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Dark Matters


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction, and Other Dark Matters 1

1. Notes on Surveillance Studies: Through the Door of No Return 31

2. "Everybody's Got a Little Light under the Sun": The Making of the Book of Negroes 63

3. B (R)anding Blackness: Biometric Technology and the Surveillance of Blackness 89

4. "What Did TSA Find in Solange's Fro?": Security Theater at the Airport 131

Epilogue. When Blackness Enters the Frame 161

Notes 165

Bibliography 191

Index 203

About the Author

Simone Browne is Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.


"Dark Matters reframes surveillance studies in a way that will spark interrogations regarding the historical, racialized origins of surveillance theory and practice, while presenting a robust entryway to the field's current debates for new readers. Dark Matters offers a model of interdisciplinary feminist scholarship for media scholars invested in critical race inquiry, visual analysis, and archival study. At a moment when surveillance practices permeate livelihood, Browne's contribution here is an invaluable resource for examining the contemporary moment of #BlackLivesMatter, police brutality, and strategies for future resistance." -- Racquel M. Gonzales * Feminist Media Studies *
"Dark Matters provides an invaluable perspective on surveillance and reminds us that the history of the surveillance of blackness has a unique and important roll to play in our understanding and analysis of contemporary surveillance." -- Jeramie D. Scott * Epic.org *
"With Dark Matters, Simone Browne delivers a theoretical tour de force to the field of Surveillance Studies by bringing blackness, black life, and the black subject-dark matter-into focus. . . . Browne's work is a must-read for those interested in examining the complexities of surveillance and attendant ongoing, embodied, political struggles." -- Megan M. Wood * Surveillance & Society *
"Through her analyses of maps, newspaper articles, fugitive slave advertisements, slave narratives, personal correspondence, government documents, memoirs, and treaties, Brown exposes how blackness was shaped and produced through surveillance practices during slavery." -- Brandi Thompson Summers * Public Books *
"Dark Matters is a powerful book, which stems partly from the subject matter and partly from Browne's simultaneously lucid and forceful writing. It is also a book that feels increasingly necessary, helping us to ask not only about the policies, processes and technologies that govern civil liberties, but also about whose bodies and freedoms are most controlled and curtailed." -- Jessa Lingel * Catalyst *
"Each chapter of Dark Matters presents a different archive of racializing surveillance paired with reflections on black cultural production Browne reads as dark sousveillance. At each turn, Browne encourages us to see in slavery and its afterlife new modes of control, old ways of studying them, and potential paths of resistance." -- Daniel Greene * boundary 2 *
"Dark Matters is an invaluable study that showcases how surveillance, historically and contemporarily, is rooted in anti-Blackness. Through utilizing a Black feminist methodology and centering the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the genealogy of surveillance, Browne demonstrates how the workings and technologies of domination, surveillance and governance utilized during slavery pre-figure and haunt the historical present. While the specific technologies have become far more advanced, the brutal fact of anti-Blackness remains the bedrock of surveillance practices to date." -- Tyrone S. Palmer * Souls *
"Dark Matters is of great importance not just because it illuminates historical and contemporary surveillance technologies of (anti)blackness, but equally because it opens up a series of questions around geography, race, power, and surveillance." -- Hidefumi Nishiyama * Theory & Event *
"Browne's Dark Matters is a groundbreaking and field-changing study important for cultural criticism broadly and surveillance studies in particular. Moreover, it is especially timely given the ways the issues she raises intersect with debates about police violence and mass surveillance, among others." -- Shaka McGlotten * American Journal of Sociology *
"What does Blackness have to do within the modern surveillance state? Beautiful and theoretical, Simone Browne details how Black life from slavery to the present has been subjugated by the constancy of being watched and how Black people have resisted." * Zora, 100 greatest books ever written by African American women *

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