by Torin Monahan. New Brunswick: Rutgers University, 2010. 224pp. Cloth. $72.00. ISBN: 9780813547640. Paper. $24.95. ISBN: 9780813547657.

Reviewed by Kimberly A. McCabe, Department of Sociology and Criminology, Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Virginia. Email: McCabe [at]


In his book SURVEILLANCE IN THE TIME OF INSECURITY, Torin Monahan provides insights into the subjects of security in the 21st century and the vulnerability fueled by politicians, media, and private manufactures of new-tech security efforts. Through two distinct parts, Monahan provides the readers with updated perspectives on security culture to include situational awareness of the security industry and vulnerable identities and surveillance infrastructures that would complement any contemporary policing or security course.

Monahan begins his text with an introductory discussion of the social construction of insecurity. Included in this discussion are examples of how an individual, who feels vulnerable in a certain area, may be more likely to view competition in that area as a threat. In addition, this introductory section lays the framework for the two parts of the text by clarifying that the phrases security culture as referring to prevailing understandings of threats and appropriate responses and surveillance infrastructures as the technological systems that are used to mitigate risk and regulate populations.

The first part of the text, Security Cultures, is divided into five chapters. In the first chapter, Monahan discusses some of the efforts by the United States to achieve national security and the feelings of insecurity by the American population perhaps as a result of the publicized government efforts to ‘keep folks safe’. The second chapter, Twenty-Four Hour Exceptions, discusses our lack of preparations for future disasters while using the television show 24 as reference. Of course, if one is unfamiliar with 24, then one is at a disadvantage when reading this chapter. The third chapter, Situational Awareness of the Security Industry, discusses the security industry and its short-comings. In addition, this chapter, through the use of the Virtual Alabama project, introduces the value of public and private efforts for national protection. The fourth chapter, Vulnerable Identities, focuses on identity theft as a threat to individuals every day and is the most applicable chapter in this part. The fifth chapter and final chapter, Leaving Others Behind, uses the Left Behind book series and its religious foundations as a basis for explaining the roles of various technologies for identification and paths of vulnerabilities. By citing examples from the various books, the vulnerabilities of the individual and society are brought forth as risk factors for a secure future.

In the second part of his text, Monahan discusses in four chapters the power behind surveillance and the control of [*89] society that is afforded within the various infrastructures. Chapter Six, Residential Fortification, continues the discussion of identity theft from chapter four. However, this chapter utilizes a comparison of low-income public housing and gated communities to support the notion that community surveillance is not equally distributed. Chapter Seven, Controlling Mobilities, is focused on the surveillance and security dimensions of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) in the United States. This chapter, probably the strongest and easiest read in the text, conjectures that as long as streets are viewed simply as a means to travel from one location to another and not as their own place in need of security, vulnerabilities will continue to exist. Chapter Eight, Masculine Technologies, offers a discussion on the gender dimensions of surveillance systems. Chapter Nine, Countersurveillance, the final chapter of the text, focuses on proactive approaches and the advantages of countersurveillance activism.

To more fully appreciate the significance on Monahan’s text, the interested reader might first examine an introductory text focused on crime through technology as in many chapters the` author assumes a basic knowledge on crime prevention technologies. In addition, the author’s theoretical foundations discussed within the chapters are somewhat in depth and thus a theoretical criminology text would also be a helpful first read. Regardless of whether complementary readings are utilized, the book is a good addition to the literature on surveillance.

© Copyright 2011 by the author, Kimberly A. McCabe.