From Panopticon to Arcanum: The Power and Politics of Secrecy

Elspeth Van Veeren, University of Bristol

This project presents a new concept for making sense of secrecy and its power. Re-reading and re-working the well-known concept of the panopticon and the practices and power of surveillance, the Arcanum offers a way to understand the layered compositions of secrecy as encompassing a series of interlocking practices. These include geospatial, sensory, cultural and economic practices. Like the panopticon, the Arcanum is a material-visual architecture but one for managing and keeping secrets, that are also constitutive of values, norms and subjects that are core to knowledge- and meaning-making.