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Images of Surveillance: three BISR mini-seminars at the Goethe-Institut

In the age of algorithms, surveillance has exceeded the boundaries of centralized government control to permeate every part of our lives and transform our collective sensorium. As vast communication networks spread over the world, intensive data gathering accelerates the abstraction of human life to feed the market’s ever-expanding appetite. Mass surveillance, then, is not simply the mark of a rogue security state but underpins a much larger technological and economic complex set to radically reconfigure human interactions as the separation between organic and inorganic matter becomes ever more blurry.

As part of the Goethe-Institut New York upcoming symposium  Images of Surveillance: The Politics, Economics, and Aesthetics of Surveillance Societies, the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research is proud to present a series of mini-seminar sessions which will take place throughout the symposium. These sessions will look at surveillance in theory and practice in a number of sites: the city, the battlefield, the transnational, and even critical theory itself. No preparation is necessary, readings will be provided and done on-site. These sessions are free and open to the public.

Surveillance, Biopolitics, and the City:Health, Foreign Bodies, Visibility, and Discipline

Saturday Dec. 5th, 4-7pm, Goethe-Institut New York, 30 Irving Place (Union Square)
with Jeffrey Escoffier and Bruce King


What are the links between cities, surveillance, and everyday life? Over the course of his later career, Michel Foucault began to identify a new type of political rationality that he called ‘biopower’ – one in which the fostering of the life, growth, and care of populations became a central concern of the state. Biopower, in Foucault’s argument, relies upon the systematic surveillance of demographic and social conditions. In this session, we will look at New York City as a kind of case study for a “Biopolitical City.” Former mayor Michael Bloomberg made health promotion, accounting, and regulation an integral part of his governing process. This approach had multiple effects. One result was an increase in the rate of life expectancy of the city’s population, making it the highest in the United States. In order to achieve this, the City spent millions of dollars targeting the most important and most preventable causes of death and debility from smoking, obesity, and other diseases through hard-hitting, and often fear-based media campaigns in addition to strict new legislation and police surveillance. How can we assess this form of governance? Do the familiar labels of the so-called “nanny state”, “progressive conservatism”, or the “welfare state” apply to this mode of governance? How do citizen, city, and surveillance apparatus function to create forms of ‘biopower’?

Strategic Mapping: Surveillance and the Battlefield from ‘Radical Theory’ to ‘Facts on the Ground’

with Ajay Singh Chaudhary
Sunday Dec. 6th, 11am-2pm, Goethe-Institut New York, 30 Irving Place (Union Square)


Both surveillance and its theories have multiple, sometimes contradictory, valences. In their now seminal works Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateus Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari provide new topographies and new critical apparati to understand the networked and “rhizomatic” forms of capital and state in the contemporary world. Viewing their work as paradigmatically “radical” – overturning repressive and oppressive structures in politics, psychology, and epistemology – Deleuze and Guattari sought to provide a “toolkit” for a new revolutionary philosophy and politics. In this session, we will look at an unanticipated application of their radical theory for military use in remapping battlefields and generating new, interactive, creative thinking about outmaneuvering opponents in asymmetrical warfare. We will read Eyal Weizman’s “Walking Through Walls” in which he discusses the use of Deleuze of Guattari in officer training manuals for the Israeli Defense Forces and corresponding short excerpts from A Thousand Plateaus to explore how surveillance by the state and the counter-hegemonic surveillance proposed in theory are not as diametrical as they may first appear. Finally, we will interrogate the question as to just how and when “radical theory” is “radical politics.”

Media, Society, and Spying for the State: Transatlantic Reflections on Autonomy, Social Expression, and the Antinomies of Surveillance

Sunday Dec. 6th, 3-6pm, Goethe-Institut New York, 30 Irving Place (Union Square)
with Jordan Kraemer, Michael Stevenson, and Ajay Singh Chaudhary


Between 1943 and 1949, Herbert Marcuse, Franz Neumann, and Otto Kirchheimer – three theorists from the “Frankfurt School” – formed a key component of a working group for the “Office of Strategic Services” in the United States – the forerunner of today’s CIA. These theorists saw the necessity of putting the tools and analyses of “critical theory” – without shying away from many of its arguments that would be unpalatable – at the hands of the American state first as part of the struggle against Fascism and then in the goal of the surveillance, domination, and restructuring of the new post-War West Germany. In a kind of paradox, each of these theorists wanted to preserve what little hope remained for autonomous thought and autonomous life in liberal democracies that they saw as always already compromised and on the precipice of crisis and catastrophe. In this session, we will first look at the German philosophical tradition in Kant to begin a conversation about what autonomy meant in the Enlightenment tradition and then in critical theory. We will then look at a few of the papers produced in this working group for the OSS. We will also consider transatlantic approaches to contemporary social media and surveillance structure in the Germany and the United States more broadly to engage session participants in a wide ranging discussion of the value of autonomy, the power and role of theory, and the salutary and corrosive nature of surveillance regimes.

Blade Runner – A Screening and Panel Discussion

November 7th, 2015 at the Brooklyn Commons, 7pm

Join us for a screening of Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner followed by a panel discussion in conjunction with our upcoming course Replaceable Parts: Becoming Cyborg in America. Panelists will discuss the film through the lens of contemporary technology studies, cybernetics, and cyborg theory while paying particular attention to questions of media, mediation, and the film’s own prescient visions of the blurring of organic and inorganic systems at the fraying edges of life itself.

This event is free to the public with a suggested $8 donation. Food and drinks will be available.


Danya Glabau is a doctoral candidate in Science and Technology Studies (STS) at Cornell University. Her research unites STS and the anthropology of medicine and focuses on patient advocacy and the everyday experience of pharmaceutical use in modern biomedical regimes.

Nathan Jurgenson is a social media theorist, a Contributing Editor for The New Inquiry, and a researcher at Snapchat. Nathan and colleague PJ Rey created and run the Theorizing the Web conference and founded the Cyborgology blog.

Thyrza Nichols Goodeve is a writer who has published numerous interviews and essays on contemporary artists in Parkett, Artforum, Art in America as well as museum catalogues and book anthologies. She obtained her Ph.D. from the History of Consciousness Program in Santa Cruz, California and his currently a faculty at School of Visual Arts.

Ajay Singh Chaudhary holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society and is the founding Director of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. He is also a Lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University and his research focuses on comparative philosophy, political theory, cultural theory, Iranian and Islamic intellectual history, the Frankfurt School, modern Jewish thought, global thought, religion, social and critical theory, visual/media studies, and post-colonial studies.


Call for New Faculty Applications! Call ends: 7/12/2015



The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research seeks scholars who are interested in becoming part of an interdisciplinary research and teaching institution to teach and design rigorous seminar-style courses to adult students in various locations throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. We are currently seeking five new faculty members with specialized expertise in one of the following collected areas:

Philosophy, Feminism, Psychoanalysis: Works in Feminism, French Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and Affect Theory (especially approaches influenced by the works of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Lauren Berlant, etc.) Strong familiarity with the complete corpus of Freud is preferred.


Sciences Studies and New Materialism: Works at the intersection of Science Studies, New Materialism, Feminism, and Queer Theory. Disciplinary familiarity with literary studies and/or the natural sciences is preferred.


Philosophy and Critical Theory: Works in Marx, Marxism, critical theory in the Frankfurt School tradition, Benjamin (especially approaches influenced by the works of Susan Buck-Morss, Miriam Hansen, etc.), non-Heideggerian, Jewish intellectual history, Spinoza (familiar with the original works, not merely contemporary interpretations), social and political philosophy, materialism. Familiarity with boundaries between different critical traditions is preferred.


American Social and Intellectual History: Theoretically literate and informed. Specializations: New York City, Labor, Social Movements, etc. Periods: Early Modern to contemporary, with preference from Civil War to 21st century.


European Social and Intellectual History: Theoretically literate and informed. Period: Modern Europe since the French Revolution. Specializations: French Revolution, social and economic history, revolutions of 1848, Russian Revolution, WWI, WWII, Weimar Period, Soviet Union, post-war Europe.
Classes at the Brooklyn Institute are typically four to six weeks long and meet once a week for two or three hours in the evening, followed by short cocktail hour. They are primarily discussion-based seminars, unless the material demands otherwise. We teach in a variety of locations, from spaces in bars and bookstores to cultural centers, including the Center for Jewish History, the Goethe-Institut, the Barnard Center for Research on Women, and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. The Brooklyn Institute does not offer credit of any kind for its courses.

Applicants should have considerable experience teaching at the college/university level, a commitment to thoughtful pedagogy in small seminar-style classroom settings, and possess or be in the advanced stages of a terminal degree in their field. We are particularly interested in applicants who also wish to take an active part in other Institute programming beyond the classroom, including digital projects, an ongoing podcast series, forthcoming publications, development, and other programming.

To apply, please contact and Please include a C.V. and course proposal and indicate which position you are applying for in the subject line of your email. For more information about the Brooklyn Institute and to get a sense of our previous course offerings, please visit us at

The deadline for applications is Sunday, July 12 and we will be holding interviews later that week. All applicants must be residents of the New York City metropolitan area. Skype interviews will only available for those who are residents but travelling during the interview period. Thank you!

Brooklyn Institute Tote Bag

Check it out here!

Tote Bag

Call for Volunteers!

Dear Friends of the Brooklyn Institute:

We hope this message finds you very well! We’re writing you as the Brooklyn Institute enters its third year. Not that long ago, we thought the Institute might be no more than a side project that we launched during grad school, a few classes in the back room of a bar. Thanks to you, to overwhelming public interest in our courses and programs, and to the generosity of partner organizations like the Center for Jewish History, the Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Goethe-Institut, and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, it’s become much more than that. We’re working hard to make the Institute an enduring part of the New York City cultural landscape. In addition to our courses, we’re working on a digital humanities initiative, podcasting, and producing original research in our own digital publishing platform, Arcades, which will make its debut later this year. As we make this transition, we’re reaching out to ask for volunteers to help with these projects. We’re looking for people who share our commitment to expanding access to high-level study and intellectual conversation well beyond the traditional audience for higher education. We are specifically seeking people with skills and experience in these areas: audio recording/editing, video recording/editing, other podcast-related skills such as transcripting (in particular, we are looking for someone to work on creating our distinctive time-stamped and hyperlinked podcast “Notations”), intra-office communications, social media management and advertising, publicity (including good old-fashioned pavement-pounding), and working to scan/preserve delicate and/or rare academic texts for our ~Archive project.

All our volunteers will, of course, have access to classes at the Brooklyn Institute free of charge. If you’d like to volunteer with us, or if you have friends or family members who might be interested, we’d be grateful if you’d get in touch and/or pass this message along. If interested, please email with a paragraph or two about your interest in the Institute, what relevant skills and experience you’d bring to the table, what project(s) you’d like to work on, and what aspects of the Institute you’d like to be involved with.Thanks so much for being part of our community, and for taking the time to read this!

All best wishes,

Ajay Singh Chaudhary and Abby Kluchin
Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
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