1st Edition

States of Surveillance Ethnographies of New Technologies in Policing and Justice

Edited By Maya Avis, Daniel Marciniak, Maria Sapignoli Copyright 2025
    216 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Recent discussions on big data surveillance and artificial intelligence in governance have opened up an opportunity to think about the role of technology in the production of the knowledge states use to govern. The contributions in this volume examine the socio-technical assemblages that underpin the surveillance carried out by criminal justice institutions - particularly the digital tools that form the engine room of modern state bureaucracies.

    Drawing on ethnographic research in contexts from across the globe, the contributions to this volume engage with technology’s promises of transformation, scrutinise established ways of thinking that become embedded through technologies, critically consider the dynamics that shape the political economy driving the expansion of security technologies, and examine how those at the margins navigate experiences of surveillance.

    The book is intended for an interdisciplinary academic audience interested in ethnographic approaches to the study of surveillance technologies in policing and justice. Concrete case studies provide students, practitioners, and activists from a broad range of backgrounds with nuanced entry points to the debate.

    States of surveillance: ethnographic perspectives on technology in policing

    Maya Avis, Daniel Marciniak, and Maria Sapignoli

    Part 1. Navigating surveillance: contending with promises of transformations

    1. Shaping surveillance futures: Palestinian responses to Israeli surveillance technologies

    Maya Avis

    2. Encountering ethnographic gestures: reflections on the banality of cybersecurity and STS ecologies of practice

    Andrea Miller

    3. “The server is always down!”: digitalised complaints systems to monitor public service (mis)conduct in Kenya

    Tessa Diphoorn

    4. Surveillance with a human face: imaginaries, debates, and resistance to facial recognition implementation among CCTV workers in Argentina

    Martín Javier Urtasun

    Part 2. Shaping epistemology: problematizing knowledge production in law enforcement

    5. Algorithmic chains of translation: predictive policing and the need for team-based ethnography

    Simon Egbert and Maximilian Heimstädt

    6. Mapping and the construction of criminal spaces in Delhi

    Shivangi Narayan

    7. Infrastructure shortcuts: the private cloud infrastructure of data-driven policing and its political consequences

    Daniel Marciniak

    8. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in Counterterrorism: The “Realities” of Security Practitioners and Technologists

    Mark Maguire and David Westbrook


    Maya Avis is a Research Fellow in the research group “Anthropology of AI in Policing and Justice” at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Saale), Germany. 

    Daniel Marciniak is Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Hull. 

    Maria Sapignoli is Assistant Professor in Social Anthropology at the University of Milan.