EASST/4S 2020 Prague: 18 – 21 August 2020
Speakers: Claudia Aradau and Sarah Perret - Making up Data
European borders have become intense sites of digital data extraction. This data comes in many different forms, it is dispersed across different spaces and times. In this paper, we propose an analysis of ‘making up data’, building on Ian Hacking’s analysis of ‘making up people’. To this purpose, we develop a conceptual distinction between digital ‘traces’ and ‘inscriptions.’ While digital traces are increasingly extracted from the bodies of migrants through fingerprinting, screening, facial recognition, or interviews, these disperse traces need to be combined and recombined to produce border inscriptions. In advancing an understanding of how data is made for the purposes of border governance, the paper proposes to contribute to a dialogue between critical security studies, border studies, and science and technology studies. Empirically, we analyse the ‘practical tools’ and software that the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) has developed in the implementation of the Dublin III Regulation and the Common European Asylum System, as well as through additional interviews with EASO staff. Firstly, while many scholars point to the shift towards datafication and digital traces in border governance, we shed light on the proliferation and dispersal of different forms of traces – biometrics, documents, population registers, stamps, interviews – in the production of border inscriptions. Secondly, we show how inscription devices enact (dis)connections and hierarchise traces according to an epistemology of credibility. Finally, border inscriptions enact migrants as insecure subjects who cannot refuse data extraction.