Kainen Bell's Preliminary Examination

Kainen Bell

PhD student Kainen Bell will present his dissertation proposal defense, "Resisting Digital Surveillance in Brazil: Facial Recognition Technologies & Grassroots Activism from Afro Brazilian Leaders." Bell's preliminary exam committee includes Associate Professor Anita Say Chan, chair; Associate Professor Steve Witt; Assistant Professor Brooklyne Gipson; Associate Professor David Nemer, University of Virginia.


The year 2024 witnesses a surge in surveillance in Brazil, driven by the widespread adoption of facial recognition technologies (FRTs). This includes the impactful FRT investments of Sao Paulo’s Smart Sampa Project which intends to implement 20,000 FRT cameras in the city. This research investigates the ethical and social implications of this trend, particularly its disproportionate impact on Afro-Brazilian communities. Drawing on Surveillance Studies, Afro-Diasporic Studies, and Critical Data Studies, this dissertation looks to explore Afro-Brazilian resistance to surveillance. My work will closely follow leading Afro-Brazilian organizers in Brazil’s anti-surveillance movement, documenting their work through interviews, ethnographic observations, and document analysis. Additionally, I will illuminate the tedious labor it takes to weave frameworks of critical race and gender into global calls to ban FRTs in Brazil and build solidarity networks between Afro-diasporic communities. To be conducted in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Recife, this multi-case study aims to deepen understanding of surveillance's impact and promote knowledge exchange between the Global South and North.