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Millennium Conference: Entanglements and Detachments in Global Politics

22-24 October 2020

Speakers: Claudia Aradau & Sarah Perret – Entanglements of non-knowledge: fakes, errors and subjectivity at the border



Making migrants legible through social sorting, risk profiling and the collection of biometrics have been key stakes of border security in Europe. Recent work from critical borders and security scholars has drawn attention to ‘the other side of knowledge’ and its implications for border control. This paper proposes to analyse the socio-material entanglements of the non-knowledge production in relation to techniques of power. While biometric data has been associated with a ‘will to knowledge’, the increased extraction of data from migrant bodies also entails a ‘will to non-knowledge’ that involves the entanglements of practices, knowledge, actors, and devices. We argue that we need to attend to distinctions, disjunctions and disentanglement, particularly those between ‘fakes’ and ‘errors’. On the one hand, different actors have highlighted the errors of biometric technologies and related decision-making. At the same time, border actors emphasise the migrant practices, documentation and narratives at potentially ‘fake’, ‘fraudulent’ or ‘false’. We argue that there are important epistemic differences between ‘fake’ and ‘error’, and these produce highly differentiated subjectivities and power relations. It is through these disentanglements and detachments that migrants become the subjects who can never err but are always at risk of being deemed ‘fake’.

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