Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Invasion, Surveillance, Biopolitics, and Governmentality: Representations from Tactical Media to Screen

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Lara Lengel-Martin (Advisor)

Third Advisor

Scott Martin (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Alberto Gonzalez (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Clayton Rosati (Committee Member)


This study situates invasion as a form of what Michel Foucault called governmentality. According to Foucault, governmentality determined how a society was ruled and by whom it was ruled, and under what conditions. A central argument in this dissertation is that invasion, both actual and imagined, has become a fundamental means of governing the population and body, and is as much a productive force as it is destructive. Turning to media representations across a variety of formats, this study examines four key case studies. The first is the Critical Art Ensemble, a tactical media group whose work designed to expose the working of the corporate food supply brought them into direct conflict with the federal authorities. Along these lines, this study argues that tactical media functions as both a form of surveillance and governmentality. Another tactical media group analyzed is the Yes Men, who use their own bodies and the visage of corporate America to expose the often twisted logic at work. This study then turns to representations on film and television, analyzing the film Cloverfield (2008) and the science fiction television series Fringe, both of which rely heavily in the tropes of invasion. Invasion has become a loose term and its workings are not fully theorized. By looking at how invasion, surveillance, and bodies interact, this study lays out a path that not only interrogates the concept of invasion, but also how invasion may be subverted or, by contrast, unquestioned.

Methodologically, this study combines visual and ideological analysis, as theorized by Nicholas Mirzoeff and Lisa Nakamura and others, in order to uncover the myriad ways by which invasion works. By combining these methods, the study examines key components from each of these sites. By examining closely the visual representation, and by turns the obfuscation of the such visual representations, of science, law enforcement, the military, surveillance, and destruction - as well as the obfuscation of their presence this study shows how invasion is a contested concept that is not so much enacted by state power and other actors as it is part of the ideology of twenty first century America.