Theorizing surveillance and social spacing through football: The fan-opticon and beyond

Mark Turner, Jan Andre Lee Ludvigsen

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    This article critically examines the temporal mobilizations of a 25-year football supporter social movement against the all-seating (stadia) legislation in England and Wales, to unpack, and advance, (neo-)Foucauldian panoptic theorizations of surveillance power and counter-power. Drawing upon prior empirically informed analysis of this movement; ‘Safe Standing’, the article interrogates new policy-based outcomes, including the early adoption of ‘licensed (Safe) Standing’ technology in 2022, to argue, that whilst publicly framed as a movement victory, it simultaneously serves to prefigure a new regulatory regime in football; one which extends the regulation and surveillance of fans within the wider social and corporate lifeworld. Introducing our new concept; the ‘fan-opticon’, the article discusses how Safe Standing continues to normalize a momentum of surveillance in sport and highlights the contradictory nature of security-related projects in the twenty-first century. We conclude that the governmentality of the state through football, to be characteristic of temporally sensitive hermeneutic struggles of power and resistance, through the discipline, and self-discipline of social actors. New forms of subjectivity are remoulded in ways which extend the power of surveillance and regulation, despite multiple counter-conduct, and discursive, resistance practices.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSociology Compass
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2022


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