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Chapter 4 examines the discretionary power wielded by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and airline workers through cases mainly of black women who were subjected to invasive pat downs, hair searches, and other security measures at U.S. airports. By questioning how black women are deployed in narratives about airport security, for example, through representations in popular culture as uninterested, sassy, and ineffective TSA agents, this chapter forms a general theory of security theater and also pays attention to the ways that black women’s bodies come to represent, and also resist, security theater at the airport. This chapter asks what the experiences of black women in airports and popular culture representations of airport security practices, as well as art and artworks at and about the airport, reveal about the airport as a social formation.

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