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Dossierveillance is a type of surveillance wherein the file (or a series of files), paper-based or virtual, lies at the center of what makes a person afraid or reluctant to act in a particular manner or to disclose information that, once placed in the file, has the potentiality to be interpreted in a way deemed or perceived as harmful for the respective person.


The dossier in dossierveillance holds power on a person either through its existence or the possibility of its existence and thus being potentially employed in the future in a way that would harm the respective person. The dossier is, therefore, the cause of one’s self-surveillance or self-censorship. The person subjected to dossierveillance learns. As a result, to be careful/secretive/reluctant to offer details concerning the information divulged to a specific authority compiling the dossier or to act in ways that, if taken note of, may not harm the respective person in the future. The peril of dossierveillance comes neither from the dossier nor the writer’s dossier, on their own, but from the possibility of its falling into the hands of those who may treat the information in the dossier in a way that may or will hurt the respective person. Dossierveillance is thus often but not always an imaginary affair, based on the possibility rather than the actual harm the dossier in dossierveillance can cause. And yet, this possibility, projected into the future, can instigate great fear and anxiety into the one about whom the dossier is about.

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