Dr Prainsack, Reader, King's College London, Centre for Biomedicine and Society (CBAS), Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK; email@example.com; Victor Toom, Postdoctoral researcher, Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science (NUCFS), Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
This paper takes critique of surveillance studies scholars of the shortcomings of the panoptic model for analysing contemporary systems of surveillance as a starting point. We argue that core conceptual tools, in conjunction with an under-conceptualization of agency, privilege a focus on the oppressive elements of surveillance. This often yields unsatisfying insights to why surveillance works, for whom, and at whose costs. We discuss the so-called Prüm regime, pertaining to transnational data exchange for forensic and police use in the EU, to illustrate how—by articulating instances of what we call ‘situated dis/empowerment’—agency can be better conceptualized, sharpening our gaze for the large extent to which the empowering and disempowering effects of surveillance depend on each other.