Types of Self-Surveillance: from abnormality to individuals ‘at risk’.

Paulo Vaz, Fernanda Bruno

Abstract


The major objective of this article is to inquire into the kind of subjectivity produced by surveillance practices. The analysis begins by questioning a certain understanding, widespread in the literature of new surveillance technologies, of Foucault’s conceptions of power and surveillance. In brief, this understanding privileges the surveillance of many by few, of ‘us’ by ‘them’. We contend, instead, that Foucault stressed in diverse books and articles the nexus between power relations and practices of the care of the self. Hence, techniques of surveillance are necessarily related to practices of self-surveillance. This theoretical framework constitutes the basis for differentiating two historically distinct types of self-surveillance: the first, proper to disciplinary society, is promoted by normalizing power; the second is associated to the increasing relevance of the epidemiological concept of risk in the problematizing of health-related behaviors. Epidemiology of risk factors, medical testing and genetics are opening up a temporal gap between the diagnostic of illnesses/diseases and their subjective symptoms. This gap is equivalent to a space for individual ‘pre-emptive’ action against possible illnesses/diseases.

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