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George Orwell Now!

Preface by Richard Blair, Son of George Orwell

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Edited By Richard Lance Keeble

George Orwell remains an iconic figure today – even though he died in 1950. His dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four depicts a Big Brother society in which the state intrudes into the most intimate details of people’s lives – and, not surprisingly, it became a constant reference point after Edward Snowden’s revelations. The word «Orwellian» is constantly in the media – used either as a pejorative adjective to evoke totalitarian terror or as a complimentary adjective to mean «displaying outspoken intellectual honesty». Interest in Orwell’s life and writings – globally – continues unabated.
Beginning with a preface by Richard Blair, Orwell’s son, George Orwell Now! brings together thirteen chapters by leading international scholars in four thematic sections:
• Peter Marks on Orwell and the history of surveillance studies; Florian Zollmann on Nineteen Eighty-Four in 2014; Henk Vynckier on Orwell’s collecting project; and Adam Stock on ‘Big Brother’s Literary Offspring’
• Paul Anderson «In Defence of Bernard Crick»; Luke Seaber on the «London Section of Down and Out in Paris and London»; John Newsinger on «Orwell’s Socialism»; and Philip Bounds on «Orwell and the Anti-Austerity Left in Britain»
• Marina Remy on the «Writing of Otherness in Burmese Days and Keep the Aspidistra Flying»; Sreya Mallika Datta and Utsa Mukherjee on «Reassessing Ambivalence in Orwell’s Burma»; and Shu-chu Wei on Orwell’s Animal Farm alongside Chen Jo-his’s Mayor Yin
• Tim Crook on «Orwell and the Radio Imagination»; and editor Richard Lance Keeble on «Orwell and the War Reporter’s Imagination»
Peter Stansky, in an afterword, argues that Orwell is now more relevant than ever before.
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Chapter One: George Orwell and the History of Surveillance Studies

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CHAPTER ONE

George Orwell AND THE History OF Surveillance Studies

PETER MARKS



INTRODUCTION

A specter is haunting the academic field of surveillance studies—the specter of Big Brother, the monstrous anti-hero of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). The disembodied emblem of the Party (never seen in the flesh, and only ever viewed in posters ‘plastered everywhere’), Big Brother remains a potent public symbol of totalitarian power and of invasive monitoring. Loved with disturbing and destructive vigor by members of the Party, Big Brother’s simultaneous psychological ubiquity and physical absence make him the stuff of waking dreams and nightmares. His seemingly inescapable gaze, communicated verbally in the phrase ‘Big Brother Is Watching You,’ has become talismanic in the contemporary world, an overt sign of our ‘surveillance society.’

That phrase is embedded in the title of David Lyon’s The Electronic Eye: The Rise of Surveillance Society (1994), a major early text in surveillance studies, and one of a series of works in which Lyon, perhaps the world’s leading surveillance scholar, sets out to track the endlessly morphing reach of monitoring technologies and practices in everyday lives. The Electronic Eye spends much of a chapter on Nineteen Eighty-Four, and, as we will see, the novel reappears regularly in Lyon’s work, including his recent collaboration with Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Surveillance: A Conversation (2013). Lyon is not alone among recent surveillance scholars in referencing Big Brother: John...

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