Surveillance in South Africa

My book review of Jane Duncan’s, Stopping the Spies: Constructing and Resisting the Surveillance State in South Africa (2018, Wits University Press) has been published in the Journal of Political Economy of Communication. 

Full disclosure, it’s the first (and last, I hope) book review I’ve ever written.  Second disclosure: I don’t read book reviews myself. Ever. Except for the occasional blurb on Amazon or GoodReads (fiction only!), I generally prefer to make my own evaluation of a text rather than go into it informed and/or tainted by the views of others. For that reason, I’ve never seen the value in writing them myself. And let’s be honest: they’re just boring!

I’m a lover of trying new things, though, and as a (female) academic I struggle to say ‘no’ when asked to take on work.  Book reviews, however, are work I can now officially claim not to enjoy and will therefore likely never agree to again. I struggled immensely with the process, even just the reading, which might be evident in the review itself (if so, I apologise).  In fact I struggled more with this simple review than I have with probably any other piece of work I’ve published in my decade+ tenure as an academic. The reasons for such disdain can be chalked up to some combination of subject matter, a dose of imposter syndrome, resentment for adding to my ever-increasing workload as I try to simplify my life, on top of the (everybody knows it) recognition that book reviews don’t actually “count” for anything in institutional performance metrics beyond another line on my already over-inflated CV.

For the record, the book itself has immense value to surveillance scholars and the Journal of Political Economy of Communications is producing top-notch work that more critical scholars should be contributing to.  Editor Wayne Hope was a godsend to work with; he allowed me to be frank, seemed to appreciate my candidness and offered hilarious words of support when I needed it most. It certainly made sending in the final edits on Christmas Day (or was it New Years?) feel a lot less painful.

So with this cranky-pants post I leave you with 3 months of my life I can’t reclaim (yes, it took me that long!) and an essay of my thoughts that fewer people will likely read than the actual book itself. Which, as we know, in academia is already far too few as it is.


Book review: Kuehn, K.M. (2018). Surveillance and South Africa. Journal of the Political Economy of Communication, 6(2): 94-100. Available at:



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