American Studies
American Studies

Simone A. Browne

Affiliate FacultyPh.D., 2007, Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Assistant Professor
Simone A. Browne



Simone Browne completed her PhD in 2007. She began her faculty position in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin in 2007. She researches and teaches in the areas of Surveillance, Social Media, Social Network Sites, and Black Diaspora Studies. She is a member of the Executive Board of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory)

Professor Browne's book manuscript, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (forthcoming, Duke University Press) examines surveillance with a focus on slavery, biometric information technology, airports, borders, and creative texts.

She recently participated in "The Lens in the Mirror: How Surveillance is Pictured in the Media and Public Culture — A Joint Open Society-BagNews Salon" (link)

Recent publications include:

Simone Browne. 2012. ‘Everybody’s got a little light under the sun’: Black Luminosity and the Visual Culture of Surveillance. Cultural Studies.

Simone Browne. 2010. ‘Digital Epidermalization: Race, Identity and Biometrics.’ Critical Sociology 36.1: 131-150.

Dr. Browne's chapter  ‘Race and Surveillance’ appears in the Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies (2012),  "a collection of over forty essays from the leading names in surveillance studies" edited by Kirstie Ball, Kevin Haggerty and David Lyon.

Dr. Browne was recently quoted in Times Higher Education on Twitter and academic engagement here

Her other research projects include:

We Like to Watch: Race and the Sociology of Surveillance (book, under contract with Routledge)

“Panic Button: A Sociology of Security Theatre” (article-length)

“Walking While Black in New York City: The NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Database (or “I’ve got 99 variables and a #*%! ain’t one”)” (article-length)

"Dark Sousveillance: Wearable Computing Devices as Aesthetic Resistance to Surveillance" (article-length + Dark Hoodie: a sousveillance enabling wearable computing device)


Recent Engagements

November 15-16 "99 Problems: The NYPD Stop and Frisk Database"

Workshop on Critical Explorations of Data and Security. University of North Carolina and Chapel Hill

November 21-24 "Branding Blackness: Biometric Technology and the Surveillance of Blackness"

Annual Conference of the American Studies Association. Washington, D.C.

December 9 "Dark Sousveillance: Surveillance, Race and Resistance"
CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative Speaker Series. New York City

December 16-17 "Dark Hoodie: Wearable Computing Devices as Aesthetic Resistance to Surveillance"

(Dis)Embodiment and the Philosophy of Information, Meiji University. Tokyo, Japan.

Upcoming Engagements

March 7 “‘What did the TSA find in Solange's fro?’: Tactical Art at the Airport.”

Critical Approaches to Digital Humanities Symposium, Virginia Commenwealth University


Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Tampa, Florida

July 10-11

Dear Science And: A Workshop on Black Creative Sciences

Black Studies Faculty Highlight

Published February 29, 2012

An Interview with Dr. Simone Browne

Vivian Shaw

I had the opportunity to interview Simone Browne, a member of the Steering Committee at HASTAC. Professor Browne is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, joining in 2007. She is also affiliated with the Department of African & African Diaspora Studies (AADS), the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies (WCAAAS), and the Center for Women's & Gender Studies at UT-Austin. She completed her PhD at the University of Toronto.

Professor Browne's book-length manuscript in preparation, Dark Matters: Surveillance and Black Mobilities examines surveillance with a focus on biometric information technology, airports and borders, slavery, mobile communication, black mobilities, and creative texts. Her article "Everybody's Got a Little Light Under the Sun: Black luminosity and the Visual Culture of Surveillance" is published in the most recent issue of the journal Cultural Studies and is available here.

A vibrant presence within UT-Austin's intellectual community, Professor Browne's work pushes the disciplinary contours of sociology, Black studies, and gender studies. We talked about what inspires her research and the location of technologies within shifting political, academic, and social practices.



What aspect of your current work means the most to you and why?

Cases like that of Jakadrien Turner make the links to my current work on surveillance and Black mobilities plain. I first heard about the case of Jakadrien Turner - the 15-year old African-American girl who was "deported" by ICE last spring to Colombia - through Twitter. That a U.S. born teenager, with reportedly little Spanish language skills, was believed to be a Colombian citizen and rendered through the courts and the removal process is baffling; but in our times of extraordinary rendition, hospital deportations, and the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, among other measures, it must also lead us to ask about the institutional mechanisms that the state and private actors make use of to allow for such a situation: fingerprints, immigration law, banishment, sexism, racism.

Turner's grandmother was able to find her through Facebook, and I find that to be a very important aspect of this case: the agential potential that social network sites allow for.

What makes you interested in the digital or interdisciplinary aspect of your field(s)? How did you get involved with HASTAC?

Just looking at my Twitter timeline shows me the possibilities of the digital and interdisciplinary projects for sociology, Black studies and beyond: @HASTAC, Alondra Nelson (@alondra), Tara McPherson (@tmcphers), Tanya Golash-Boza (@tanyagolashboza), Mark Anthony Neal (@NewBlackMan), Jessie Daniels (@JessieNYC), Minkah Makalani (@minkahm), Christina Sharpe (@hystericalblackness), Lisa Nakamura (@lnakamur), Joe Feagin (@JoeFeagin), Cathy N. Davidson (@CathyNDavidson) and even Kanye West's tweets (@kanyewest ).

How do you see your field at large changing?

Sociology "at large" is contending with social networking sites, gaming, mobile technologies and communications, not only for the "data sets" that these new technologies are producing, but also for what such connectivity can tell us about social life. For example, my undergraduate students conduct cyber-ethnographies and breaching experiments in the on-line virtual world Second Life, asking questions about identity formation, the body, sexualities, and access. This semester they'll be video gaming to think about gender, race, violence and community formation.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?

That's a tough question, I could name about twenty people right now. Right now, I really like Nicholas Mirzoeff's ( @nickmirzoeff) The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality and the work he is doing with others around the Occupy movement. Right to Look has, I think, made a really important intervention in theorizing surveillance in plantation economies and what Mirzoeff calls ‘oversight' and ‘revolutionary realism'. A dream collaboration would be to think through some of these concepts with him, making links to biometric technology, airports, CCTV and other surveillance practices. It would also be pretty neat to collaborate with visual artist Wangechi Mutu around some of the media coverage of black women who have been detained at airports, removed from airplanes, or subject to searches beyond the standard x-ray: for instance Laura Adiele who had her hair inspected by a TSA agent or Malinda Knowles who was removed from a plane on the suspicion that she was not wearing any undergarments. She was, incidentally. Mutu has said that "Females carry the marks, language and nuances of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed on the female body."

I would probably just hold the adhesive in that collaboration, but I still think it would be neat.

Interviewer Vivian Shaw is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin and a 2011-2012 HASTAC Scholar. Her dissertation research will focus on Asian immigrant identities in US and Japanese cities and the connections between memory with race/gender/class, politics, and popular culture. Shaw is a Column Editor for FlowTV (, a Managing Editor of Intersections: Women's and Gender Studies in Review across Disciplines (an interdisciplinary graduate student journal), and co-facilitator for UT's Department of Sociology Race and Ethnicity Group. She previously worked for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in maternal-child health programming and research and earned her B.A. in literary theory and gender studies from New York University. Vivian is a co-investigator for the Connected Learning Research Network, which is an Austin-based ethnographic project headed by S. Craig Watkins of UT's Department of African and African Diaspora Studies and the Department of Radio, Television, and Film. The project is funded by the MacArthur Foundation through its Digital Media and Learning Initiative. It is a 3-year study that examines how young people from diverse communities and their relationships to media. Vivian blogs at HASTAC and at

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