2. Trust? [infrastructural vulnerabilities]

October 19, 2018



– It was so horrible. I came home at half past nine and parked my car, got out and then I saw it, I saw the boy getting shot, Yasmine said, and continued: – He was just a boy. He always sat outside with friends, speaking, and now he’s dead.
– And worst of all, they [the Police] let him lie there for hours, with his brain and all on the ground. A boy.

From my field notes speaking to “Yasmine”, who witnessed a 20 year old neighbor getting shot by, likely, a friend. One in a row of tragic shootings in Malmö this year. The killer escaped on a scooter. Summer 2018. 


CCTV can be said to be the infrastructure that only shines when something terrible happens. Otherwise it works in the background, silently, aiming at affecting the way people behave. But when someone has been shot, the CCTV can reveal the secrets of the public space to the Police. Or nothing, depending on its scope. It is there to protect the vulnerable people against crime, one can say. Yet, the criminals are humans too, maybe also more vulnerable than others and at the same time capable of murder?

Judith Butler discusses vulnerability and resistance. She argues that vulnerability is not the opposite to, but part of, political resistance. She is concerned with state power as a threat to vulnerable people like women and minorities, and the paternalistic power of military and police which can force these groups of the streets, out of public space, limiting their right to speak. In a Swedish context this happens rarely, yet when it happens the CCTV cameras are there to witness also this kind of violence. If it happens within their range. 

Is the infrastructure of surveillance in Rosengård vulnerable in some ways? I have no answers, only questions: How does it affect a child growing up in a neighborhood constantly stigmatised by unequal living conditions, structural racism, low income, bad schooling, low trust between authorities and citizens, visible paternalistic norms setting the tone in public space and a societal discourse focusing on connections between crime, CCTV, immigrants and shootings instead of solidarity, empowerment, equality and justice? Can we understand the violence that young boys, young men, practice in their own neighborhood as some kind of communication, without defending it? Can criminal violence be understood as political resistance, even though expressed bluntly and unreflected? 

Infrastructures fails. Roads, rails and bridges breaks. The Internet collapses when hacked. The failures of CCTV cameras might be of another kind, unless shut down by lack of electricity or another, mechanical reason, its failures could be the results of its inability to reach far enough, risking to miss evidence of crime in the public space it is set to monitor. It can mislead us to believe all is ok, but what happens in the shadows of the scope of the surveillance cameras?

Readings: Judith Butler, Rethinking Vulnerability and Resistance.

// Maria Olsson Eklund

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