KNOWING THE DOUBLE AGENT: ISLAM, UNCERTAINTY, AND THE FRAGILITY OF THE SURVEILLANT GAZE IN HOMELAND
This essay critiques the racism of espionage show Homeland (2011-), emphasising in particular the way that the show constitutes Muslims as a 'surveillable', suspect population.
From the introduction and the conclusion:
"Suspicion and the detection of danger are central to both the principles and practice of surveillance and to the structure, characteristics and audience pleasures of espionage fiction. Homeland (2011–), one of the most celebrated and controversial televisual espionage texts being produced today, dramatises surveillance, drawing its audience into complicity with the invasive surveillant position of the CIA characters which the show consistently represents as fragile, fallible, and yet urgently necessary. This chapter examines the ways in which the show both articulates a political rationale for surveillance technologies and makes the case for their use against particular racialised groups. Through its interrogations of espionage themes such as allegiance and identity, and its association of Muslim characters with double agents, Homeland constitutes Muslims as a surveillable population requiring rigorous oversight if terrorist attacks are to be prevented.
By representing Muslim communities – their institutions, shared spaces, and communities – as saturated with the potential for the importation, support and shelter of extremist militants, Homeland constitutes Muslims as a surveillable population. Like the positioning of Brody’s conversion to Islam as indicative of his ‘turning’ to terrorism, which renders Muslim practices, beliefs, identity and prayer as indices of terrorist risk, these representations matter because they are simultaneously the products of an Orientalist knowledge, amplifications and reproductions of that knowledge, and definite political phenomena in themselves with the potential to legitimise intrusive surveillance and deepen existing material racisms."
In: Surveillance, Race, Culture.
Edited by Antonia Mackay and Susan Flynn
(London: Palgrave, 2018), pp. 125-143.
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"Overall, Surveillance, Race, Culture is a dynamic, multifaceted text that, in addition to surveillance studies, can also find a home in various disciplines including literary studies, cultural studies, sociology, and African-American studies. The utility of this text knows no bounds."
Review by Candace S. King, published in Surveillance & Society, 2020.