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Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  287 ratings  ·  23 reviews
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 as branding, runaway slave notices, and lantern ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 2nd 2015 by Duke University Press Books (first published September 7th 2015)
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Sara Salem
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book on race and surveillance that traces how Black bodies in the US have been central to surveillance for centuries. A must read! And she uses a lot of my bae, Fanon :)
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
In the conclusion of Dark Matters, Simone Browne asks the rhetorical question she has gestured toward all along: "could there be some potential in going about unknown or unremarkable, and perhaps unbothered, where CCTV, camera-enabled devices, facial recognition, and other computer vision technologies are in use?"

In Browne's interdisciplinary study on modern and historical surveillance, she draws attention to the relationship between oppressive surveillance practices in the context of chattel
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best reads about the surveillance of black people and blackness. To hard to read it by yourself. I will definitely advise you to talk with your friends after reading it. It's heavy and hard to just read it and not think about it all the time. You can see Fanon's footprint in it and a great analysis of his book Black skin, white Mask through the book.
Highly Recommended people!
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
chock full of new information framed in ways i've never thought of before, amazing read
Silas Tippens
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Phew, this took me a while to get through. You'll want to spend some time in reflection after reading a section or two.

Privacy has become a privilege given solely to the rich and "normal." Browne offers a convincing case that this is how it has always been ever since the Land of the Free was first discovered. The poor and "out-of-place" must be catalogued, watched, and tracked. From the chattel slavery of the past, to the non-whites of today. And due to 9/11, any acts challenging this
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
Its certainly possible that Im a moron, but I found this book far too dense and academic to be able to get much out of it. It constantly talked about what it was going to do next, a writing pet peeve of mine, and constantly made nouns into verbs or adjectives, another person peeve (like operationalize). And one could call it wide-ranging but it felt more like the author had a bunch of different topics that she wanted to explore and stuck them all in one book, and they didnt feel all that ...more
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not only is Browne brilliant, but also funny unexpected ways. (Comment about the lantern in the epilogue? Priceless.) 17/10 would recommend as required reading.
Mtume Gant
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Provactive argument and great addition to the ongoing discussion of how Blackness exists in America's seemingly contradictory consumer but also surveillance world. Wish the book was a bit more exhaustive, I was constantly left with many questions, especially in wondering how the author perceived the existence of her historical findings (especially around slave branding) in contemporary society, so I actually wanted MORE. It also feels at time a little scatterbrained but I think thats because of ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Browne traces the surveillance of blackness from past to present. While at times infuriating, the book is important. Whats also great about Browne is that there is an element of hope in her writing as each chapter concludes with a description of an art instillation that talks back against these practices. ...more
Derek Fenner
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
A book that does exactly what it has set out to do: " to situate the dark, blackness, and the archive of slavery and its afterlife as a way to trouble and expand understandings of surveillance" (p.164).
Ryan Kapsar
I wish the people that created the Netflix Documentary The Social Dilemma had read this book, I believe it would have provided a great deal of context around surveillance. Through the context of reading about race, I've learned a lot about American history that I regret not knowing earlier in my life. This is one of those books that does multiple things at once. First, it teaches about Black history in general, not just Black people in America, but in Africa as well. Second, it teaches about ...more
Oct 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read Dark Matters for one of my graduate school classes and it is, point blank, a phenomenal book. It is historical and engrossing, simultaneously difficult to read and impossible to put down for too long.

I highly, highly recommend reading Dark Matters, to go beyond the basic notion of what constitutes surveillance, when surveillance began in America, and how surveillance is encoded into the lives of some but not others--willingly or unwillingly. Sometimes both.
Jul 09, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a very interesting but dense and jargonic book for the majority of it. The last chapter felt a little rushed and superficial in its analysis, more akin to a list of anecdotes to illustrate points without really explaining them, which I felt was a shame because it would be very relevant to contemporary readers.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Compelling counter-analysis of the panopticon and what this concept hides from view when it comes to surveillance. Particularly the analysis of the plantation and the slave ship as spaces of incarceration helps to construe a more nuanced view of how space, surveillance and racial stigmatisation work together in an American context.
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Damn. Yes. Wish I had read this about five years ago, but no time like the present. Really learned a lot and loved Browne's cogent argumentation.
Mike Mena
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant. Academic but accessible. Intellectually profound but highly entertaining. Will assign to students in the future. (Also, will be of interest to Foucaultian scholars.)
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
sometimes gets a little too into the weeds on cultural/semiotic theory, but the scope of the book eith regards to surveillance creep is fantastic.
Julia  K
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
amazing, brilliant etc.
Mills College Library
305.89607 B884 2015
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: s-tier
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