Surveillance, democracy, and American autofiction

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Despite the strong association between surveillance and authoritarianism, twenty-first century democracies like the United States are the most imaginative contemporary practitioners of surveillance. This paper explores the development of a pronounced surveillance culture within democratic society through the lens of twenty-first century American autofiction, making reference to recent works by Teju Cole, Miranda July, Ben Lerner, and Tao Lin. The term “autofiction,” imported from French literary studies, has increasingly been used to denote a body of recent life-writing which traffics in neither the analytical exhaustion of postmodernism nor the effusive authenticity that has characterized the “memoir boom.” This paper will argue that American autofiction’s uneasy generic stance comprises an immediate and immediately contemporary response to what seems to be a dual, contradictory injunction: to appear before the surveillant gaze, and to represent oneself as a citizen in the democratic public sphere. Copyright © 2019 Heterotopic Junction Graduate Conference (HJC) in Language, Literature and Culture.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


Clapp, J. (2019, April). Surveillance, democracy, and American autofiction. Paper presented at The Heterotopic Junction Graduate Conference (HJC) in Language, Literature and Culture, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, China.


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