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Security Flows at ISA 2023

Claudia Aradau, Lucrezia Canzutti and Sarah Perret will participate in the ISA 2023 Annual Convention in Montreal (14-18 March), where they will present findings from the project Security Flows.

Claudia Aradau will present a paper co-written with Ana Valdivia and entitled ‘Methods, systems and devices: Patenting and the datafication of EU’s borders’ as part of the panel ‘Doing crical security methods: affordances and limits of method assemblages’.

The paper proposes to investigate patents, which have been a neglected empirical site for research on borders and technology, to better understand how algorithmic systems are deployed to control migration flows. It focuses on the patents of companies that have been awarded contracts by the European Union Agency for Large-Scale Information Systems (eu-LISA) to develop new databases that extend technological solutions for migration control. Patents are publicly available and structured documents that are important in three respects. Firstly, patents afford new insights into the technologies that private actor have developed or plan to develop beyond marketing and advertising materials. Secondly, by using digital methods, the paper is able develop a systematic analysis of problematizations and socio-technical imaginaries of these innovations. Thirdly, through a transdisciplinary methodology the paper investigates how ethical and political aspects of technology implementation are inscribed in the patents. This methodology helps shed light on the political assumptions and ethical implications of the methods, systems and devices patented by private companies developing EU’s datafied borders.


Sarah Perret and Claudia Aradau will present a paper entitled ‘'Neither opaque nor transparent: A transdisciplinary methodology to investigate datafication at EU’s borders’ (co-written with Ana Valdivia and Tobias Blanke) as part of the panel ‘Ignorance in Crisis: Knowledge Inequalies and the Making of Global Politics I’.

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.


Lucrezia Canzutti will present a paper co-written with Claudia Aradau and entitled ‘Collecting, assembling, ordering: (in)security and the invisible work of asylum’ as part of the panel ‘Worlds of work: Feminist engagements with (in)security and labour’, co-organised by Claudia Aradau and Amanda Chisholm.

The paper proposes to understand the ‘invisible data work’ that asylum seekers must do to put together a ‘credible’ asylum application. While the intersections between asylum and work have typically been analysed in relation to access to employment and labour conditions, the paper proposes to attend to the work of collecting, assembling, and ordering different forms of analogue and digital data inherent to asylum processing. In adopting a feminist, ‘more generous notion of work’ (Smith, 2003: 62), it argues that seeking asylum entails extensive and continual invisible work that requires significant resources, effort, and time. Attending to these forms of invisible work is crucial to understanding the challenges of seeking asylum beyond the migratory journey and the implications of performing ‘invisible data work’ unaided and unequipped. It also counters problematic depictions of asylum seekers as passive subjects who are ‘just waiting’ for a decision to be made. Finally, 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.



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