Dark Matters

By Simone Browne,

Book cover of Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness

Book description

In Dark Matters Simone Browne locates the conditions of blackness as a key site through which surveillance is practiced, narrated, and resisted. She shows how contemporary surveillance technologies and practices are informed by the long history of racial formation and by the methods of policing black life under slavery, such…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Dark Matters as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

She really gets at the heart of how Brown and Black bodies are seenand what is fascinating to me is the approach through current “technical art” and a good discussion of architecture. I had a class focus on her discussion—lengthy—about surveillance and race. It’s extremely poignant, and something whites especially just don’t think about. I will never again go through an airport without thinking about her book. 

From Stephen's list on sound, living, and experience.

This revelatory set of essays insists on the long, intertwined histories of anti-blackness and surveillance stretching all the way from the Atlantic slave trade to the present. Browne’s wide-ranging cases—from the plan of a slave ship, to the use of brands, passes, and lantern laws to monitor enslaved people, to post-9/11 security checks at airports—unearth the foundational role of racism in driving systems of identification and documentation intended to regulate those “out of place.” After reading Dark Matters, it is impossible to see surveillance technologies, whether centuries-old or brand new, as separable from the policing of black bodies and…

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