Moving away from the traditional framing of surveillance in terms of in/visibility, this article proposes a conceptual journey that investigates the potential of the notions of dis-appearance and ob-scene as alternative theoretical tools. In particular, it explores how these different perspectives can help bringing politics back into the study and the critique of surveillance.
Visibility is structurally linked to invisibility, and together they configure the different modes of in/visibility allowing for the very functioning of surveillance. However, the in/visibility dyad rather than merely describe surveillance contributes to its operations and stabilisation. In order to better understand and unpack surveillance it is thus necessary to tackle its practices not only in search of who watches whom, or what, but also by studying what is concealed through in/visibility, through both hiding and exposing, and what is left out of the scene (or being pushed away) in these processes.
In a dialogue with surveillance and critical security studies, this contribution examines the disappearance of bodies in the deployment of security scanners and post-Snowden developments to illustrate the productivity of dis-appearance and the emergence of surveillance’s ob-scene. Against this background, the paper argues that through the lens of the ob-scene it is possible to grasp surveillance’s ripples, and open up their political discussion.