|This dissertation positions itself at the intersection of two disparate areas of study: Queer theory and surveillance studies. It aims to tease out the ways that technologies of surveillance and Queer lifeways evolved alongside one another, and how the acts of watching and being watched sculpted the range of ontological possibilities that Queerness has, both historically and currently, indicated. As a text, the dissertation itself is divided into three main articles, each exploring a different facet of the mutually constitutive relationship between Queerness and surveillance.
This dissertation begins with a broad historical examination of the ways that surveillance—in the forms of various technologies of apprehension, delineation, and abjection—encircled a set of labile and nascent notions of sexual identity. Additionally, I argue that surveillance and sexuality converge most productively (and disastrously) at moments of great historical transformation and geopolitical upheaval: the Second World War, the Cold War, and its proxies. Next, I investigate the ways in which residual institutionalization—represented by the liminal space of national borders and boundaries—operates on sexual and gender identity vis-à-vis the deployment of surveillant technologies that aim to transform sex and gender into objects of scientific measurement and scrutiny. Here, the border becomes a space of gendered performance wherein one’s perceived gender identity is compelled to align with documentary and “scientific” evidence. The implications of the systematic, technological probing of sex and gender at the border span far beyond the border itself. Indeed, as Toby Beauchamp (2018) has shown, gender identity and gender performance exist under a moving mesh of surveillance that is continuous with questions of national security and geopolitics. Additionally, I demonstrate how the surveillant dynamics in place at the border can be leveraged in protest of the cis/hetero/homonormative standards they enforce. Finally, I explore the effects of deinstitutionalized, corporate surveillance on the ontological status of Queerness as a radical injunction against the status quo. Taking Eve Sedgwick’s notion of the Queer as that which exists “in the open mesh of possibility, gaps, overlaps, dissonances, and resonances” (Sedgwick 1993: 8), I show how highly granular data extraction and analysis techniques foreclose upon a definition of the Queer that locates itself in the negative—in relation to what it is not or what it is in excess of—rendering the Queer unable to survive the transformation into capital implicit within a surveillant regime aimed at producing novel revenue streams. Taken together, these articles demonstrate how Queerness, by way of its articulation with various surveillant technologies, shares valences with broad, geopolitical and biopolitical phenomena, including national security, biosecurity, warfare, and statecraft. It also demonstrates the ways in which sex, sexuality, and gender have remained a focal point for the global operation of power, elaborating on Sedgwick’s (2008) assertation that any sufficiently advanced society must have a theory of homosexuality.
This dissertation makes clear the ways that the surveillance of sex, sexuality, and gender has intensified, far beyond the scope of Foucault’s analysis, through the rapid periods of technologies and social transformation brought on by the Second World War, the Cold War, and the so-called Internet Revolution. At these points of transformation and cultural upheaval, I trace the ways that surveillance and sexuality have both evolved through time as a consistent dyad (although sharing valences with many other forces). Both sexuality and surveillance exert a force on one another, each necessitating and initiating the shape one another can take.