January 23: Security in the City: Is Everywhere Under Surveillance? Views from London, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo

Security in the City: Is Everywhere Under Surveillance? Views from London, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo

David Murakami Wood
Canada Research Chair in Surveillance Studies and Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Queen's University

The City Talks: David Murakami Wood


For all the concentration on the possibility of large-scale, spectacular terrorist threats to the world's political and economic centres, most of what happens in urban security is more mundane and small-scale. This talk reflects on several years of work on security and public safety in Tokyo, the world's biggest metropolis, and one of 'big three' global cities along with London and New York. In common with most major cities, Tokyo has seen an increase in high-tech surveillance and a reorganization of security in the wake of terrorist attacks, but at street-level, there is still a huge variety of different security practices in different parts of the city, from the most digital to others which would not have been out of place in the nineteenth century and which can seem more like exercises in nostalgia. Underlying this, I argue, is not the fear of global terrorist, but a more pervasive anxiety over socio-economic transformation and the opening of Japan to other kinds of global flows: trade, migrants and culture, even in this most apparently fast-moving and twenty-first century of Asian cities.

David Murakami Wood is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Queen's University and holds a Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Surveillance Studies and a Visiting Fellow at Newcastle University. Until August 2009 he was Reader in Surveillance Studies in the Global Urban Research Unit at Newcastle University in the UK. He has an ESRC Research Fellowship for a project called 'Cultures of Urban Surveillance', which looked at the globalization of surveillance in different global cities. In particular, he has studied surveillance and security practices in Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. He is a co-author of The Everyday Resilience of the City with Palgrave. In 2006 he coordinated the influential Report on the Surveillance Society for the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) and organized submissions to the UK House of Commons and House of Lords inquiries on surveillance. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Surveillance and Society, the international journal of surveillance studies, and a founder of the Surveillance Studies Network.