Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
The largest city in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, the capital of a Non-Self-Governing territory, and a heavily militarized urban space, Laâyoune is located at the focal point of a prolonged international conflict between Morocco and Sahrawi nationalists. Moroccan security services, including soldiers, spies (mukhabarat), and informants (braguig) embedded throughout residential neighborhoods, produce a pervasive suspicion and concomitant assumption of always being under surveillance. In order to draw attention to their cause of self-determination, Sahrawi media activists utilize another form of veillance, organizing and recording nonviolent public demonstrations in an effort to document and publicize human rights violations. Through ethnographic accounts of Sahrawi media activists operating in a contemporary “security society” (Feldman 2015), this paper addresses the following questions: do these competing forms of veillance in Laâyoune counteract, negate, and/or bypass one another, or do they lead to the proliferation of still more practices of observation? How do these different forms of veillance activate and depend upon social relations across geographic scales both near (protest clashes between Moroccan security agents and Sahrawis) and far (the absent presence of “international community”)? And how do encounters with and the deployment of different forms of sur- and sous-veillance in Laâyoune shape the political subjectivities of Sahrawi media activists?
Feldman, Ilana. Police Encounters: Security and Surveillance in Gaza under Egyptian Rule. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015.