Part of the Palgrave Studies in Language, Gender and Sexuality book series (PSLGS)


There are two forms of linguistic practices that repeatedly oriented language use before Stonewall: discretion and surveillance. Surveillance (this chapter) refers to practices of watch-keeping that are designed to assemble knowledge which can be used for purposes of making decisions about those being targeted by the surveillance process. Recent work in feminist theory (in: Dubrofsky and Magnet (eds) Feminist Surveillance Studies, Durham, Duke University Press, 2015) adds that surveillance creates knowledge as well as assembles it. Both sense of surveillance shaped the surveillance practices directed at same-sex desiring subjects (and subjects who investigators assume to be same-sex desiring) before Stonewall. This chapter discusses three examples of such practices: The surveillance of the US-Mexican borderland bolerista Chelo Silva by the musical genres that she adored; the police surveillance of men cruising other men in a downtown Washington, D.C. movie theatre; and the military’s surveillance of the psycho-sexual fitness for service of draftees during World War II. The chapter also considers the various forms of linguistic compliance and disruption through which subjects responded to surveillance in these examples: Subjects may have been targeted for surveillance, but subjects were not stripped of (linguistic) agency.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies ProgramFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyAmerican UniversityWashington, D.C.USA

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