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The social spaces of surveillance in early modern military architecture

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Art-of-war literature provided instruction on a wide range of social practices, from the logistics of war and military engineering to guidelines for the development of military moral codes. Spanish manuals on military fortification show that surveillance was an integral feature in early modern military architecture. Although studies of the art-of-war have yielded insights into turning points in intellectual and military history, there is presently a dearth of studies on art-of-war literature that examine the interrelations of architecture, surveillance and the cultures of war. Utilizing assemblage theory and Henri Lefebvre’s notion of social space, this study investigates how architecture produced surveillance in early modern Spanish military social spaces, as described in a number of representative Spanish military manuals. In the martial contexts they address, surveillance practices that produced dominant and dominated social spaces relied on strategies of visualization based on Euclidian geometry. I conclude that the application of those strategies engendered complex forms of visibility and practices of seeing in which surveillance was inextricably linked with targeting, and the stage was set for the mobilization of fluid and decentered surveillance mechanisms that sought to appropriate the war machine.
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Keywords: Renaissance; Surveillance; architecture; mathematics; war

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Yale University, New Haven, USA

Publication date: April 2, 2020

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