Intelligent drones, microscopic tracking devices, brain scanners: seemingly unlimited technological possibilities make surveillance appear a thing of the future. Edward Snowden’s recent disclosures and bleak predictions about comprehensive spying in an age of electronic communication only increased public anxieties about surveillance in the now and in the tomorrow. Yet centuries, if not millennia, before the surveillance apocalypse of the twenty-first century, various models of social and individual transparency were evident in writings and architecture from ancient Mesopotamia to early medieval China and from classical India to the late antique Mediterranean world. Total surveillance—whether as ideal or nightmare, whether as theory or practice, whether as tradition or innovation—is by no means a contrivance of the present or the near future, but rather a construction of the distant past.

The workshop will shed light on the complex practices, strategies, and imaginaires of total surveillance, both familiar and less well known, in the ancient and late ancient worlds. We will explore ancient forms of information mediation and centralization, the employment of record keeping and accounting, technologies of self-discipline, and the strategic use of architecture and the organization of space, while drawing also on notions of all-seeing gods and demonic beings and of sin and pollution, as well as on practices of purification or expiation, divination, ordeals, and omens. Using this historical knowledge, the workshop intends to turn the gaze back upon the present-day surveillance complex, discerning in the lofty and imperturbable lenses that surround us reflections of age-old struggles, resistances, and failures.

For further information please visit community.topoi.org

Program

19.10.2015
09:00 - 09:20
Introductions
Seda GürsesPrinceton University, USA
Tudor SalaInstitut für Religionswissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin
09:20 - 09:50
Walls, Lists, and Policemen: How Efficient was the Control of the Royal Necropolis during the New Kingdom (1550–1050 BC)?
Andreas DornÄgyptisches Museum, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
09:50 - 10:20
Ideology and Practice of Surveillance in Ancient China: The Establishment of the Imperial Secretariat in Imperial China
Dennis SchillingInstitut für Sinologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
10:20 - 10:50
Looking Right: Community Surveillance, Women, Sex, and Social Control in Ancient Rome
Rebecca LanglandsClassics and Ancient History, University of Exeter, United Kingdom
10:50 - 11:15
Coffee Break
11:15 - 11:45
Monastic Discernment and Divine Judgment: Dynamics of Surveillance behind the Apocalypse of Paul
Emiliano FioriLehrstuhl für Ältere Kirchengeschichte, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
11:45 - 12:15
Surveilled Women: Female Crime and Female Confinement in Late Antiquity
Julia HillnerDepartment of History, The University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
12:15 - 12:45
The Intimate Surveillance of Calvinists in Reformation France
Graeme MurdockDepartment of History, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
12:45 - 14:00
Lunch Break
14:00 - 14:45
Surveillance in the Formative Period of Islam: A Comparative Intellectual Historical Exploration
Mohammad Mahdi MojahediOtto-Suhr-Institut für Politikwissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin
14:45 - 15:15
The Industrialization of Surveillance and the Limits of Community and Social Interaction Theories
Jörg PohleAlexander von Humboldt Institut für Internet und Gesellschaft
15:15 - 15:45
The Rise of Preemptive Surveillance of Children in England and Wales: Social and Ethical Consequences
Rosamunde Van BrakelLaw, Science, Technology & Society Studies , Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
15:45 - 16:15
Coffee Break
16:15 - 17:15
Scientia potestas est: A Knowledge-Centric Analysis of (and Apologia for?) State Surveillance in the Early Roman Empire
Keynote Address
Christopher FuhrmannDepartment of History, University of North Texas, USA
17:15 - 18:00
Round Table
19:00 - 20:30
Dinner