[P6364] Beyond Discipline: Faith, Gender, and the Surveilled Society of the late Mediterranean

Created by Karim Malak
Wednesday, 12/01/21 11:30 am


Foucault’s (1979, 2009) seminal study of the prison argued that discipline was the analogous power that other institutions, such as schools, barracks and clinics, drew on to create the modern subject. But the word Foucault originally used was that of surveillance not discipline. Surveillance could be achieved through public anxieties produced by crime novels (Foucault, 1979), gender discourses that supervised women’s’ mobility (Sayers, 2017) and the faith-based practices that embedded the piety of individuals (Asad, 1993). This panel explores how surveillance spread in the Mediterranean through discourses of faith and gender and the projection of sovereign power outside places of confinement. It provincializes the prison and instead looks at how surveillance shaped the subject. It does so by zeroing in on discourses of femininity, production, criminality and faith-based piety (Esmeir, 2012; Baron, 2014). Beginning in the 18th century, it shows that the Mediterranean world was subject to different forces of surveillance that were not secular. These practices of surveillance were born out of faith-based practices instead of secular governmental schemes of reforming the individual. Sufi lodges, dungeons and tekeyehs doubled as a sight of surveillance. Superstitions, love-potions and other discourses of faith operated a different register of power that surveilled Maltese and Ottoman subjects in the 18th century Mediterranean.

This panel also looks at a different site that did not produce discipline: the 19th century Alexandrian arsenal. By looking at political prisoners during the Levant Crisis of 1839, it extends this idea of surveillance into the Ottoman Mediterranean, problematizing the notion of disciplinary reform. Instead, it tracks these prisoners who were also exiled and subject to a different form of power that did not discipline them in order to reform them, but continued pre-modern forms of sovereign power. In the same vein, it also looks at Arab Nationalist and Marxist political prisoners’ encounters with the rising security state and its surveillance apparatuses in the 1950s and 1960s Eastern Mediterranean.

Shifting to gender-based discourses of surveillance, this panel also looks at the production of femininity through the gaze of the state. It shows that the construction of femininity in Alexandria and Istanbul at the turn of the 19th century was only possible through the demonization of women who did not conform to the structure of a family.
Criminals who led a different life-style, such as the Egyptian sisters Raya and Sekina, became archetypal figures of wayward femininities that Egyptian authorities discouraged.


Hist; Hist; Hist; Hist; Hist; Hist



Kent F. Schull

(Binghamton University, SUNY)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Emily O'Dell

(Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Karim Malak

(Columbia University)
Karim Malak is a doctoral candidate at the department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies (MESAAS), at Columbia University, New York. He is also the 2022 Mohamed Ali Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Institute of Middle Eastern...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Julia Gettle

(Brown University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Gizem Sivri

(Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Salma Shash

(University of California Santa Barbara)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Alaa El-Shafei

(Columbia University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;