Welcome back to In the Journals, a look at recent publications in the world of security, law, crime, and governance.
Our first contact with the Fazenda dos Mineiros community was by chance encounter. We were invited to visit the home of a friend, Gilberto Lima, a community leader who works in Rio de Janeiro and São Gonçalo on children’s rights, among other issues of social justice. Gilberto was the uncle of a friend back in the US who helped one of us prepare for our respective Fulbright terms, and for hospitality’s sake, he invited us over for lunch. What we didn’t know was how much the visit would influence our nine months in Brazil.
On the train, a boy with a paint-filled shoeshine applicator writes his name on the seat in front of him. He works adeptly and quickly, even turning briefly toward me, grinning, while his hand continues in a smooth, controlled motion. A camera stares at us from the other end of the car. He appears either unaware of its presence or unaffected by its gaze.
A crowd waits until midnight to pack 2 hours of City Council time with protest against phase-two funding for Oakland’s Domain Awareness Center. Among those making public comments is a masked ‘Ben Franklin’. ‘George Orwell’ cedes a minute of his time to another speaker. Among jeering and outcry during the council’s discussion, the council-president calls for civility else the public be forcibly cleared.
A few days later, wandering on dérive through West Oakland, armed with my own micro surveillance apparatuses (a pair of eyes and a memory, and a digital camera), I snap a few photographs of traffic cams and empty squad cars. Again, I’m struck mostly by their impotence here, by how much escapes or doesn’t mind their field of visibility. I try to imagine how or if data flowing down walls made of monitors in dark control rooms changes being here on this corner.