Darcy Pan
Darcy Pan

About the project

For the past few years, the Chinese government has been constructing a “grid management system” that merges big data analytics with existing surveillance practices; essentially building a platform to help the Chinese government exert firmer control over the population to anticipate and contain social unrest. The Chinese government is thus building a big data platform for “pre-crime” and leveraging predictive policing capabilities that have been used by governments in the US and UK. Against the backdrop of China’s intensification of its domestic surveillance program, Darcy Pan plans to study how the conditions and acts of protest and dissent that have emerged are transforming state-society relationships in contemporary China. Moving away from the conventional perspective on surveillance as something negative and restrictive, this study treats surveillance as a productive mechanism that induces practices, subjectivities, and relationships that embody, articulate, challenge, and sustain state power. As such, with the big-data-enabled, information-technology-backed program of mass surveillance, Darcy Pan wants to explore the following questions: What are the conditions of the emergence of such an extensive program designed and implemented as an anticipatory governance initiative? What are the social, economic, and political consequences of this kind of government intervention? How do activists negotiate with this kind of predictive governance and carve out a space of activism?

Short biography

Darcy Pan joined the Department of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University in 2010 and is expected to receive her doctorate in December 2016. Entitled: “Laboring through uncertainty: an ethnography of the Chinese state, labor NGOs, and development,” Darcy’s PhD dissertation investigates how international development projects supporting labor activism work in contemporary China. Foregrounding the notion of uncertainty, Darcy studies how state control is exercised by examining a specific logic of practices, discourses, and a mode of existence that constantly mask and unmask the state. More specifically, the study explores how uncertainty about the boundaries of permissible activism is generative of a sociopolitical realm in which variously positioned subjects mobilize around the idea of the state, which in turn leads to articulations and practices conducive to both self-censorship and a contingent space of activism.


Chapters in anthologies


Pan, Darcy. “Agents of change or status quo? The survival and development of labor NGOs in South China.” In Uncertain Times: Anthropological Approaches to Labor in a Neoliberal World, edited by Paul Durrenberger. Boulder: University Press of Colorado (in press).

Peer-reviewed articles


Pan, Darcy. Student visas, undocumented labor, and the boundaries of legality: Chinese migration and English as a foreign language education. Social Anthropology 19 (3): 268-287.