Maura Small

Docility occurs when a group of people are so used to being watched continuously that their discipline becomes internalized and they no longer have the capacity to resist. When people enter into this state, they become docile bodies. The group is under constant surveillance. This makes it so others can exert power over them without taking as much action (Corbett, 2010). The more powerful controlling group makes harsh and public examples of those who are caught acting out. This leads to the rest of the group not knowing if or when they could be caught and forces them to watch themselves to avoid the harsh punishments they have seen previously (Urbina, 2016). Surveillance connects to docility and the prospect of docile bodies in many ways. An obvious example includes someone in a place of power watching or surveilling a group (Corbett). The person in power is doing this to change the group’s behavior to meet a certain expectation. (Corbett) Individuals have to watch themselves and be cautious not to break the rules or else they could be punished (Urbina).
An example of docility is the Panopticon prison design. The design includes a central tower for guards (Horne, 2014). The prison cells surround this tower with one-way windows facing in. The windows make it so that the guards could be watching the prisoners at any time (Horgan). This idea was originally developed by a French philosopher Michel Foucault (Horne). The idea was that since the prisoners would never know if they were being observed or not they would avoid doing anything that could lead to punishment (Horgan).


Corbett, M. (n.d.). Docile Bodies. Retrieved from http://sk.sagepub.com/reference/casestudy/n119.xml

Horne, E., & Maly, T. (2014). The inspection house: An impertinent field guide to modern surveillance. Toronto: Coach House Books.

Urbina, K. (2016, February 2). The Many Forms of A Docile Body. Retrieved from https://medium.com/your-philosophy-class/the-many-forms-of-a-docild


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Key Concepts in Surveillance Studies Copyright © 2019 by Maura Small is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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