SAT NOTES: Whiteness, Surveillance, and the Shifting Color Line
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Du Boisian Scholar Network, 2019 Convening
Session Notes
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Note Taker(s):Amanda Ball
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Email of Note taker(s):amanda_ball@brown.edu
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Date:Sat, May 4
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I. TopicsII. Summary CommentsIII. Action Item
IV. Date of First Contact/Follow Up
V. Contact Lead Name(s)VI. Contact Lead Email
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What do you want to get out the session? Why did you choose to come to this session?
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[Related to Whiteness] Want to discuss whiteness as the location of power and to understand the causal chain by focusing on the perpetrators of violence
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Want to understand what Du Bois has to offer in less obvious texts (i.e. beyond "Souls of White Folks" or the "White Worker" chapter) to help understand and study whiteness
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Want to understand whiteness and space in the context of college campuses + promotion of diversity on campuses that are still grounded and goverened institutionally in white logics
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How do global conceptions of race play into our understanding of whiteness? How does citizenship and the nation-state play into whiteness?
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How is whiteness attached to other senses - whiteness is beyond the visual
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The "shifting color line" - What about whiteness has changed since 1900, what about blackness has changed? What about the other categories of color? How do we mobilize these categories?
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Connect all of this with the resurgence of white nationalism globally
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[Related to Surveillance]
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Interested in trying to find the thread that connects live experience of being surveilled with how it's discussed - don't know how to find the language or conceptual toolkit to prevent imposition of categories/concepts from the "global north"
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Lack of language in the [sociology] about surveillance
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How have the histories of technology and science played a role and what are the practices that are engaged in to circulate knowledge to identify what it means to be oppressed?
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Thinking about how surveillance becomes a defining experience of citizenship for raced and subjugated spaces - How whiteness subsumes a specific duty of surveillance
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The role that gender and sexuality play in how we construct whiteness - ex. how forms of sexual surveillance through the law are developed to protect white folks from diseases that they see as immoral - need to grapple with the particularities of gender and sexuality in this conversation
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Surveillance is becomign more personalized (phones, finger prints, DNA tech) - what does this look like at the state level but also how do people counter or navigate a place where there's so much censorship?
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How are people watching the cops? How are people using film technology to identify police violence? Lynching awareness spread through photographs, police violence now documented and spread through videos via phones
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Race + Space - how has space become racialized and how is that process been inscribed in the digital infrastructure
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Methods
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Want to discuss methods and surveillance, specifically ethnography in your own community and grappling with power and the insider/outsider relationship - How research can also be a tool for surveillance
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Methodologically - Surveillance and the color line - how have non-white communities documented whiteness?
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How can we talk in ways that don't just privilege things that focus on surveillance but also the counter-tools that have been developed?
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Whitness Studies vs. Studying Whiteness by Looking at Power
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Applying a black tradition of studying white ignorance
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Critical whiteness studies - identify the invisible thing that is responsible for race relations which is whiteness
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Following "how does it feel to be a problem?" approach studying whiteness as how does it feel to be 'the solution'
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Du Bois bring us what structural theory doesn't do - can marry the material element of processes in a way that preserves ego
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"Victim Envy" of white people // Whiteness reappropriating terminology of surveillance
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Who deserves to be surveilled - this is something that white people can determine - the selection of surveillance is place where white power works
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Whitness is in crisis - white people want to keep the power but absorb all of the victim rhetoric
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Reason given for white silence on race is that white people feel like they are being surveilled
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Hyper-anxiety around white [college educated] youth disrupting whiteness
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Various forms of surveillance
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When we hear about surveillance in some contexts, we don't worry as much - think about institutions collecting information on us
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Black studies as an archive of surveillance
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Souls of Black Folks when DB is developing the idea of double consciousness, talks about the school yard 'with a glance' - we don't necessarily think about the visual dynamics of these theories
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Is there an etymological connection between veil and surveillance?
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What are the other societal forces that come together that make surveillance what it is/was?
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"Safety" industry developed around protecting white women in public spaces
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White folks tasked with surveilling other white people and making sure that racial boundaries are not crossed or disrupted
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Studying surveillance
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To really understand what surveillance means, go deep into comparative cases to really see how surveillance operates under different frameworks
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Think about the tradition of black feminism and the intersection of surveillance
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Need to start thinking very clearly about what context we are thinking about and naming the particular details to understand how monitoring it working
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What does America do with free black people? There is something about how you biologically respond to being watched, monitored, and coerced into behaving because you are being watched and monitored - need to look at micro-interactions (not solely at talk and discourse as is traditional)
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Expand who we use theoretically to understand this [bring Octavia Butler in as a sociologist, recognize Anna Julia Cooper]
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Who is comfortable being free in public? Role of surveillance in changing people's internal consciousness and also their behavior when being watched
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Queer folks + morality + surveillance - curious aout the moral issues and how surveillance has come around to make certain things moral issues
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Indigeneity and surveillance (physical movement and containment of indigenous children/communities happening in tandem with physical restriction of black communities]
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Gentrification + the use of police and surveillance by new white people in neighborhoods on local black residents that built communities
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Studying whiteness
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Reference: James Baldwin - "those who believe they are white" - thinking about whites who believe the myth of being white
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Reference: Cheryl Harris - "Whiteness as Property" - who gets to claim whiteness, who gets to utilizes and urusurp it?
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Look at the mundane actions to understand how whiteness manifests as power - a white women's assumed purity or innocence can at any point be used to villainize the black community and the black body itself
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Need to start learning about how the subaltern defines whiteness - so in the US context, how do non-white people define whiteness [will help to get a clearer picture of waht whiteness means in a way that we don't have right now]
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Trying to identify the black tradition that began during DB's time period - all of the black writers and intellectuals that were writing about white people
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Sharing citations and materials
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Would like to make some syllabi available online to share on these topics
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An excel spreadsheet of our affiliations, keywords of our research, abstracts Saida Grundy working on this // Nabila Islam has google form that she can share that auto-populates from form to a spreadsheet nabila_islam@brown.edu
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Who we cite can be an action item - if you are reifying people who caused the problem through citations, change that
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Lingering QuestionsWhat kind of movement is this?
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What are we doing here? Did we meet to feel more connected?
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