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Race & Surveillance (A One-Day Conference)

Venue: Birkbeck Clore Management Centre, B01

This event has ended.

This one day conference on race and surveillance will explore the way in which race is produced and formed by contemporary surveillance practices and techniques. Racialised differences are reproduced and rearticulated in the use of new surveillance methods, most clearly in terms of pre-crime practices and mechanisms. There has been strong and public resistance to the phenomenon of normalised and blanket surveillance since Edward Snowden's revelations about the practices of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US. However, scholarly scrutiny of the differential material and discursive effects of surveillance is urgently needed. Contemporary practices of surveillance are based on long histories of inventing 'other races' and the observation and control of minoritised 'communities' in the colonies and imperial centres. Understanding contemporary surveillance practices demands understanding their origins in and ongoing connection to colonial histories. Important scholarly interventions on the intersection between race and surveillance exist in the US (Safiya Umoja Noble 2018; Simone Browne 2015; Arun Kundnani and Deepa Kumar 2015). However, the conjunction between race and surveillance is under-researched in Britain and Europe, and this conference will take steps to remedying this.

This conference is co-organised by the Centre For Research on Race and Law (Birkbeck, University of London) and the Vasari Research Centre for Art and Technology, supported by the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.


9.00 9.30 Tea and coffee

9.30 9.45 Welcome from the Birkbeck Centre for Research on Race and Law and VASARI Research Centre

9.45 11.15 Panel 1: Genealogies of Race and Surveillance

Bernard Keenan - Empire Cables: British sovereignty, communication, and racialised surveillance

Rob Topinka - Topinka Visual Technology and the Racial Type

Karen Salt - Sites of Oppression: Racialisation, Nullification and the Threat of Fugitivity

11.15 - 11.30 Break

11.30 - 1.00 Panel 2: Surveillance and the Production Of Race

Ramon Amaro - Race, Surveillance and the Autopoetically Instituted Being

Reuben Binns - Machine Learning, Discrimination and The Law

Nisha Kapoor - The Disposition Matrix: Race, Surveillance and the Mobilisation of the Law in the Context of the War on Terror

1.00 - 2.00 Lunch

2.00 3.30 Panel 3: Life under surveillance in Britain today

Katy Sian - 'Race-Thinking' Positivism and the Politics Of Prevent

Jasbinder S. Nijjar and Sanjay Sharma - The Racialized Surveillant Assemblage: Islam and the Fear Of Terrorism

Gunes Tavmen - Response/Discussion

3.30 - 3.45 Break

3.45 4.30 Keynote 1: Marieke de Goede - Configurations of Suspicion in Financial Datamining

4.30 5.15 Keynote 2: Safiya Umoja Noble - Toward a Critical Surveillance Literacy of Black Death and Dying On the Internet

5.15 6.00 Questions and Closing

This is a free event, however registration is required via this page.

Please note that latecomers to the event are not guaranteed entry. Please be advised that photographs may be taken at the event for use on the Birkbeck website and in Birkbeck marketing materials. By attending this event, you consent to Birkbeck photographing and using your image for these purposes. By registering for this event you consent to your email address being added to the School of Law, Birkbeck mailing list. Your email address will not be shared with third-party organisations. If you would like to request your removal from our mailing list please contact

This event is part of the School of Law's 25th Anniversary celebrations. The School of Law, Birkbeck was founded in 1992 as a Department of Law with three members of academic staff. Over the last twenty-five years it has become a School comprising the Departments of Law and Criminology as well as the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, four research Centres, 40 members of staff and an overall student body of over 1,000. The School is proud of being a pioneer in establishing and developing a hub for the field of critical legal studies. While our national and international reputation has been forged through critical legal research, more recently we have gained recognition for critical criminological and activist research, socio-legal scholarship and policy-engaged empirical research. In recognition of this the last Research Excellence Framework exercise ranked us as being in the top 10 law schools in the UK and in the top 3 in London, while our research environment was judged conducive to producing research of the highest quality.

In this our 25th Anniversary year we will be holding a series of events reflecting on our history and successes as well as looking forward to the opportunities and challenges facing critical legal and criminological teaching and scholarship in the 21st century. Find out more about the 25th Anniversary celebrations here.

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