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Peripheral Vision

Peripheral Vision: Politics, Technology, and Surveillance

Catarina Frois
Series: EASA Series
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Peripheral Vision
    Book Description:

    In Portugal between 2005 and 2010, "modernization through technology" was the major political motto used to develop and improve the country's peripheral and backward condition. This study reflects on one of the resulting, specific aspects of this trend-the implementation of public video surveillance. The in-depth ethnography provides evidence of how the political construction of security and surveillance as a strategic program actually conceals intricate institutional relationships between political decision-makers and common citizens. Essentially, the detailed account of the major actors, as well as their roles and motivations, serves to explain phenomena such as the confusion between objective data and subjective perceptions or the lack of communication between parties, which as this study argues, underlies the idiosyncrasies and fragilities of Portugal's still relatively young democratic system.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-024-5
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction Politics, Technology and Surveillance
    (pp. 1-19)

    In August 2005 a political campaign for the mayoral elections was taking place in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital. The socialist party announced as one of its most prominent slogans that it would launch ‘video surveillance for Lisbon’s critical areas’. The practice had been absolutely forbidden in the past, and authorization to install surveillance devices in semi-public spaces was extremely hard to obtain from the Data Protection Authority – the entity that had the final say on such matters in Portugal. However, this electoral slogan was not effectively sustained in any concrete political plan, beyond a general idea about which areas in Lisbon...

  6. Chapter 1 From Dictatorship to Democracy
    (pp. 20-41)

    Portugal, Europe’s westernmost region, is situated in the Iberian Peninsula, wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and the Spanish border. Its territory, which has remained virtually unaltered for over eight centuries, makes Portugal and its population of approximately ten million Europe’s oldest nation. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, due to its pivotal role in the maritime expeditions that opened the routes to Brazil and India, it established a vast colonial empire which would only definitely disintegrate in the twentieth century. The gradual economic and political weakening of the monarchic regime that ruled Portugal for most of its long national history...

  7. Chapter 2 Eye in the Sky
    (pp. 42-75)

    Is it possible that video surveillance (or even all modern technology used to monitor citizens), regardless of its practical effectiveness as an instrument in the action against criminal activity, represents an equalization of European cities? Given the compliance to a model of security adopted in most European cities, to what extent can public video surveillance be considered a symbol of modernization? Can the securitarian discourse itself also be a representation of that same modernization?

    The British case undoubtedly constitutes an inevitable starting point for any study dealing with public video surveillance in Europe, both because the U.K. was a pioneer...

  8. Chapter 3 Policy-Making: Successes, Failures, Contradictions
    (pp. 76-103)

    The previous chapter situated the theme of video surveillance and its enforcement within the European context, while providing a detailed chronological account of the implementation of this device in Portugal in the period between 2005 and 2010. It is clear that this was a troubled process, as much in terms of its aspirations as in terms of the roles played by the different entities responsible for conducting and executing it. Measures deemed imperative by the Ministry of Internal Affairs were sometimes trivialized by police forces, apparently unwilling to admit that video surveillance was actually useful, or in any case reluctant...

  9. Chapter 4 Public Issues, Private Matters
    (pp. 104-122)

    Thus far, the main parties involved in the process of video surveillance in Portugal have been identified, along with their strategies, which can be summed up as follows: political forces appeal directly to collective concerns, usually focusing on the rhetoric of security; the media exhaustively publicize major or minor events, amplifying their impact and notoriety. Furthermore, academia sounds an alarm about the dangers of the widespread use of surveillance devices, neglecting and even sometimes refusing to acknowledge that these political measures are in fact supported and even prompted by pressure exerted by citizens themselves. In the end, all political activity...

  10. Chapter 5 The Quest for Security
    (pp. 123-145)

    Do you want security? Give up your freedom, or at least a good chunk of it. Do you want confidence? Do not trust anybody outside your community. Do you want mutual understanding? Don’t speak to foreigners nor use foreign languages. Do you want this cozy home feeling? Fix alarms on your door and TV cameras on your drive. Do you want safety? Do not let the strangers in and yourself abstain from acting strangely and thinking odd thoughts. Do you want warmth? Do not come near the window, and never open one. The snag is that if you follow this...

  11. Conclusion Modernization and Backwardness
    (pp. 146-151)

    In 2007, following the format of the BBC television seriesGreatest Britons, Portuguese state television launched the showGrandes Portugueses(Greatest Portuguese), in which the audience was asked to determine ‘Who was the greatest Portuguese figure of all time?’

    The series immediately raised controversy within some sectors for having excluded from its initial list of suggested names the leading figures of the Estado Novo regime, António Oliveira Salazar and Marcelo Caetano. Those responsible for the show in Portugal had considered that the indelible mark left by these two figures in twentieth century Portuguese history nevertheless did not merit their presence...

  12. Afterword
    (pp. 152-154)

    While seeking to move beyond a descriptive account, this work has avoided taking an ideological standpoint or using it to establish a political argument on state control; my approach has avoided taking sides, whether for or against the use of public video surveillance, considering that such perspectives often result in partial or ambiguous analyses. However, I have to agree with Samatas when he says that ‘doing surveillance studies is itself an inherently political act directed against authoritarian, anti-democratic and discriminatory practices. In simply “doing” surveillance studies, one is taking a side’ (Samatas 2005: 195). There are two aspects that I...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 155-164)
  14. Index
    (pp. 165-166)