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Surveillance | Society | Culture

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Edited By Florian Zappe and Andrew S. Gross

What only a few decades ago would have been considered a totalitarian nightmare seems to have become reality: Surveillance practices and technologies have infiltrated all aspects of our lives, forcing us to reconsider established notions of privacy, subjectivity, and the status of the individual in society. The United States is central to contemporary concerns about surveillance. American companies are at the forefront of developing surveillance technologies; and government agencies, in the name of security and law and order, are monitoring our words and actions more than ever before. This book brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to explore the implications of what many consider to be a far-reaching social, political, and cultural transformation.

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Paranoia and Surveillance in Andrew Dominik’s Film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

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Abstract: The chapter examines the ways in which Andrew Dominik’s film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) uses narration, plot construction, character development and cinematography to address the problem of surveillance. Although Assassination—through its consistent, meticulous stylization—appears to be concerned primarily with the construction of myth, it also poses questions about the nature of the historical process, with a particular focus on how a confluence of randomly correlated factors produces an effect of scale that may have breakthrough significance. The specificity of surveillance as a symbolic social practice, by definition involving clandestine operations, sheds light on the intersections of institutional apparatus and individual agency. A growing awareness that an all-encompassing structure of power does exist is symptomatic of the historical situation presented in Dominik’s film. Moreover, it conditions certain psychological reactions or states, especially those that verge on paranoia. It could be argued that Assassination appeals to the modern sensibility precisely through its psychological themes, its insistence on tracing how outside factors, among others in the form of surveillance activities, influence the development of an individual psychological syndrome.

Keywords: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Jesse James, Andrew Dominik, surveillance, paranoia, agency

Andrew Dominik’s 2007 film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford belongs to the category of Westerns that show the American West at the time of transition in the closing decades of the 19th century. It could perhaps...

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