New Voices: Collecting, assembling, ordering: Borders, asylum, and the invisible labour of data

On Wednesday 24th November 2021, Dr Lucrezia Canzutti presented her research on her co-authored paper with Professor Claudia Aradau, 'Collecting, assembling, ordering: Borders, asylum, and the invisible labour of data' at a New Voices in global security event. She was joined by discussants Martina Tazzioli and Saskia Stachowitsch.

Abstract of the paper discussed:

This paper proposes to use the concept of ‘invisible work’ to examine the work that asylum seekers perform in order to provide evidence that substantiates their asylum claims. The intersection between asylum and work has typically been analysed in relation to unfree labour, exploitation, destitution and precarity, on the one hand – and the varying restrictions on asylum seekers’ access to the labour market on the other. However, less attention has been paid to the injunctions to work that are inherent within the process of seeking asylum. In addition to this, while paperwork has long been a characteristic of the modern state, it has not been at the centre of debates concerning asylum seeking and the difficulties that it entails. To address these limitations, we propose to extend the existing literature on asylum and work by drawing attention to the work that asylum seekers perform in collecting, assembling, and ordering different forms of analogue and digital data to put together a ‘credible’ asylum application. In adopting a feminist, ‘more generous notion of work’ (Smith, 1993: 62), we argue that the very condition of seeking asylum entails extensive and continual invisible work that requires significant resources – including money, effort, and time. Attending to these forms of invisible work is crucial to understanding the lived experiences of asylum seeking and the challenges that permeate it beyond the migratory journey. It also counters problematic depictions of asylum seekers as passive subjects who are ‘just waiting’ for a decision to be made (Rotter, 2015: 85). Finally, we believe that rendering the collection and assemblage of data as ‘invisible work’ rather than just ‘doings’ has political implications for how we understand the resources, responsibilities and resistance to the making of precarious subjects.

More details about the event here.