The Bible and Surveillance

Surveillance and Religion Network, 4th Online Workshop
Friday, April 9, 2021

Watching and being seen often features in biblical texts. God and angels are depicted as figures able to observe humans. People in the Bible engage in looking at others, sometimes spying on enemies, or keeping an eye out in particular for those who are in need. Being seen is also understood as something people need and want; to be confirmed by God’s gaze.

Everyday life in the 21st century takes place under the gaze of states and corporations who invest in surveillance technologies. The digital footprints we leave behind when shopping, searching or using services are a valuable resource. Some of these surveillance behaviours people choose, others are forced upon them or hidden, from them.

The aim of this research workshop is to explore how the Bible and 21st century surveillance might be brought into critical conversation.

The Surveillance and Religion Network has held three previous workshops, funded then by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

Core questions of this online workshop, the fourth in this series, are:

1) What do biblical texts about divine or angelic seeing disclose?
2) In what ways are these texts deployed (historically and currently) to legitimate or de-legitimate surveillance practices?
3) What are the forms and ethical frameworks of watching-over or looking out for others that feature in the Bible?
4) How does our experience of 21st century surveillance shape our reading of biblical texts?

Participation in the workshop

The workshop takes place on Friday 9th April 2021. There is no workshop registration fee

There are two ways to participate in the workshop:
1. We invite academic researchers to make a short (10 min) presentation based on a pre-submitted 3,000 word paper. Papers should focus on the core questions for the workshop but we welcome contributions that open up new areas.

2. We invite faith community practitioners to submit a brief prompt for discussion (not more than 300 words). This should set the scene for other participants to explore one or more of the core questions.

Next step

If you are an academic researcher interesting in presenting a formal paper to the workshop please send a short proposal (not more than 300 words) to the workshop organiser, Dr Eric Stoddart, es61@st-andrews.ac.uk not later than 10 December
2020
. If accepted, full papers will be required by 20 March 2021.

If you are a faith community practitioner interested in submitting a brief prompt for discussion please send this to Eric Stoddart also not later than 10 December 2020. We aim to inform you if we are able to include this in the programme by 20 January 2021.

Eric Stoddart
School of Divinity
University of St Andrews, Scotland

Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson
University College Stockholm /
Stockholm School of Theology, Sweden

Coordinators of the Surveillance and Religion Network