Imagine Otherwise: Simone Browne on Resisting Surveillance & Creative Collaborations

Simone Browne, Imagine Otherwise blog image

Imagine Otherwise: Simone Browne on Resisting Surveillance & Creative Collaborations

May 4, 2016 Podcast

How is the history of slavery tied to modern-day surveillance systems? Is surveillance always a negative term? How can a gendered lens change the way we perceive privacy rights and policies?

In Episode 9 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach chats with guest Simone Browne about how Black communities have resisted and interfered with the surveillance practices that target them, the multiple lenses through which to consider privacy, and the joys of collaborating with academics, artists, and activists.

We invite you to check out the episode, as well as our show notes and highlights below.

Guest: Simone Browne

  • Simone Browne is an Associate Professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches and researches surveillance studies, digital media and black diaspora studies. Her first book, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Duke University Press, 2015) examines surveillance with a focus on transatlantic slavery, biometric technologies, branding, airports and creative texts. Simone is an Executive Board member of HASTAC. She is also a part of Deep Lab, a feminist arts and research collective.

We chatted about:

  • How the genealogy of slavery is closely linked with the genealogy of surveillance (1:52)
  • The influence of of surveillance theories on canonical authors like Michel Foucault and Frantz Fanon (05:58)
  • Why adopting a broader definition of surveillance is essential to understanding its impact on our daily lives (13:20)
  • How a gendered lens can help us understand surveillance and privacy (16:43)
  • The work that HASTAC does to connect and support academics (23:25)
  • Imagining Otherwise (25:45)


  • On the inspiration for her book, Dark Matters: “I wanted to trace a different genealogy and start with transatlantic slavery, and to think about the historical and social formation of surveillance as not being outside of that of the social and historical formation of slavery.”
  • On the trend of forgetting Black history in relation to surveillance: “There is a forgetting for some of COINTELPRO, or federalized anti-blackness in terms of fugitive slave laws. That’s what I wanted to insert back into the conversation”
  • On the gendering of privacy: “Privacy gets seen as something that has to with only the 4th amendment or drones. When we think about whose bodies have always been publicly available for discussion or scrutiny, and we put a gendered lens on understanding surveillance, then we have different kinds of questions to ask and demands to make.”
  • On the world she hopes for when she imagines otherwise: “A reduction of sadness, of debt racketeering, without prisons, without racism and sexism and antiblackness.”

More from Simone:

Projects and people discussed:

About Imagine Otherwise:

Imagine Otherwise is a podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice, and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining and creating more just worlds. Check out full podcast episodes and show notes at Imagine Otherwise is produced by Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency helping progressive, interdisciplinary scholars write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds.

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About the author

Priyanka Kaura: Priyanka is a Marketing Associate at Ideas on Fire, as well as an education reformer in New York City who frequently traverses the private and public sectors to promote educational equity.