- Professor, Sociology
- Director | Surveillance Studies Research Center
William G. Staples is Professor of Sociology and Founding Director of the Surveillance Studies Research Center at the University of Kansas. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA. Staples is well-known internationally for his work in the areas of social control and surveillance. He is the author of five books and dozens of articles and chapters. His most recent work is the second edition of Everyday Surveillance: Vigilance and Visibility in Postmodern Life, considered a foundational work in the interdisciplinary field of Surveillance Studies. Staples is past Co-Editor of Sociological Inquiry, The Sociological Quarterly, and Associate Editor of Surveillance & Society, the international journal of the Surveillance Studies Network.
- Surveillance Studies
- Social Control
- Historical Sociology
- Research methods
am a historical and cultural sociologist working within the interpretive tradition. For more than three decades I have produced a body of work exploring various forms of discipline, power, and authority and the social and cultural mechanisms that reproduce them. My aim has been to understand the processes by which individual lives are shaped and defined within social institutions, organizations, discourses, and practices. In my earliest work, this agenda was expressed in a series of articles on the application of law in the justice system and later, in my writing on the methods and discourses of the human sciences. As I expanded my historical scope and refined my conceptual frame, I have concentrated on developing socio-historical accounts of "disciplinary regimes" (i.e., techniques of control founded on rationality, surveillance, and knowledge) and on exploring the political and material means of their origins and development. This agenda took me in a number of different yet thematically linked directions. For example, two early projects addressed central issues of the birth of modernity: the rise of the bureaucratic state and the development of capitalism. In Castles of Our Conscience, I offered an account of the relationship between state-building and the emergence of the prison, the asylum, and the poor house in the US (1800-1985). And in Power, Profits, and Patriarchy, with my co-author we constructed a detailed case study of the unequal power and authority relations of gender, class, and age in the British metal-trades (1791-1922). Although different in substance, both projects explore the nature and development of disciplinary regimes, one between citizen and state, the other between workers and the owners of capital.
I continued to investigate the ways in which lives are shaped, influenced, and ordered within organizational and community settings. In The Culture of Surveillance I focused on those contemporary social control techniques—often enhanced by the use of new information, visual, communication, and medical technologies—that target and treat the body as an object to be watched, assessed, and manipulated. I have argued that these new disciplinary techniques must be understood as products of both important, long-term processes set in motion with the onset of modernity, as well as part of the cultural context of postmodernity. I took this book to a new publisher and an updated and expanded edition first appeared in 2000 as Everyday Surveillance: Vigilance and Visibility in Postmodern Life; a completely revised second edition appeared in 2014. It is today considered a foundational work in the field of Surveillance Studies. My work on surveillance also led me to edit a two-volume, award-winning reference work, the Encyclopedia of Privacy.
Most recently, I have completed collecting extensive archival material and have begun writing a new monograph tentatively titled, Documenting the Body; Creating the Self: A Social and Cultural History of the Modern Birth Certificate. This project will offer a unique history of birth registration in the United States?from its formal establishment in the early 20th century until today—as both a strategy of personal identification needed to govern the population at large and as a mechanism that ascribes to a newborn individual identity and social status. The quality of my scholarship has recognized by scholarly organizations and I have been awarded the 2015 Surveillance Studies Network Book Prize, the 2012 KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Craig Anthony Arnold Faculty Innovation Award and the 2011 Balfour Jeffrey Research Award in Humanities and Social Sciences, the latter being one of four Higuchi-KU Endowment Research Achievement Awards, the most prestigious state-wide research honors for faculty at Kansas Board of Regents institutions.
- Surveillance Studies, Social Control, Historical Sociology, Cultural Sociology
Consistent with the work of Paulo Freire, I see knowledge as a process rather than a commodity to be distributed by "experts." Within this view, students are active participants in their own education rather than passive receptors of the chosen word. I want my students to take their own understandings and experiences seriously and reflectively. This empowerment model of education demands a fundamental respect of the student which I believe they all deserve. I see my role as a sociologist to help my students develop three basic skills: historical sensibility, cultural insight, and analytic critique. I believe that these notions are the central focus of our discipline as well as the foundation of a liberal arts education. No matter the level—from freshmen First Year Seminars and Honors Tutorials to advanced level graduate seminars— I seek to create a classroom that is open, supportive, and student-centered. I encourage students to take an active role at every turn. Each class I teach involves a combination of "active-learning" techniques, expressive writing, and empirical research.
Selected Publications —
Myers, Alex, and William G Staples. 2020. “‘Surveillance’ .” Encyclopedia/Dictionary Entries. Edited by Donald P Haider-Markel . Legislating Morality in America: Debating the Morality of Controversial U.S. Laws and Policies. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
Staples, William G, and Darcy Sullivan . 2019. “‘Electronically Monitored Home Confinement.’” Other. Edited by Beth Huebner. Oxford Bibliographies in Criminology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press .
Goettlich, Walter, and William G Staples. 2018. “Review of the Book Surveilling and Securing the Olympics: From Tokyo 1964 to London 2012 and Beyond by Vida Bajc Palgrave.” Book Reviews. Critical Sociology. Sage. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0896920517744162.
Staples, William G. 2018. “‘Drug Testing Kits.’” Encyclopedia/Dictionary Entries. Edited by Bruce Arrigo. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Surveillance, Security, and Privacy.
Staples, William G. 2018. “‘Fingerprints.’” Encyclopedia/Dictionary Entries. Edited by Bruce Arrigo. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Surveillance, Security, and Privacy.
Staples, William G. 2018. “‘Jennicam.’” Encyclopedia/Dictionary Entries. Edited by Bruce Arrigo. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Surveillance, Security, and Privacy.
Staples, William G. 2018. “‘Plethysmograph.’” Encyclopedia/Dictionary Entries. Edited by Bruce Arrigo. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Surveillance, Security, and Privacy.
Staples, William G. 2018. “Real-Time Grade Books and the Quantified Student.” Book Chapters. In Metric Culture: Ontologies of Self-Tracking Practices, edited by Btihaj Ajana. Bingley, West Yorkshire, UK: Emerald Publishing.
Myers, Alex J, and William G Staples. 2017. “Review of the Book, Citizen Spies: The Long Rise of America’s Surveillance Society, Joshua Reeves, NYU Press.” Book Reviews. Surveillance & Society . Kingston, ON Canada: Surveillance Studies Network.
Staples, William G. 2017. “Review of the Book, Windows into the Soul: Surveillance and Society in an Age of High Technology by Gary Marx of Chicago Press.” Book Reviews. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews. Sage . https://doi.org/10.1177/0094306117734868y.
Cervantes, Andrea Gomez, Cecilia Menjivar, and William G Staples. 2017. “‘Humane’ Immigration Enforcement and Latina Immigrants in the Detention Complex".” Journal Articles. Feminist Criminology Vol 12 (3): 269–92. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557085117699069.
Staples, William G. 2015. “Review of the Book Talking Criminal Justice: Language and the Just Society by Michael J. Coyle.” Book Reviews. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews. Sage.
Staples, William G. 2014. Everyday Surveillance: Vigilance and Visibility in Postmodern Life. Books. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Staples, William G. 2014. “Review of the Book The New Social Control: The Institutional Web, Normativity and the Social Bond by Michalis Lianos (Red Quill Books, 2012).” Book Reviews. Surveillance & Society. Queen’s University, CA: Surveillance Studies Network.
Staples, William G. 2012. “Review of the Book The Passport in America: The History of A Document by Craig Robertson (Oxford University Press, 2010).” Book Reviews. Surveillance & Society . Queen’s University, CA.
Staples, William G. 2010. “Review of the Book The Culture of Punishment: Prison, Society, and Spectacle by Michelle Brown (New York University Press, 2009).” Book Reviews. American Journal of Sociology .
Staples, William G., and S. Decker. 2010. “Between the ΓÇÿHomeΓÇÖ and ΓÇÿInstitutionalΓÇÖ Worlds: Tensions and Contradictions in the Practice of House Arrest.” Journal Articles. Critical Criminology 18 (March): 1–20.
Staples, William G. 2009. “Review of the Book Playing the Identity Card: Surveillance, Security and Identification in Global Perspective by Colin J. Bennett and David Lyon (Routledge, 2008).” Book Reviews. Contemporary Sociology .
Staples, William G. 2009. “Review of the Book ISpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era by Mark Andrejevic (University Press of Kansas, 2007).” Book Reviews. American Studies .
Staples, William G. 2009. “Review of the Book Who Are You? Identification, Deception, and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe by Valentin Groebner (Zone, 2007).” Book Reviews. Surveillance & Society . Surveillance Studies Network.
Staples, William G. 2009. “ΓÇÖWhere Are You and What Are You Doing?ΓÇÖ Familial ΓÇÿBack Up WorkΓÇÖ as a Collateral Consequence of House Arrest.” Book Chapters. In WhoΓÇÖs Watching: Daily Practices of Surveillance among Contemporary Families, edited by M. Nelson and A. Garey, 33–53. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
Staples, William G., and S. Decker. 2008. “Technologies of the Body, Technologies of the Self: House Arrest as Neoliberal Governance.” Book Chapters. In Surveillance and Governance: Crime Control Today, edited by M. Deflem, 131–49. Bingley, UK: Emerald/JAI Press.
Staples, William G. 2007. “Review of the Book Theorizing Surveillance: The Panopticon and Beyond by Ddited by David Lyon (Willan Publishing, 2006).” Book Reviews. The Sociological Review .
Staples, William G. 2006. Encyclopedia of Privacy (Volumes 1-2). Books. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO/Greenwood .
Staples, William G., and B. Zirkle. 2005. “Negotiating Workplace Surveillance.” Book Chapters. In Electronic Monitoring in the Workplace: Controversies and Solutions, edited by J. Weckert, 79–100. Hershey, PA: Idea Group, Inc.
Staples, William G. 2005. “The Culture of Surveillance Revisited: "Total Information AwarenessΓÇ¥ and the New Privacy Landscape.” Journal Articles. Social Thought and Research 26 (1 & 2): 123–35.
Staples, William G. 2005. “The Everyday World of House Arrest: Collateral Consequences for Families and Others.” Book Chapters. In Civil Penalties, Social Consequences, edited by C. Mele and T. Miller, 139–59. New York: Routledge.
Staples, William G. 2004. “Review of the Book Policing Contingencies by Peter K. Manning (University of Chicago Press, 2003).” Book Reviews. Contemporary Sociology .
Staples, William G. 2003. “Surveillance and Social Control in Postmodern Life.” Book Chapters. In Punishment and Social Control , edited by T. Blomberg and S. Cohen, 191–211. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine De Gruyter.
Staples, William G., and J. Nagel. 2002. “GaryΓÇÖs Gone...: Comment on The Case of the Pepping Tom: Technology and Gender by Gary T. Marx.” Journal Articles. The Sociological Quarterly 43: 447–52.
Staples, William G. 2001. “Everyday Surveillance.” Book Chapters. In Investigating Deviance: An Anthology, edited by B. A. Jacobs, 530–33. Los Angeles: Roxbury.
Staples, William G., and Clifford L. Staples. 2001. Power, Profits, and Patriarchy: The Social Organization of Work at a British Metal Trades Firm, 1791-1922. Books. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Staples, William G., and Clifford L. Staples. 2000. “Rereading Harry BravermanΓÇÖs Labor and Monopoly Capital after Twenty Years.” Journal Articles. Social Thought and Research 23 (1 & 2): 227–38.
Staples, William G. 2000. “Review of the Book Making Trouble: Cultural Constructions of Crime, Deviance, and Control by Jeff Ferrell and Neil Websdale (Aldine De Gruyter, 1999).” Book Reviews. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture .
Staples, William G., and Clifford L. Staples. 1999. “ΓÇÿA Strike of GirlsΓÇÖ: Gender and Class in the British Metal Trades, 1913.” Journal Articles. Journal of Historical Sociology 12 (May): 158–80.
Staples, William G. 1998. “Review of the Book Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption by Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau (MIT Press, 1998).” Book Reviews. The American Scientist .
Staples, William G. 1997. “Review of the Book Foucault and Political Reason: Liberalism, Neo-Liberalism, and Rationalities of Government by Andrew Barry et al. (University of Chicago Press, 1996).” Book Reviews. Contemporary Sociology .
Staples, William G. 1996. The Culture of Surveillance: Discipline and Social Control in the United States . Books. New York, NY: St. MartinΓÇÖs Press.
Staples, William G. 1994. “Small Acts of Cunning: Disciplinary Practices in Contemporary Life.” Journal Articles. The Sociological Quarterly 35: 645–64.
Staples, William G., and Daniel Krier. 1993. “Seen But Unseen: Part-Time Faculty and Institutional Surveillance and Control.” Journal Articles. The American Sociologist 24: 119–34.
Holstein, James A., and William G Staples. 1992. “Producing Evaluative Knowledge: The Interactional Bases of Social Science Findings.” Journal Articles. Sociological Inquiry 62 (1): 11–35.
Staples, William G. 1990. “In the Interest of the State: Production Politics in the Nineteenth Century Prison.” Journal Articles. Sociological Perspectives 33: 375–95.
Staples, William G. 1990. “Review of the Book Reds or Rackets? The Making of Radical and Conservative Unions on the Waterfront by Howard Kimeldorf (University of California Press, 1988).” Book Reviews. American Journal of Sociology .
Staples, William G. 1990. Castles of Our Conscience: Social Control and the American State, 1800-1985. Books. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Staples, William G., P. A. Adler, P. Adler, C. Ahrons, M. Perlmutter, and C. Warren. 1989. “Dual-Careerism and the Conjoint-Career Couple.” Journal Articles. The American Sociologist 20: 207–26.
Staples, William G., and C. Warren. 1989. “Fieldwork in Forbidden Terrain: The State, Privatization and Human Subjects Regulations.” Journal Articles. The American Sociologist 20: 263–67.
Staples, William G. 1989. “Review of the Book Step Children of Progress: The Political Economy of Development in an Indonesian Mining Town by Kathryn M. Robinson (State University of New York Press, 1986).” Book Reviews. Contemporary Sociology .
Staples, William G., and C. Warren. 1988. “Mental Health and Adolescent Social Control.” Book Chapters. In Research in Law, Deviance and Social Control: A Research Annual, edited by S. Spitzer and A. Scull, 113–26. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Staples, William G. 1987. “Technology, Control and the Social Organization of Work at a British Hardware Firm, 1791-1891.” Journal Articles. American Journal of Sociology 93 (June): 62–88.
Staples, William G. 1987. “Law and Social Control in Juvenile Justice Dispositions.” Journal Articles. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 24 (February): 7–22.
Staples, William G. 1986. “Restitution as a Sanction in Juvenile Court.” Journal Articles. Crime and Delinquency 32 (April): 177–85.
Staples, William G. 1985. “Review of the Book The Development of the Labor Process in Capitalist Societies by Craig R. Littler (Heinemann, 1983).” Book Reviews. Contemporary Sociology .
Staples, William G. 1984. “Toward a Structural Perspective on Gender Bias in the Juvenile Court.” Journal Articles. Sociological Perspectives 27 (June): 349–67.
Staples, William G. 1983. “Review of the Book Habermas: Critical Debates by J. Thompson and D. Held, Eds. (The MIT Press, 1983).” Book Reviews. Sociology and Social Research .
Menj├¡var, Cecilia, Andrea G├│mez Cervantes, and William G Staples. Accepted/In Press. “Masking Punitive Practices: Latina Immigrants Experiences in the U.S. Detention Complex.” Book Chapters. In Violando La Ley: Latinas in the Justice System , edited by Vera Lopez and Lisa Pasko. New York, New York: NYU Press.
Selected Presentations —
Staples, W. G., Alexander , W. P., Goettlich, W. C., Morton, T. E., & Wiley, M. L. (6/7/2018 - 6/7/2018). "Digital Inequalities in the U.S. Heartland: Exploring the Information Security Experiences of Marginalized Internet Users". The 8th Biennial Surveillance Studies Network Conference. Aarhus, Denmark
Gomez Cervantes, A., Menjivar , C., & Staples, W. G. (8/15/2017 - 8/15/2017). "Humane" Immigration Enforcement and Latina Immigrants in the Detention Complex. American Sociological Association. Montreal, CA
Staples, W. G. (6/8/2017 - 6/8/2017). "'It was the Bible of High School': Real-Time Grade Books and the Quantified Student". Metric Culture: The Quantified Self and Beyond. Aarhus University Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus, Denmark. [Link to conference page]
Staples, W. G. (3/26/2017). "Our Culture of Surveillance and the Securitization of Everyday Life". The Aesthetics of Surveillance in German Literature and Culture. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Staples, W. G. (1/5/2017). "Everyday Surveillance: A Case Study of Student Information Systems.". 2017 The International Academic Forum (IAFOR): International Conference on the Social Sciences. Honolulu, Hawaii
Staples, W. G. (11/16/2016). "The U.S Culture of Surveillance and the Securitization of Everyday Life.". Department of Sociology, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
Staples, W. G. (4/17/2015). "You Watch Us, We Watch You: Assessing the Effects of Emerging Surveillance Technologies.". The 28th Annual KU Law School Media & the Law Seminar. [Link to Media and Law Seminar]
Myers, A., & Staples, W. G. (3/27/2015 - 3/27/2015). "Midwives versus the State: Experts and Expertise in Early American Birth Registration.". Midwest Sociological Society. Kansas City
Grants & Other Funded Activity —
EAGER: Digital Inequalities in the Heartland: Exploring the Information Security Experiences of Marginalized Internet Users. 1742815. National Science Foundation
Secure & Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC). $300000.00. Submitted 3/31/2017 (10/1/2017 - 9/30/2019). Not-for-Profit (not Foundation). Status: Funded
AUFF Guest Researcher Grant. Aarhus University Research Foundation. $12766.00 (DKK 80,000 ). Submitted 3/15/2017 (6/1/2017 - 6/30/2017). Other University. Status: Funded
Knight News Challenge: How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation? Our Project: "CertiDig ΓÇö Using technology to make data sharing safer.". Knight Foundation. $35000.00. Submitted 3/1/2014 (1/1/2015 - 12/31/2015). Foundation. Status: Funded
Documenting the Body; Creating the Self: A Social and Cultural History of the Birth Certificate. General Research Fund, University of Kansas. $12270.00. (12/31/2012). University (KU or KUMC). Status: Funded
Balfour Jeffrey Research Award in Humanities and Social Sciences. Office of Research. $10000.00. (12/31/2011). State of Kansas. Status: Funded