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Eric Stoddart

School of Divinity

St Mary's College

South Street

St Andrews

KY16 9JU

United Kingdom

E-mail: es61@st-andrews.ac.uk

Direct phone: +44 (0)1334 462841

Research overview

My main research interests lie in surveillance and in digital technologies more generally – all from a practical theological perspective.

In a nutshell, I am curious about the faith which our societies place in technologies as supposed solutions to relationship challenges across a whole host of levels and in a multitude of contexts. 

Surveillance enables complex societies to function. This is not the world of Bentham’s ‘Panopticon’ but of dataveillance; dispersed and rhizomatic systems of assemblage of information. Boundaries are fluid yet heavily policed. Data-doubles are sorted into categories by which behaviour is orchestrated. To a greater or lesser extent, all members of advanced capitalist societies are beneficiaries, objects and practitioners of ubiquitous surveillance.

Theological critique of contemporary surveillance cultures might readily turn to traditional discourse around divine omniscience and God’s watching over creation. The project that I am unfolding adopts a quite different paradigm. It is Christ’s surveillance from the cross that frames my approach. One under surveillance keeps watch over the world, in solidarity with all those under others’ monitorial gaze for whom the outcomes are life-denying.

I am contending that, whilst the technological devices by which surveillance is deployed are important points for theological reflection, there are underpinnings that are of even more pressing concern. Surveillance is predicated upon managing risk but advanced capitalist societies are unable to handle the contingency of God’s world. One part of the theological task is to demonstrate to the wider world how fragile are its conceptual foundations whilst offering a vision of non-naïve trust in God.

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