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Security Flows at EISA 2022

Claudia Aradau, Lucrezia Canzutti, and Sarah Perret participated and presented at the EISA Pan-European Conference in Greece (1st-4th September 2022).

Lucrezia Canzutti presented a paper titled ‘Undoing the migration digital box: counter-archiving border practices’, co-written with Dr. Martina Tazzioli (Goldsmiths, University of London). The paper explored the concept of the ‘counter-archive’ from the point of view of digital borders and the digital and nondigital traces left by migrants throughout their journeys. It began with a critique of the ‘black box’ metaphor that has permeated academic and non-academic debates around migration and digital technologies, and particularly the perceived unknowability and inaccessibility of digital technologies used at the border. Highlighting the theoretical and methodological pitfalls of the ‘black box’, the paper proposed to move away from its alleged secrecy by shedding light around it, rather than inside it. More specifically, it proposed to investigate the use of digital technologies and databases through a counter-archive of paper-based documents that are given to migrants after border and identification procedures. Thus, the paper used counter-archiving as a method to reconstruct police practices and border violence and ‘undo the digital migration black box’. Undoing the black box is key for rethinking political and legal interventions at the border. Indeed, the digitalisation of migration governance has pushed lawyers, activists and NGOs to magnify the difficulty of understanding how borders work: the image of the black box, the paper suggested, haunts political imagination.

Claudia Aradau and Sarah Perret participated in the panel entitled 'Data Violence, Debilitation, and Harm in Contemporary Migration Management.' They presented a paper co-written also with Ana Valdivia and Tobias Blanke entitled 'Neither opaque nor transparent: A transdisciplinary methodology to investigate datafication at EU’s borders.’

The paper develops a transdisciplinary methodology to investigate the process of datafication at the EU's borders. In 2020, the European Union announced the award of the contract for the biometric part of the new database for border control, the Entry-Exit System, to two companies: IDEMIA and Sopra Steria. Both companies had been previously involved in the development of databases for border and migration management. While there has been a growing amount of publicly available documents that show what kind of technologies are being implemented, for how much money, and by whom, there has been limited engagement with digital methods in this field. Moreover, critical border and security scholarship has largely focused on qualitative and ethnographic methods. Building on a data feminist approach, the paper proposes a transdisciplinary methodology that goes beyond binaries of qualitative/quantitative and opacity/transparency, examines power asymmetries, and makes the labour of coding visible. Empirically, it builds and analyses a dataset of the contracts awarded by two European Union agencies key to its border management policies – the European Agency for Large-Scale Information Systems (eu-LISA) and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). The study supplements the digital analysis and visualisation of networks of companies with a close reading of tender documents. In so doing, the paper demonstrates how a transdisciplinary methodology can be a device for making datafication ‘intelligible’ at the European Union borders.



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