Studying Law Studying Surveillance

Julie Cohen

Abstract


The dialogue between law and Surveillance Studies has been complicated by a mutual misrecognition that is both theoretical and temperamental. Legal scholars are inclined to consider surveillance simply as the (potential) subject of regulation, while scholarship in Surveillance Studies often seems not to grapple with the ways in which legal processes and doctrines are sites of contestation over both the modalities and the limits of surveillance. Put differently, Surveillance Studies takes notice of what law does not—the relationship between surveillance and social shaping—but glosses over what legal scholarship rightly recognizes as essential—the processes of definition and compromise that regulators and other interested parties must navigate, and the ways that legal doctrines and constructs shape those processes. This article explores the fault lines between law and Surveillance Studies and considers the potential for more productive confrontation and dialogue in ways that leverage the strengths of each tradition.


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