Back to top

Under Surveillance

Under Surveillance
Being Watched in Modern America

Tackling one of today’s most timely issues from a broad, humanistic perspective, this book explores the emotional, ethical, and aesthetic challenges of living under constant surveillance in post-9/11 American society.

November 2017
Add to cart
276 pages | 6 x 9 |

Never before has so much been known about so many. CCTV cameras, TSA scanners, NSA databases, big data marketers, predator drones, “stop and frisk” tactics, Facebook algorithms, hidden spyware, and even old-fashioned nosy neighbors—surveillance has become so ubiquitous that we take its presence for granted. While many types of surveillance are pitched as ways to make us safer, almost no one has examined the unintended consequences of living under constant scrutiny and how it changes the way we think and feel about the world. In Under Surveillance, Randolph Lewis offers a highly original look at the emotional, ethical, and aesthetic challenges of living with surveillance in America since 9/11.

Taking a broad and humanistic approach, Lewis explores the growth of surveillance in surprising places, such as childhood and nature. He traces the rise of businesses designed to provide surveillance and security, including those that cater to the Bible Belt’s houses of worship. And he peers into the dark side of playful surveillance, such as eBay’s online guide to “Fun with Surveillance Gadgets.” A worried but ultimately genial guide to this landscape, Lewis helps us see the hidden costs of living in a “control society” in which surveillance is deemed essential to governance and business alike. Written accessibly for a general audience, Under Surveillance prompts us to think deeply about what Lewis calls “the soft tissue damage” inflicted by the culture of surveillance.

  • Introduction
  • 1. Feeling Surveillance
  • 2. Welcome to the Funopticon
  • 3. Growing up Observed
  • 4. Watching Walden
  • 5. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
  • 6. The Business of Insecurity
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index

Austin, Texas

Lewis is a professor of American studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written extensively on how visual culture shapes our sense of the nation, often focusing on people who work outside the cultural mainstream. His previous books include Navajo Talking Picture: Cinema on Native Ground.


“Lewis can write perceptively and with power, as in an autobiographical section reflecting on the social surveillance of his hardscrabble 1970s suburban childhood...Will appeal to sociologists and students of cultural studies and behaviors.”

“[T]his book contributes a clear formulation of key issues at stake while reminding us that technological advances unaccompanied by critical reflection and public discussion risk what Thoreau—one of Lewis’s political and philosophical touchstones—called 'but improved means to an unimproved end.'”
Publishers Weekly

“[An] accessible, ruminative, anxiety-ridden new book on American surveillance culture.”
Texas Observer

Under Surveillance takes a compelling, and very chilling, look at the changes in our culture since 9/11 . . . Lewis examines the issue from a multiplicity of angles, all of which are worth giving deeper thought.”

“[A] warmly conversational treatment that is also searching and literate.”

“A sprightly tour down some of the surveillance society’s most claustrophobic corridors.”
Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother and Walkaway

“In this original take on the dilemma of constant surveillance, Randolph Lewis approaches the phenomenon of being watched constantly by watching back. An engaging, alarming, and enlightening book, one that is certain to be among the most important books on surveillance in the twenty-first century.”
Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia, author of The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry)

“This incredibly compelling book provides a thoughtful and engaging exploration of the affective dimensions of contemporary surveillance. It is hard to think of another book that introduces readers to surveillance through the lenses of biography, ethnography, and critical cultural inquiry. The writing is witty and colorful, accessible while communicating many profound insights.”
Torin Monahan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, coauthor of SuperVision: An Introduction to the Surveillance Society

“Lewis is adept at making complex philosophical, historical, and sociological arguments comprehensible to the lay person, and he brings in a range of useful cultural references to provide a broader perspective on contemporary debates. The book is both sophisticated and accessible—a rare combination.”
Stacy Takacs, Oklahoma State University, author of Terrorism TV: Popular Entertainment in Post-9/11 America



Available for Kindle
Available on Google Play
Available on Kobo
Available for Nook
Available on the Apple Store

This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca