Origins of Ethno-Religious Profiling: The Jewish Question and Police Surveillance in the Russian Empire in the 19th Century

  • Kseniya S. Grigor'eva Institute of Sociology of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology (FCTAS), Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia


Surveillance scholars have begun to pay increasing attention to the fact that the burden of surveillance is distributed through society unevenly, further deepening social inequality. As an alternative to the popular image of the “panopticon” (universal surveillance over everyone), the new concept of a “banopticon” (surveillance over specific “dangerous” groups) has been proposed. The idea is that this “new” type of surveillance, unlike “traditional” surveillance, targets entire “suspicious” categories of the population rather than specific individuals, and is oriented towards the future, not the past. But is this phenomenon all that new? History shows that the roots of this type of surveillance run as deep as the early modern era. This paper uses a thematic study of surveillance over Jews in the Russian Empire as the basis for an analysis of the emergence and development of one historical form for the monitoring of “dangerous” population groups, along with its causes, intellectual basis, and deployment mechanisms. The results obtained challenge the widespread notion that surveillance over specific racial, ethnic, and ethno-religious groups (racial profiling) is tied exclusively to slavery, racism, and colonialism. This study allows for an expansion of the understanding of this concept and an increase in its complexity.

Author Biography

Kseniya S. Grigor'eva, Institute of Sociology of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology (FCTAS), Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

Kseniya S. Grigor'eva, Cand. Sci. (Sociology), is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Sociology of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology (FCTAS) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia. Her research interests focus on ethnical profiling, interethnic relations, social and cultural aspects of migration processes.


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How to Cite
Grigor'eva, K. (2023). Origins of Ethno-Religious Profiling: The Jewish Question and Police Surveillance in the Russian Empire in the 19th Century. Changing Societies & Personalities, 7(2), 55–80. doi:10.15826/csp.2023.7.2.231