Seeing through the Data Shadow: Living the Communion of the Saints in a Surveillance Society

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Abstract

The political theologian Amy Laura Hall has recently suggested that the proliferation of security cameras can be read as an index displaying the quality of a given community’s social fabric. The aim of the paper is to show why this is a plausible reading of the Christian tradition that also helpfully illuminates the various cultural phenomena in western societies that are collectivelyindicated by the label “surveillance.”The Swedish theologian Ola Sigurdson’s account of modern regimes of perception substantiates this latter claim. An alternative political proposal is then developed around an account of the divine gaze that differs from the panoptic gaze of modernity. This theological positioning of the trusting gaze as ontologically fundamental for humancommunity is paired with an acceptance of the limits of human sight and the multivalence of human knowing. The paper concludes by highlighting the importance of the gaze of the saints in training Christian vision to see beyond the characteristic ways of seeing and participating in the social organism characteristic of modern liberal surveillance societies. This conclusion implies, further, that one of the most important ways that the most denuding aspects of the surveillance society can be resisted is by drawing the gatekeepers who do the watching out in to public converse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-545
Number of pages13
JournalSurveillance & Society
Volume16
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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