If surveillance is understood as a complex multi-dimensional process, then collaboration between health, social and law enforcement sectors can be viewed as a part of the surveillance culture of particular societies and urban settings. Policies towards illicit drugs usually build on a two-track approach—public health and public order—with different objectives that have to be negotiated daily by street level workers in the light of their differing beliefs on drug use. This paper brings examples of collaboration and non-collaboration among workers from social, health and law enforcement agencies in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Porto Alegre, Brazil in their daily interactions with drug users, to analyze the types of surveillance arising from these negotiations. The study utilizes results from 80 in-depth interviews with street level workers and 800 hours of participant observation carried out from February 2010 until March 2011, equally divided between the two cities. Different cultures of surveillance produce diverse state-citizen approaches in terms of coercion, care, and rights. In Amsterdam, close collaboration and information exchange among workers produce a ‘chain’ surveillance culture: an intensive screening allows drug users to have more access to care, yet, at the same time this can produce excessive control over users’ lives. In Porto Alegre, by contrast, insufficient collaboration produces a surveillance culture of ‘holes’: less systematic screening and lack of information sharing allows users to slip out of care, and of workers’ surveillance sight. Historically, though coming from apparently opposite extremes in terms of drug surveillance (respectively permissive and controlling), both Amsterdam and Porto Alegre in practice show surveillance cultures which combine care and order. Combinations, however, vary according to different assemblages between actors concerned with transforming drug users’ lives.

Surveillance and Society
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Rigoni, R. (2015). Surveillance cultures, chains and holes in street level networking: Dealing with drug users in Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Porto Alegre (Brazil). Surveillance and Society, 13(3-4), 497–511. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/90160