Staring Down the State: Police Power, Visual Economies, and the ''War on Cameras''

njdiver

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Staring Down the State: Police Power, Visual Economies, and the ''War on Cameras''

This paper considers how the politics of security and order are also a politics of aesthetics encompassing practical struggles over the authority and regulation of ways of looking and knowing. To do this, the paper considers the visual economies of police power in the United States by engaging what has been called the “war on cameras”, or the police crackdown on citizen photographers who “shoot back” or “stare down” police. Despite US law generally endorsing the right for citizens to film or photograph on-duty public police officers, in recent years hundreds of cases have been documented where police have confiscated or smashed cameras, deleted film, or intimidated and threatened those wielding an unauthorized camera. For us, this crackdown on the unauthorized stare is a theoretically and politically insightful case study—a diagnostic moment—for engaging more openly and starkly the assumptions underpinning police power more generally, particularly the ways police power aims to actively fabricate social order by eradicating anything it deems a threat in the name of security. Ultimately, we argue that the violence holstered, literally and figuratively, on the hip of modern policing is inseparable from an attendant politics of staring and visuality that further extends and perpetuates state power’s aim of pacification.

 

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