The Age of Inspectability: Vision, Space, and the Victorian City

in The Victorian Eye

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780226640761
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226640785 | DOI:
The Age of Inspectability: Vision, Space, and the Victorian City

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter examines the activities of nuisance and sanitary inspectors, whose routine work carried them into the homes and workplaces of the Victorian city, and discusses the very particular visual form that their inspection took. The form of this inspection was not panoptic, but neither was it oligoptic or even supervisory in the fixed sense outlined in Chapter 2. The activities of inspectors formed a distinct pattern of their own—extensive, mobile, and delimited. Their perception did not radiate through spaces or fields; instead, it circulated through networks themselves designed increasingly to make inspection easy and unintrusive. These networks, in turn, left large expanses of Victorian urban life largely uninspected, and this strategic invisibility structured the experience of privacy and self-inspection so integral to liberal subjectivity.

Keywords: nuisance inspectors; sanitary inspectors; inspection; perception; Victorian urban life; privacy; liberal subjectivity; self-inspection

Chapter.  13763 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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