boundaries of trust and intimacy in parent-child relations which can lead to strategies of resistance or modification. As a mode of surveillance, tracking entails issues concerning agency, control and power relations, but at the same time, it is a practice performed by and for individuals in the intimate context of their private lives. What motivates the use of tracking technologies in families, and how does the use transform the relations between parent and child? How are the boundaries and possibilities of tracking negotiated and managed in families?

Anders Albrechtslund is an Associate Professor at Aarhus University. He holds a BA and MA in philosophy and a PhD in information studies. Over the last decade he has published research papers and book chapters on surveillance, social media, ethics, and new technologies. He is Book Review Editor for the peer-reviewed journal Surveillance & Society. At Aarhus University he is heading the Surveillance Lab and is Director of the PhD study programme in ICT, Media, Communication and Journalism.

Mark Andrejevic is Professor and Department Chair of Media Studies at Pomona College and a Visiting Researcher at Monash University. He is the author of Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched (2004); iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the the Interactive Era (2007) ; and Infoglut: How Too Much Information is Changing the Way We Think and Know (2013), as well as numerous articles and book chapters on surveillance, popular culture, and digital media. His recent work focuses on public attitudes toward the collection and use of their personal information. He is also working on a book about drones as an avatar for contemporary forms of interactivity.


Thomas Ærvold Bjerre (Odense)

Military Masculinity and Hollywood’s Drone Operators

This paper will address the issue of surveillance by way of filmic military drone operators. I will examine how the development of a new type of military hero on screen: the US military drone operator.

For centuries, the cultural imaginary has defined the soldier based on traditional sex role behaviors in which the male body has served as a central metaphor for power, strength, and risk-taking. In American popular culture, this has meant a consensus that the warrior is a (white), heterosexual alpha male. But what happens when the traditional male warrior is placed not on the actual battlefield but in a padded cockpit chair facing monitors in an air-conditioned facility in Nevada or another US location? How do we understand military heroism when it is performed with a joystick by someone thousands of miles out of harm’s way? And how do we understand the fact that a significant number of drone operators are diagnosed with PTSD?

My primary focus will be on the films Drones (2013) Good Kill (2014), and Eye in the Sky (2016) to show how the filmic drone operators are constructed: while the films allow for PTSD-related problems, there is still an attempt to make the soldier protagonist comply to expected standards of heroism. But bravery has to take different forms now. Rather than showing exceptional abilities and taking chances on the actual battlefield, the drone operator must express these abilities either by being exceptionally good at his job of operating the drone (which is difficult to make exciting to viewers) or his heroism can take the form of an ethical standpoint, a refusal to kill civilians in order to get at a target. The real enemy then becomes the military system, or other bureaucratic entities, such as the CIA.


Manfred Blohm (Flensburg)

Surveillance, Art, and Institutions

The presentation focuses on the institution of the museum. Surveillance and the museum (as an institution) will be discussed as important "players" that function as strong forces within the "artworld" (Danto). They take part in the transformation of a simple painting or any other object into an artwork. The following questions will be discussed: What is the relation between artworks, museum, and surveillance? How can (mainly historical) art be reflected upon from a perspective of surveillance? How does surveillance influence our contemporary contact with and expections on artworks?

Manfred Blohm is Professor of Fine Art (Bildende Kunst) at the University of Flensburg. His research interests include Art & Institutions, Art Education and Art & Media

Nils Zurawski (Hamburg)

Konsum, Normen und die Stadt als Überwachungsmaschine

Wie sieht Überwachung im 21. Jahrhundert unter den Bedingungen einer digitalisierten Welt aus? Die bisherigen philosophischen und soziologischen Modelle des Panopticons (Bentham/Foucault) oder der Kontrolle (Deleuze/Bogard) werden unscharf, Gesellschaft und die Modi der Vergesellschaftung wandeln sich. Konsum als ein zumehmend dominanter Modus der Formation von Identität, Sozialität nimmt einen größeren Raum an. Nicht der dumme Konsument steht hier im Mittelpunkt der Betrachtung, der willenlos seine Daten hergibt, vielmehr muss Konsum als gesellschaftssteuernd betrachtet werden. Überwachungspraxen können nur so an die vielfältigen Konsum-Praktiken anschließen, mehr noch: Überwachung wird selbst zu einem Konsumgut.

Anhand von Alltagsbeispielen will ich diskutieren, wie über den Konsum Normen gesteuert/gemanaged werden, die über den Konsum der Überwachung, alte Formen der Überwachung als neue, ambiente Formen unseren Alltag bestimmen und somit neue Formen der Vergesellschaftung und der sozialen Kontrolle möglich machen. Die Stadt ist die Folie und gleichzeitig ein Motor dieser Entwicklung, wenn auch gegenwärtig nur in den Zukunftsszenarien der Soft- und Hardwareindustrie, die mit den Konzepten von smart cities um die Wette eifern. Am Horizont lassen sich aber die neuen Formen der Überwachung, die kaum repressiv erscheinen, sondern Teil von uns selbst werden, erkennen. Der Konsum der Überwachung macht es möglich.

Im Vortrag möchte ich diese Verschiebungen und ihre Konsequenzen skizzieren und zur Diskussion stellen.

Nils Zurawski, Dr. habil., Soziologe, Ethnologie, Kriminologe, lehrt und forscht am Institut für kriminologische Sozialforschung, Uni Hamburg – Arbeitsfelder: Überwachung, Sicherheit, Stadtforschung, Gewalt- und Konfliktforschung, Doping; Editor bei Surveillance & Society, Herausgeber von Kommunikation@Gesellschaft; aktuelle Forschung: Reconfiguring Anonymity (VW, 2015-2018). Aktuelle Publikationen: * G. Herlyn & N. Zurawski: Achtung Sicherheitskontrollen! 2015 LIT.
* N. Zurawski: Raum – Kontrolle – Weltbild. 2014 Budrich UniPress
* M. Maguire, C. Frois, N. Zurawski: Anthropology of Security 2014, Pluto Press


Manfred Rolfes

Predictive Policing – Zu den Tücken einer digitalen Raumkontrolle

Das in den USA bereits weit verbreitete Predictive Policing steht derzeit auch in Deutschland, der Schweiz und Österreich auf dem Prüfstand. Es handelt sich dabei um EDV-basierte Informationssysteme, die unter Einsatz mustererkennender Algorithmen die Wahrscheinlichkeiten des Auftretens von Einbrüchen, Straßenraub, bewaffneten Überfällen oder auch Diebstahl aus Kraftfahrzeugen ortsgenau vorhersagen. Diese Informationen sollen dann bei der räumlichen Einsatzplanung der Polizei Berücksichtigung finden - Grund genug, das Predictive Policing einer kritischen Stärken-Schwächen-Analyse zu unterziehen. Dabei wird es vor allem darum gehen, welche (Irr-)Wege und Perspektiven der Raumkontrolle dieses Instrument anbietet. Dabei muss auch ein Blick auf den sicherheitspolitischen Kontext geworfen werden, der solche Systeme hervorbringt.

Prof. Dr. Manfred Rolfes, Institut für Geographie, Universität Potsdam

Manfred Rolfes, geb. 1960 im Landkreis Emsland,  studierte an der Universität Osnabrück Geographie, Germanistik und Erziehungswissenschaften. Als Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter war er von 1993 bis 2003 am Fachgebiet Geographie der Universität Osnabrück im Bereich "Methodologie in Sozial-/Wirtschaftsgeographie und Raumplanung" tätig. Seit 2003 ist er Professor für Angewandte Humangeographie und Regionalwissenschaften am Institut für Geographie der Universität Potsdam, seit 2012 Lehrbeauftragter im Masterstudiengang "Kriminologie und Polizeiwissenschaft" an der Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Seine Forschungsschwerpunkte liegen in den Themenfeldern: (Un-)Sicherheiten, Risiko und Raum; Urban Studies sowie touristische Raumsemantiken und Tourismusräume.

Neuere Publikationen:

Rolfes, M. (2016): Sicherheit, Kriminalität und Raum. Überlegungen zu politischen (bildenden) Potenzialen räumlicher Präventionspraktiken im Geographieunterricht. In: Budke, A.; Kuckuck, M. (Hrsg.): Politische Bildung im Geographieunterricht. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag. S. 129-140.

Rolfes, M. (2015): (Un-) Sicherheit, Kriminalität und Raum. Theorie und Praxis einer humangeographischen Sicherheits- und Kriminalitätsforschung. Stuttgart: Steiner-Verlag (Sozialgeographie kompakt Bd. 3)

Rolfes, M. (2015): Räumliche Beobachtung und Verräumlichung von (Un-)Sicherheit und Kriminalität. In: Floeting, F. (Hrsg.): Sicherheit in der Stadt. Rahmenbedingungen - Praxisbeispiele - Internationale Erfahrungen. Berlin: Deutsches Institut für Urbanistik (Edition Difu - Stadt Forschung Praxis Bd. 14). S. 141-161.

Rolfes, M.; Wilhelm, J. L. (2013): Gemeinsam für mehr Lebensqualität in Wilhelmshaven: Systemische Beratungsansätze in der Präventionsarbeit. In: forum kriminalprävention H. 1/2013. S. 22-31.


Hedwig Wagner has been professor for European Media Studies at the Europa-Universität of Flensburg since 2016. Her current research project is concerned with the internal and external borders of Europe, its visual representation as well as the mediatechnologies of the European border regime. She has published variously on the topic of borders, the screening of frontiers and European media technologies

 ...watch this space

Prof. Dr. Elahe Haschemi Yekani

Surveillance Gone Wrong: Failing Britishness in Four Lions

In my contribution to the workshop series on spaces of surveillance I want to problematise the concept of racial profiling in the context of surveillance societies after 9/11 and 7/7. It is specifically South Asian masculinities who have been targeted as potential terrorists in the US and the UK in what Jasbir Puar and Amit Rai describe as a "shift in the racial landscape from model minority to terrorist" (2004: 77). But how can you actually spot a terrorist? Looking at the farcical comedy Four Lions of 2010 (directed by Christopher Morris), I want to interrogate how the film mocks surveillance strategies of the authorities that must ultimately fail because they do not properly recognise the Britishness – rather than the assumed Otherness – of the targeted Muslim men. With its particularly British brand of humour Four Lions employs aesthetic strategies that subvert essentialising assumptions about national identity, terrorism and security and confronts the viewer with the taboo of laughing about terrorists.

Elahe Haschemi Yekani is Junior Professor of English Literature at the University of Flensburg. Previously she was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study Konstanz and Assistant Professor at the Department of English at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. She is the author of The Privilege of Crisis. Narratives of Masculinities in Colonial and Postcolonial Literature, Photography and Film (Campus 2011) and co-editor of Erlöser. Figurationen männlicher Hegemonie (transcript 2007, ed. with Sven Glawion and Jana Husmann-Kastein) as well as Queer Futures: Reconsidering Ethics, Activism, and the Political (Ashgate 2013, ed. with Eveline Kilian and Beatrice Michaelis). Currently, she works on her second book, in which she traces an entangled literary history of canonical bourgeois novels of the late 18th and 19th century with the earliest written testimonies of Black British writers. Her research interests include the Anglophone novel, Queer Theory, Postcolonial and Gender/Masculinity Studies.


Michael Krause (Potsdam)

Beyond Big Brother – The Narrative Politics of Contemporary Surveillance Fiction

The last decades have seen the emergence of surveillance as a major concern in fiction. In my talk I will give an overview of narrative strategies with which authors and directors seek to provide more accurate mappings of the techno-social present and to alert readers to the political struggle around the question of human and civil rights in the digital network society with its flourishing cultures of surveillance.

Michael Krause works at the Department of English and American Studies at Potsdam University and currently conducts a PHD study about surveillance in contemporary literature and film.

...watch this space

Nicole Perry (Auckland)

Simulation in Surveillance: Deconstructing the Machine

The legacy of surveillance in North America has a long and complex history. From early paintings and observations of the Indigenous population to more current examples of surveillance and racial stereotyping of young African American men in the United States, the gaze of surveillance has always focused on the other, or the outsider in the dominant society.

In Manifest Manners: Narratives on Postindian Survivance Gerald Vizenor calls surveillance "a modernist separation of tribal imagination and the concoction of the other in the ruins of representation" (169).  The ruins of representation are where the simulation, or hyper-reality, of Indigenous peoples lies. 

Kent Monkman, a Canadian artist of Cree descent, uses the simulation of Indigenous peoples in his painting and performance art to expose the myth and fragility of ‘The Indian’. By repainting 19th Century artistic renderings of the American West and Indigenous people by artists from the dominant society, he acts not as an agent of countersurveillance, but rather sousveillance- by deconstructing the hierarchy between the viewer and the object.

Nicole Perry is currently a lecturer in German at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. She is currently also a Lise Meiter Programme fellowship holder based at the University of Vienna, working on her project "Performing Germaneness: Reclaiming Aboriginality", which examines North American Indigenous reappropriations of the German 'Indianer' image through a variety of media.


Florian Zappe (Göttingen)

Watching the Watchers Watch: Surveillance, Knowledge and the Epistemological Benefits of Art

Surveillance systems are always systems of knowledge production. They accumulate and evaluate  information on specific subjects with the goal to generate forms of knowledge that are applicable in a variety of contexts and for a variety of purposes. In order to ensure the effective operation of these systems, the actors of surveillance have to claim that their observations are ontologically objective. This does, however, leaves a blind spot: Surveillance systems are largely autopoietic systems that generally do not reflect the epistemological (pre)conditions.

Based on selected examples, this talk will show how works of art – especially narrative art forms such as film and literature – can help us to understand the epistemological processes that are taking place in the discursive field that opens up between the "watcher" or "observer" and the alleged reality (the "object of knowledge") s/he is observing. As "second order observations" (in the Luhmannian sense), these works provide us with an opportunity to explore the complex relationship between the modes of perception and the real ontological "real" in surveillance situations and to analyze the ideological, institutional and philosophical conditions that shape these acts of observation.

Mark Andrejevic

The Automation of Surveillance: The Perils and Promises of Prediction and Pre-Emption

Marvin Minsky once noted that any form of tele-presence is a step toward robotics, and we are living an in era of increasingly enhanced telepresence. Indeed, the interactive character of a growing range of places and spaces can be construed as the generalization of telepresence and thus as a harbinger for new and powerful forms of automation. This presentation explores the automation of data collection, processing, and response, drawing in examples from both the public and private spheres (including state and commercial surveillance). It argues that automated forms of surveillance and social sorting will raise a host of ethical, regulatory, and political questions in the near future, and outlines the dimensions of these issues. The automation of information collection will change the character of public space as well as contextual expectations regarding the collection and use of personal information. The automation of data processing changes the goals and character of information collection, pushing in the direction of "total information character." Finally, the automation of decision-making raises issues of transparency and accountability. The presentation explores the emergence of what it describes as a "big data divide" between the forms of knowledge and information that are available to those with and without access to large data sets and the processing power to make sense of these data. It proposes a framework for addressing these issues and for regulating data collection and use in an era of ubiquitous interactivity. 


Carmen Birkle (Marburg)

Power and Surveillance: Doctors and Nurses in Selected 20th-Century U.S.-American Literature

With the introduction of Michel Foucault’s 20th-century understanding of Jeremy Bentham’s idea of the Panopticon into contemporary Cultural Studies as well as into the discipline of narrative medicine, the intersection of power and observation has become central in the analysis of (not only) literary texts that focus on medical phenomena. As early as Sigmund Freud’s notion of scopophilia, i.e., pleasurable looking with a sexual/erotic undertone, the power of looking on the one hand and the objectivization of those looked at on the other hand become topics in psychoanalysis. In both Stephen King’s Misery (1987) and Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), female nurses, Annie Wilkes and Big Nurse (Mildred Ratched) respectively, abuse their medical positions by constant observation of the patients, the writer Paul Sheldon and Randle Patrick McMurphy. In both cases, they watch almost every single move of their unaware patients and severely punish any form of resistance by keeping the men in their dependent and weak patient state. While Annie mutilates the writer’s body to force him to rewrite the last sequel of her favorite Misery series, Big Nurse sedates and ultimately brain-damages McMurphy in order to subdue any behavior that goes against her will. Similarly, in Marge Piercy’s feminist dystopia Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), the Hispanic woman Consuelo (Connie) Ramos is institutionalized because she hits her niece’s pimp when he tries to beat the young woman. At the psychiatric hospital, Connie receives injections and is subject to a number of medical experiments, including the implantation of a chip that allows the male doctors not only to constantly observe any of her emotions but also to trigger emotions and reactions at will.

In all three cases, the hospital becomes the patients’ prison where the power of surveillance is accompanied or supported by medicalization, that is, the physical intrusion into the patients’ bodies. Piercy’s feminist and Kesey’s and King’s anti-feminist novels expose the power of abusive biopolitics enhanced by a use of technology that is not meant to heal the patients but to keep them under control. In all cases, the patients’ resistance and possible social criticism is subdued and silenced in the name of medical progress and healing. Surveillance turns individuality into conformity, independence into dependence, and liberty into confinement. I will term this form of medical surveillance medical totalitarianism.

In my presentation, I will use these three novels as literary manifestations of reactions to the rebellious 1960s, in particular to the Women’s and Feminist Movement with King’s and Kesey’s novels as critical voices of a possible (misunderstood) women’s empowerment and Piercy’s novel as critical of the treatment of minority women in medical institutions. Kesey and Piercy also reveal misguided and abusive practices of psychotherapy and psychology. The novels have to be seen in a long line of dystopian fiction (e.g., Huxley, Brave New World [1932]; Atwood, Handmaid’s Tale [1985] and Oryx and Crake [2003]) that finds its (preliminary) climax in the revelations of the Snowden affair, the current omnipresent surveillance through social media, the call for more police observation and data exchange due to terrorism, and increasing political totalitarianism in a frightening number of countries.

Carmen Birkle is Professor of North American Literary and Cultural Studies at Philipps University, Marburg. She has taught at the universities of Mainz, Vienna, and at Columbia University (New York City). Her research and teaching focus on ethnic and gender studies, literature and medicine, and popular culture. She is the author of Women’s Stories of the Looking Glass (1996) and Migration—Miscegenation—Transculturation (2004), editor of Literature and Medicine: Women in the Medical Profession (Part I and II), and co-editor of (Trans)Formations of Cultural Identity in the English-Speaking World (1998), Frauen auf der Spur (2001), Sites of Ethnicity (2004), Asian American Studies in Europe (2006), "The Sea Is History": Exploring the Atlantic (2009), Living American Studies (2010), Emanzipation und feministische Politiken (2012), Communicating Disease: Cultural Representations of American Medicine (2013), McLuhan’s Global Village Today (2014) as well as of Waging Health (2015) and Feminismus und Freiheit (2016). Her current project focuses on the intersection of literature, gender, and medicine in 19th-century America. She is the President of the German Association for American Studies (2014-17).


Thomas Austenfeld (Fribourg)

Self-surveillance: Conscience and Control in Dave Eggers' The Circle.

Eggers’ 2013 novel—set in the present and portraying a world dominated by one giant internet company—raises classic American questions first articulated by the country’s Puritan founders about such topics as freedom of conscience and social control. The novel’s protagonist, a likeable young woman named Mae Holland, agrees to become "transparent," allowing her daily life and activities to be streamed on the internet. The profound transformations in Mae’s character compel readers to consider their own complicity in permitting the kind of surveillance that is geared exclusively towards economic profit but destroys notions of conscience and moral self-regulation.

Thomas Austenfeld is Professor of American Literature at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He holds MA and Ph.D. degrees in English and American Literature from the University of Virginia and taught at American universities for twenty years before returning to Europe. Austenfeld is the author of American Women Writers and the Nazis: Ethics and Politics in Boyle, Porter, Stafford, and Hellman (2001). He is the editor of Kay Boyle for the Twenty-First Century (2008), of Critical Insights: Barbara Kingsolver (2010), and of  Katherine Anne Porter's Ship of Fools: New Interpretations and Transatlantic Contexts (2015). He is co-editor of Writing American Women (2009, SPELL 23) and Terrorism and Narrative Practice (2011). His articles have appeared in American Literary Scholarship, Mississippi Quarterly, Colloquium Helveticum, Prose Studies, South Atlantic Review, Pacific Coast Philology, Southwestern American Literature, and Great Plains Quarterly

Attendance & Contact

Everyone is welcome; attendance is free.

The project has been co-funded by the Department of English and American Studies and the Committee for Europe and International Affairs and is kindly supported by Bücher Rüffer, the Dansk Centralbibliotek for Sydslesvig and Phono.

Organisation: Prof. Dr. Birgit Däwes

Seminar für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Europa-Universität Flensburg
Auf dem Campus 1
24943 Flensburg


Our program

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ÜberwachungsRäume / Spaces of Surveillance

Our Locations

Dansk Centralbibliothek for Sydslesvig
Blauer Saal
Norderstraße 59
24943 Flensburg

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Europa-Universität Flensburg
HG 243
Auf dem Campus 1
24943 Flensburg

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Phono Club und Bar & max.
Schiffbrücke 50
24939 Flensburg

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Photos from the opening event

Photos from the final session