Between Surveillance and Sousveillance: Or, Why Campus Police Feel Vulnerable Precisely Because They Gain Power

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1 Scopus citations


Utilizing historical and ethnographic data, this article explicates a thesis that involves a paradox—campus police feel vulnerable as the “surveyed” precisely because they gain power as the “surveyor.” Toward this end, first, I identify a dramatic change in the status and function of campus police from watchmen to law enforcement professionals in the 1960s-1970s as a key historical context in which this paradox emerged. Then, I ethnographically explore forms this paradox has taken at the level of consciousness-behavior of campus officers. Attention is paid to how digital technologies of the twenty-first century transform campus policing, a process that redefines the relationship between the state and civil society and normalizes “watching” as a basic mechanism of new governance. I consider political and theoretical implications of new governance and the role writing can play in ethnographic studies of police to elucidate it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-256
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I express my thankfulness to the University of Kentucky Police Department for their assistance in my preparation of this manuscript and to anonymous reviewers of earlier versions of this article for insightful comments. I also thank Greg Epp for his skillful and thoughtful copyediting. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • campus police
  • new governance
  • sousveillance
  • surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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