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Ethnic profiling, suspect bodies and the ‘war on terror’: The impact of surveillance

By T Patel


This paper discusses the deviant labels (immigrant, anti-Western, British hostile, ‘enemy within’ and terrorist) commonly used in surveillance strategies within the ‘war on terror’ context. Particular attention is paid to those who are profiled based on the use of ethnic (i.e. racial, national and religious) markers, where there is an assumed correlation between ethnic background and status of risk in relation to terrorist behaviour. Here, those perceived to be of South Asian, middle-Eastern or Arabic Muslim background, are especially viewed as dangerous others, whose presence is not only a security concern, but as a whole is morally problematic. This paper begins by questioning the use of ethnic profiling in anti-terror surveillance strategies, and considers the awareness levels and impact that its use has on those who are targeted. To do this the findings of a pilot study (undertaken in early 2011) are drawn on. In presenting interview narratives of a sample of respondents who had experienced increased surveillance, data is presented on their perceptions about the use of ethnic profiling in anti-terror work. The impact that these surveillance strategies had on their identity and behaviour, as well as their responses to this surveillance, are also considered. In doing so, the paper asks whether ethnically marked stigmatised groups, located within contemporary panics about terrorism, are able to successfully challenge, overcome or resist the negative labels they are assigned

Topics: built_and_human_env, health_and_wellbeing, mem_text_and_place
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