Surveillance and queerness

Arts PhD graduate Dr. Brian Schram investigates linkages between modern surveillance and Queer identity Faculty of Arts A PhD graduate from the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies is breaking new ground when it comes to understanding the impact of the surveillance apparatus on possibilities for Queer identities.

Dr. Brian Schram recently completed his doctoral program and published the dissertation "Surveilling queerness and queering surveillance."

His research traces the evolving relationship between Queer lifeways and surveillance technologies, spanning from the onset of the Second World War to the present day.

"My work is situated at the intersection of surveillance studies and Queer theory," he says. "I research the ways that the law, military screening techniques, technological development, political policy and the logistics of warfare come together to both create and limit opportunities for sexual self-fashioning and Queer identification."

A key takeaway of Schram’s research is that surveillance technologies and Queer identities evolved alongside one another. The acts of watching and being watched conditioned a range of possible ways of being for queerness, both historically and currently.

"What this means in a nutshell is that all the electronic and other means of surveillance created the context in which Queer people could express themselves as Queer, or conversely the ways they could not openly express their Queer identity."

Conversely, queerness and the perceived necessity of surveilling and policing sexual identity also influenced the development of the technologies and techniques of surveillance. Whole investigative apparatuses were set up at least partially in response to a supposed need to surveil Queer people.

"Interestingly, surveillance and sexuality seem to converge most obviously around major geopolitical disruptions," he continues. "For example, the Second World War and the Cold War were times when there was an imperative to promote or suppress particular kinds of Queer identities, and so this was the context in which what we know as contemporary queerness came to be."

Having completed his PhD, Schram is ready to take on the next challenge. He is currently seeking opportunities for post-doctoral fellowships, while also taking time to reflect upon and celebrate his accomplishments.

Schram’s dissertation, "Surveilling queerness and queering surveillance: the techno-social making of Queer identity in the US and Canada, 1939-present," is available on UWSpace , Waterloo’s digital research repository.