Journal article Open Access

Constant Surveillance: Criticism of a 'Disciplinary Society 'and the Paradox of Agency in Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire

Bordas, Zachary Vincent

This paper uses the 2017 surveillance footage of the 42nd Street NYC subway
bomber (Akayed Ullah), as a lens through which to challenge dominant literary
scholarship concerning Foucault’s social panopticon as represented in literature.
The images serve as the platform to discuss the triangulation between
power, agency, and surveillance, as portrayed in Kamila Shamsie’s novel Home
Fire (2017). The paper questions whether agency is formed by one’s resistance
to surveillance by both the state and private corporations, or if agency is a
mirage because opposition is written into the dynamics of power. The essay
examines how agency is fashioned by the different ways that people interact
with observation based on class, religion, and power. A person’s position either
coerces him or her into obedience as docile subjects, disillusions him or her
to the reality and consequence of constant surveillance, or the person chooses
to disobey and manipulate the system. The dichotomy between those who
observe versus those being observed questions the ways in which justice is
described as either an ethical dilemma of one’s conscious, or by legal ramifications
for those labeled as transgressive subjects.

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