William G. Staples

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Sociology
2016-17 Paul and Helen Roofe Professor
Department Chair and Director of the Surveillance Studies Research Center
Primary office:
785-864-9414


William G. Staples is the 2016-17 Paul and Helen Roofe Professor of Sociology, Chair of the Department 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 is currently Associate Editor of Surveillance & Society, the international journal of the Surveillance Studies Network.

Teaching

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.

Teaching Interests

  • Surveillance Studies
  • Social Control
  • Historical Sociology
  • Research Methods

Research

I 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.

Research Interests

  • Surveillance Studies
  • Social Control
  • Historical Sociology
  • Cultural Sociology

Selected Publications

Myers, A., & Staples, W. G (in press). "Surveillance." . In D. P Haider-Markel (Ed.), Legislating Morality in America . Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Staples, W. G (in press). "Drug Testing Kits.". In B. Arrigo (Ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Surveillance, Security, and Privacy.

Staples, W. G (in press). "Fingerprints.". In B. Arrigo (Ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Surveillance, Security, and Privacy.

Staples, W. G (in press). "Jennicam.". In B. Arrigo (Ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Surveillance, Security, and Privacy.

Staples, W. G (in press). "Plethysmograph.". In B. Arrigo (Ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Surveillance, Security, and Privacy.

Cervantes, A. Gomez, Menjivar, C., & Staples, W. G (2017). “'Humane' Immigration Enforcement and Latina Immigrants in the Detention Complex". Feminist Criminology, Vol 12(3), 269-292. DOI:10.1177/1557085117699069

Staples, W. G. (2015). [Review of the book Talking Criminal Justice: Language and the Just Society , Michael J. Coyle ]. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 44 (May)(3), 351-352. Sage.

Staples, W. G. (2014). [Review of the book The New Social Control: The Institutional Web, Normativity and the Social Bond , Michalis Lianos (Red Quill Books, 2012)]. Surveillance & Society, 12(3), 468-70. Queen's University, CA: Surveillance Studies Network.

Staples, W. G. (2014). Everyday Surveillance: Vigilance and Visibility in Postmodern Life, Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Staples, W. G. (2012). [Review of the book The Passport in America: The History of A Document , Craig Robertson (Oxford University Press, 2010) ]. Surveillance & Society , 9 , 336-338. Queen's University, CA.

Staples, W. G. (2010). [Review of the book The Culture of Punishment: Prison, Society, and Spectacle, Michelle Brown (New York University Press, 2009)]. American Journal of Sociology , 116 , 667–669.

Staples, W. G., & Decker, S. (2010). Between the ‘Home’ and ‘Institutional’ Worlds: Tensions and Contradictions in the Practice of House Arrest. Critical Criminology , 18 , 1-20.

Staples, W. G. (2009). ’Where Are You and What Are You Doing?’ Familial ‘Back Up Work’ as a Collateral Consequence of House Arrest. In M. Nelson & A. Garey (Eds.), Who’s Watching: Daily Practices of Surveillance among Contemporary Families (pp. 33-53). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Staples, W. G. (2009). [Review of the book iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era, Mark Andrejevic (University Press of Kansas, 2007)]. American Studies , 50, 177-178.

Staples, W. G. (2009). [Review of the book Who Are You? Identification, Deception, and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe, Valentin Groebner (Zone, 2007)]. Surveillance & Society , 6 , 424-425. Surveillance Studies Network.

Staples, W. G. (2009). [Review of the book Playing the Identity Card: Surveillance, Security and Identification in Global Perspective, Colin J. Bennett and David Lyon (Routledge, 2008)]. Contemporary Sociology , 38 , 419-420.

Staples, W. G., & Decker, S. (2008). Technologies of the Body, Technologies of the Self: House Arrest as Neoliberal Governance. In M. Deflem (Ed.), Surveillance and Governance: Crime Control Today (pp. 131-149). Bingley, UK: Emerald/JAI Press.

Staples, W. G. (2007). [Review of the book Theorizing Surveillance: The Panopticon and Beyond, Ddited by David Lyon (Willan Publishing, 2006)]. The Sociological Review , 55 , 422-424.

Staples, W. G. (2006). Encyclopedia of Privacy (Volumes 1-2), Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO/Greenwood .

Staples, W. G., & Zirkle, B. (2005). Negotiating Workplace Surveillance. In J. Weckert (Ed.), Electronic Monitoring in the Workplace: Controversies and Solutions (pp. 79-100). Hershey, PA: Idea Group, Inc.

Staples, W. G. (2005). The Everyday World of House Arrest: Collateral Consequences for Families and Others. In C. Mele & T. Miller (Eds.), Civil Penalties, Social Consequences (pp. 139-159). New York: Routledge.

Staples, W. G. (2005). The Culture of Surveillance Revisited: “Total Information Awareness” and the New Privacy Landscape. Social Thought and Research , 26(1&2), 123-135.

Staples, W. G. (2004). [Review of the book Policing Contingencies, Peter K. Manning (University of Chicago Press, 2003)]. Contemporary Sociology , 33 , 590-591.

Staples, W. G. (2003). Surveillance and Social Control in Postmodern Life. In T. Blomberg & S. Cohen (Eds.), Punishment and Social Control (pp. 191-211). Hawthorne, NY: Aldine De Gruyter.

Staples, W. G., & Nagel, J. (2002). Gary’s Gone..: Comment on The Case of the Pepping Tom: Technology and Gender by Gary T. Marx. The Sociological Quarterly , 43 , 447-452.

Staples, W. G. (2001). Everyday Surveillance. In B. A. Jacobs (Ed.), Investigating Deviance: An Anthology (pp. 530-533). Los Angeles: Roxbury.

Staples, W. G., & Staples, C. L. (2001). Power, Profits, and Patriarchy: The Social Organization of Work at a British Metal Trades Firm, 1791-1922, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Staples, W. G. (2000). [Review of the book Making Trouble: Cultural Constructions of Crime, Deviance, and Control, Jeff Ferrell and Neil Websdale (Aldine De Gruyter, 1999)]. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture , 7(2), 96-98.

Staples, W. G., & Staples, C. L. (2000). Rereading Harry Braverman’s Labor and Monopoly Capital after Twenty Years. Social Thought and Research, 23(1 & 2), 227-238.

Staples, W. G., & Staples, C. L. (1999). ‘A Strike of Girls’: Gender and Class in the British Metal Trades, 1913. Journal of Historical Sociology , 12 , 158-180.

Staples, W. G. (1998). [Review of the book Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption, Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau (MIT Press, 1998)]. The American Scientist , 86 , 487.

Staples, W. G. (1997). [Review of the book Foucault and Political Reason: Liberalism, neo-Liberalism, and Rationalities of Government, Andrew Barry et al. (University of Chicago Press, 1996)]. Contemporary Sociology , 26 , 598-599.

Staples, W. G. (1996). The Culture of Surveillance: Discipline and Social Control in the United States , New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Staples, W. G. (1994). Small Acts of Cunning: Disciplinary Practices in Contemporary Life. The Sociological Quarterly , 35 , 645-664.

Staples, W. G., & Krier, D. (1993). Seen But Unseen: Part-time Faculty and Institutional Surveillance and Control. The American Sociologist , 24 , 119-134.

Holstein, J. A., & Staples, W. G (1992). Producing Evaluative Knowledge: The Interactional Bases of Social Science Findings. Sociological Inquiry , 62 (1), 11-35.

Staples, W. G. (1990). In the Interest of the State: Production Politics in the Nineteenth Century Prison. Sociological Perspectives , 33 , 375-395.

Staples, W. G. (1990). Castles of Our Conscience: Social Control and the American State, 1800-1985, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Staples, W. G. (1990). [Review of the book Reds or Rackets? The Making of Radical and Conservative Unions on the Waterfront, Howard Kimeldorf (University of California Press, 1988)]. American Journal of Sociology , 95 , 1075-1076.

Staples, W. G., Adler, P. A., Adler, P., Ahrons, C., Perlmutter, M., & Warren, C. (1989). Dual-Careerism and the Conjoint-Career Couple. The American Sociologist , 20 , 207-226.

Staples, W. G., & Warren, C. (1989). Fieldwork in Forbidden Terrain: The State, Privatization and Human Subjects Regulations. The American Sociologist , 20 , 263-267.

Staples, W. G. (1989). [Review of the book Step Children of Progress: The Political Economy of Development in an Indonesian Mining Town, Kathryn M. Robinson (State University of New York Press, 1986)]. Contemporary Sociology , 18 , 351.

Staples, W. G., & Warren, C. (1988). Mental Health and Adolescent Social Control. In S. Spitzer & A. Scull (Eds.), Research in Law, Deviance and Social Control: A Research Annual (pp. 113-126). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Staples, W. G. (1987). Technology, Control and the Social Organization of Work at a British Hardware Firm, 1791-1891. American Journal of Sociology , 93 , 62-88.

Staples, W. G. (1987). Law and Social Control in Juvenile Justice Dispositions. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency , 24 , 7-22.

Staples, W. G. (1986). Restitution as a Sanction in Juvenile Court. Crime and Delinquency , 32 , 177-185.

Staples, W. G. (1985). [Review of the book The Development of the Labor Process in Capitalist Societies, Craig R. Littler (Heinemann, 1983)]. Contemporary Sociology , 14 , 376-377.

Staples, W. G. (1984). Toward a Structural Perspective on Gender Bias in the Juvenile Court. Sociological Perspectives , 27 , 349-367.

Staples, W. G. (1983). [Review of the book Habermas: Critical Debates, J. Thompson and D. Held, eds. (The MIT Press, 1983)]. Sociology and Social Research , 67 , 467-468.

» Show All Publications

Selected Presentations

Staples, W. (06/08/2017 - 06/08/2017). “It was the Bible of High School” Real-Time Grade Books and the Quantified Student . Metric Culture: The Quantified Self and Beyond. Aarhus, Denmark . Available Here

Staples, W. (03/26/2017). “Our Culture of Surveillance and the Securitization of Everyday Life” . The Aesthetics of Surveillance in German Literature and Culture, Graduate Student Conference in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages at Vanderbilt University. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Staples, W. (01/05/2017). Plenaray Presentation: 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. (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. (04/17/2015). You Watch Us, We Watch You: Assessing the Effects of Emerging Surveillance Technologies . The 28th Annual KU Law School Media & the Law Seminar. Available Here

Selected Awards & Honors

Member, Fulbright Senior Specialists Program
U.S. Department of State
2014 - 2019

2015 Surveillance Studies Network Book Prize for Everyday Surveillance: Vigilance and Visibility in Postmodern Life (2/e), 2014. Sponsored by the Surveillance Studies Network, the international information network on surveillance.
2016

2016-17 Paul Gibson and Helen Waddle Roofe Professor of Sociology
Department of Sociology College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
2016

Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi
2013

2013-14 E. Jackson Baur Professor of Sociology
University of Kansas
2013

2012 KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Craig Anthony Arnold Faculty Innovation Award
2012

Balfour Jeffrey Research Award in Humanities and Social Sciences
Higuchi-KU Endowment
2011

2010-11 E. Jackson Baur Professor of Sociology
University of Kansas
2010 - 2011

Member, Fulbright Senior Specialists Program
U. S. Department of State
2005 - 2010

Outstanding Academic Title, The Encyclopedia of Privacy (Volumes 1-2)
CHOICE Reviews, from the Association of College & Research Libraries
2007

Phi Beta Delta, International Scholars
2005

American Sociological Association Book Prize for, Power, Profits, and Patriarchy: The Social Organization of Work at a British Metal Trades Firm, 1791-1922 (with C. Staples). Roman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001

2003

Honorable Mention, Outstanding Mentor Award
KU Graduate and Professional Association
2003

Graduate Teacher Appreciation Award
KU Center for Teaching Excellence
2001

Faculty Fellow
KU Center for Teaching Excellence
1999

Quest for the Best Faculty Competition Award
KU ASTUTE Technology Center
1993

Outstanding Academic Title, Castles of Our Conscience: Social Control and the American State, 1800-1985
CHOICE Reviews, from the Association of College & Research Libraries
1991

Honorable Mention, Best Recent Article
Comparative Historical Section of the American Sociological Association, for “Technology, Control and the Social Organization of Work at a British Hardware Firm, 1791-1891”
1989

Alpha Kappa Delta: The Honor Society of Sociology
1984

Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Society
1983

DO WE LIVE IN A SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY?

Strategies for keeping close watch on people have been with us throughout human history. Yet the widespread, systematic observation of the populace and the collection of personal information in democratic societies today is unprecedented. Contemporary surveillance practices are typically embedded into the routine activities of daily life and adopted in the interests of security, governance, efficiencies, and commerce, but also for personal care and protection, empowerment, resistance, and even play. Regardless of intent, these practices raise a host of social, political, ethical, and legal questions that challenge long-standing notions of privacy, civil liberties, and personal autonomy.


Professor Bill Staples Curriculum Vitae (PDF)


Fall 2017 Courses

  • Soc 563 Sociology of Surveillance, online

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