Area of Study: Media and Technology Studies
PhD, MS, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
BA, MA, California State University, Northridge
Torin Monahan is a Professor of Communication at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and co-Editor-in-Chief of Surveillance & Society, the leading academic journal on surveillance. He primarily researches the social and cultural dimensions of surveillance systems, with a specific focus on gender and racial inequalities. He has published over fifty articles or book chapters and six books, including Surveillance Studies: A Reader (with David Murakami Wood) and Surveillance in the Time of Insecurity, which won the Surveillance Studies Book Prize of the Surveillance Studies Network. His forthcoming book, Crisis Vision: Race and the Cultural Production of Surveillance (Duke University Press), investigates the racializing effects of contemporary surveillance through the lens of visual and performance art.
Dr. Monahan is an interdisciplinary scholar who critically interrogates the role of technological systems in reproducing or aggravating social inequalities, as well as their less-realized capacity to foster forms of empowerment. Drawing upon science and technology studies (STS), surveillance studies, and communication, much of this work focuses on how organizations mediate relations among groups and encode political orders through technological means. Some of the organizations he has studied include hospitals, schools, Department of Homeland Security counterterrorism centers, and most recently digital platform companies (e.g., Uber, Airbnb). These research projects have been supported in large part by funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Dr. Monahan’s forthcoming book, Crisis Vision: Race and the Cultural Production of Surveillance (Duke University Press) extends these interests to theorize aesthetic interventions into surveillance abuses. This book focuses on artists who engage with what he calls “crisis vision”—the regimes of racializing surveillance that position black and brown bodies as targets for police and state violence. Whereas many artists remain invested in frameworks that privilege transparency, universality, and individual responsibility in ways that often occlude racial difference, other artists disrupt crisis vision by confronting white supremacy and destabilizing hierarchies through the performance of opacity. Whether fostering a recognition of a shared responsibility and complicity for the violence of crisis vision or critiquing how vulnerable groups are constructed and treated globally, these artists emphasize ethical relations between strangers and ask viewers to question their own place within unjust social orders.
A final interest is in harnessing collaborative empirical research to effect progressive institutional change. In this stream, Dr. Monahan’s most recent NSF-funded project (in collaboration with Dr. Jill Fisher in UNC’s Department of Social Medicine) will advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts by assisting R1 universities in adopting partner- and family-
friendly policies to correct gender, race, and other inequities in faculty hiring and retention. This 3-year project (called “Partnering through It”), will culminate in the publication of an online “scorecard” of the dual-career-friendly status of all research-intensive universities in the US, along with an accompanying report for university officials and academic associations. The project is designed to produce meaningful broader impacts across universities.
Other areas of expertise include ethnography, urban studies, platform studies, visual culture, and design studies.
Monahan, T. 2021. Reckoning with COVID, Racial Violence, and the Perilous Pursuit of Transparency. Surveillance & Society 19 (1): 1-10.
Monahan, T. 2020. The Arresting Gaze: Artistic Disruptions of Antiblack Surveillance. International Journal of Cultural Studies 23 (4): 564-581.
Monahan, T. 2020. Monopolizing Mobilities: The Data Politics of Ride-hailing Platforms in US Cities. Telematics and Informatics 55: 101436.
Monahan, T., & Fisher, J.A. 2020. Sacrificial Labour: Social Inequality, Identity Work, and the Damaging Pursuit of Elusive Futures. Work, Employment and Society 34 (3): 441-456.
Monahan, T. & Murakami Wood, D. (eds.) (2018). Surveillance Studies: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.