In the early 2000s, human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) began to avail themselves of newly commercialized satellite imagery in their advocacy efforts. In human rights contexts, satellite imaging vastly extends capacities to detect and respond to abuses of human rights across the globe, especially in spaces that are seemingly inaccessible to rights advocates. In this essay, I explore human rights satellite imaging as an extension of a surveillance gaze that emerged and developed in the context of a politics of securitization. In so doing, I suggest that satellite imaging not only has been used by human rights advocates to pursue their ends but has also transformed those ends, separating intention from effect, policy from practice, and advocacy’s present from its past. In this process, surveillance states and human rights NGOs have come to collaborate on the production of geopolitical knowledge and the accumulation of geopolitical power through the deployment of satellite imagery.

You do not currently have access to this content.