Do the right thing: Vigilant citizenship and the surveillance of race in Miami

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Public vigilance campaigns and lateral surveillance programs in the USA have mobilized citizens for a broad range of security concerns: from post-9/11 perceived terrorist threats to more domestic forms of crime. Scholars have explained such efforts as an extension of state and police power, while others have shown that state surveillance reifies a broad range of historically racist and violent practices. This article brings together these explanations through a focus on vigilant citizenship: an ideal type of citizen who is watchful and reports anything suspicious to the authorities. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork with police officers and citizens in Miami, my work demonstrates how the policing of Blackness also involves more quotidian experiences and articulations of rights, responsibilities, and belonging. The empirical cases discussed here demonstrate how vigilant citizenship cultivates distrust, fear, and alienation, feeding into racist and violent practices by police officers and neighborhood watches. The conclusion suggests that the policing and surveillance of race become encoded in acts and experiences of vigilant citizenship, blurring the boundaries between the police and citizens.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 May 2024


  • Citizenship
  • police
  • racism
  • security
  • surveillance


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