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Surveillance

  • By: Steven Flusty
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Surveillance is the practice of watching over a given terrain, its inhabitants, and their relations, commonly for the purpose of exercising instrumental control over that which is being watched. As such, surveillance is central to the establishment and maintenance of “scopic regimes” that enact power to order the world. From its inception as a discipline, and indeed even prior to its attainment of disciplinary status, geography has engaged with surveillance as both participant and observer.

Observing the distribution of human and natural variation across the surface of the Earth, and reporting on that variation, has been a key geographical practice from the times of Strabo through those of Ibn Battuta, John Mandeville, Xu Xiake, and beyond. Such accounts tend to be cartographical exercises conjoined to richly ...

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