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Symposium: Secrecy and Publics

Event Type
Trowbridge Initiative in American Cultures and IPRH
Lucy Ellis Lounge in the Foreign Languages Building (707 South Mathews Avenue Urbana, IL)
Oct 14, 2016   9:00 am - 5:00 pm  

9:45 Opening Remarks

10:00 AM - Brian Hochman (English, Georgetown University): "Wiretapping Judith Coplon"

This paper examines the cultural origins of the "national security" justification for federal law enforcement wiretapping, focusing on the controversial case of United States v. Judith Coplon (1949-50). Coplon was the one of the first Soviet spies to be tried during the early years of the Cold War, but her conviction was overturned, in part, when a federal inquiry revealed that the evidence against her stemmed from an illegal FBI wiretapping operation. The paper uses the Coplon case as a way to chart the history of wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping in a period that closely resembles our own.

11:00 AM - Helen Gurman (Interdisciplinary Studies, New York University): "Punishing Leakers: A History of Transformation"

More leakers have been prosecuted in the last eight years than in the entirety of US history. How do we account for this phenomenon? Is it a radical departure from the past? An extension of previous policies? This presentation examines Obama's war on whistleblowers as part of a larger transformation in the state's response to leakers that has taken place over the course of the last century.

1:30 PM - Jack Bratich (Communication Studies, Rutgers University): "Staging Secrecy in Public: Styles of Prestige from Rumsfeld to Snowden"

This presentation begins with an overview of the "Public Secret Sphere," a political realm in which secrecy is made intelligible. After describing its two main dimensions, including their historical formation, I ask what are the conditions of dissent and (distr)action?

2:30 PM - Simone Browne (Sociology, University of Texas): "Surveillance at the Airport, and Other Matters"

In 1998 Cathy Harris worked as a senior customs inspector at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport. She later became a whistleblower who detailed the racial profiling to which black travellers were routinely subjected, including illegal pat-downs, strip searches, and unlawful detainment. Black women were especially subject to such acts of "Flying While Black" that Harris exposed. This paper begins with Harris's whistleblowing to examine "security theater" and the "open secret" that is racial profiling at the airport and other public transportation spaces.

3:30 Informal Roundtable


Schedule subject to change, please check back as we draw closer to the event. Presented by the Trowbridge Initiative in American Cultures, with co-sponsorship from IPRH.

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