Omran-a peer-reviewed, quarterly Arabic journal focusing on the social sciences and humanities and published by the Doha-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies- calls for submissions of papers for its upcoming issue on surveillance practices in the Arab world. The closest, nuanced translation of surveillance in Arabic is nizam al-muraqabah, which refers specifically to the gathering and recording of personal information (directly or indirectly) on individuals, groups, and institutions for the purpose of influencing their conduct. National and foreign governments, along with their agencies, international organizations, corporations, civic institutions, and individuals, typically adopt surveillance practices. In this publication, the main area of concern is the exercise of surveillance on activists, citizens, consumers, travelers, and workers.
Various soft and hard technologies are currently utilized in surveillance practices, including information-gathering tools such as informants and collaborators, observation, census-taking, territorial mapping, categorical sorting, cross-referencing identities in databases with the aim of profiling individuals, and wiretapping. More recently, these technologies have grown to involve the use of sophisticated electronic identification systems from Internet filtering, closed circuit television, geo-positioning systems (GPS), biometric profiling, and iris scanning, in addition to the use of radio frequency identification and behavioral profiling.
Surveillance as we know it today is the outcome of colonialism dating back to Ottoman rule and subsequent British, French, and Dutch colonialisms , to name a few. A central feature of imperial dominance is surveillance or observation, bestowing on the colonial an elevated position of power that objectifies the colonized. What distinguishes colonial, or rather postcolonial, surveillance is its racialization of the colonized. Two features emerge from colonial surveillance studies as essential instruments for ruling and state formation: the daily practice of spying and colonial policies that are embodied in bureaucratic, enumerative, technological, and legal measures aimed at controlling territory, as well as classifying and categorizing populations. Ultimately, colonies became laboratories for experimenting with new tools of surveillance.
This remains the case in Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians, and in Western countries through the use of drones and other forms of technology in their interventions in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other regions, in addition to the practice of border control and profiling of individuals across Europe and North America in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US. The latter forms of surveillance have resulted in loss of privacy and violation of human rights.
Surveillance was also used extensively by authoritarian Arab regimes, though with different mechanisms and methods. It became rampant as the nizam al-muraqabah and the Mukhabarat State grew and the legitimacy of ruling authorities became weaker. Thus, an analysis comparing surveillance mechanisms adopted by authoritarian rule with that of the colonial rule will prove useful. In light of the above, Omran's special issue on surveillance seeks to explore the theoretical and empirical facets of surveillance practices and the resistance of individuals and groups to such practices.
Within this context, the papers are expected to produce analysis on the following themes:
1. The colonial context of surveillance in the Arab world
-The Ottoman Empire
2. Arab governments and the rise of a surveillance state
-Citizens and the contemporary Arab state
-Tools at the disposal of the surveillance state (bureaucracy, technology, informants, and mukhabarat-intelligence service)
-Surveillance and mobility across borders and within borders
3. Citizen awareness of and resistance to surveillance systems
-Resistance of the marginalized
4. Israeli colonialism and its surveillance system
-Control of Palestinians in Israel
-Control of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories of Gaza and the West Bank
5. Surveillance of the Arab consumer within a globalized world
6. Arabs and Muslims as subjects of close surveillance following the events of 9/11
Though the papers will be published in Arabic, the journal accepts English submissions. If accepted, English papers will be translated into Arabic for publishing. Interested authors are requested to send a one-page abstract outlining their contribution. The paper should be between 6000 to 8000 words. Authors are requested to send their abstract by April 30, and the final paper by the August 31, 2013 to: Umran@dohainstitute.org and to the guest editor Elia Zureik firstname.lastname@example.org