==CALL FOR PAPERS==
Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, San Francisco, California, March 29 – April 2, 2016
DIGITAL BORDER STRUGGLES:
Pro- and No-Border Activism and the Rise of Technologies for and against Migration Management
Camilla Hawthorne, University of California, Berkeley
Martin Geiger, Carleton University, Ottawa
From passports to fingerprints to medical screenings, technology has been intertwined with border control and migration management and their multiple transformations since the emergence of the modern nation-state (Torpey 2000; Geiger 2014). In recent years, biometrics (Magnet 2011), drones, and other new technologies have further expanded the state’s bordering powers. At the same time, tools such as social media, GPS, and mobile phones are being actively re-appropriated by migrants and made central to their practices of spatial mobility; they also facilitate protests against newly emerging border regimes (Trimikliniotis et al. 2014).
In other words, modern forms of technology both suppress and control mobility, and simultaneously enable new forms of mobilization—for instance, by supporting new and existing activist communities; enabling solidarity between different groups and stakeholders; providing new platforms for the creative expression of non-obedience; and challenging media and policy discourses related to irregular migration, asylum seekers, and economic migration (c.f. Ponzanesi and Leurs 2014).
From at least the fifteenth century, the category of technology has developed in relation to processes of racialization and exclusion: technological advancement, understood as a marker of civilizational advancement, couched the violence of imperial ambitions in the teleological language of “improvement” (c.f. Adas 1989). Indeed, the origins of many modern bordering technologies can be traced to the need to control the movements of colonized and enslaved populations (Browne 2012). More recently, revelations of large-scale telecommunication surveillance have thrown into question utopian predictions that digital technologies—by allowing the formation of new, sprawling networks not subject to geopolitical borders—would lead to human liberation. Far from eroding borders, new technologies enable equally new forms of control over mobility and support the “disciplining of transnational mobility” (c.f. Geiger and Pécoud 2014), sometimes even before migrants leave their countries of origin.
The violent realities of technologically mediated bordering suggest that, far from transcendence through abstract digital flows, technologies can enable oppressive forms of (re)territorialization. Yet, simple technological determinisms are insufficient for capturing the complexity of these developments. Technologies are always embedded within complex webs of institutions, actors, spaces, and histories such that their effects are never fully determined, even as they fundamentally transform the conditions of possibility for action on an international scale.
The aim of this session is to examine the myriad ways in which these new technologies not only shape and facilitate the ordering, control, and management of people at borders and areas of transit, arrival, or destination; but to also interrogate the ways in which they enable, support, and enhance political mobilizations among migrants, refugees, and activists against border control and migration management.
These new protest movements challenge dominant portrayals of migrants as merely “uprooted” (Malkki 1992), passive subjects of geography; they also struggle for a more just world order in which control over global mobility is no longer the monopoly of states and newly dominant international entities (see, e.g., Georgi 2010), or unevenly distributed based on one’s position within a racial and gendered global division of labor (Massey 1994; Gregory 2007).
Geographers, and geographically oriented analyses more broadly, can contribute to existing, yet “anemic” geographies (Sparke 2005; c.f. Mitchell 1997) of technology and especially of the “digital.” Indeed, new technologies of bordering and “management” as well as technologies that are used to subvert borders and migration “managerialism” are actively reshaping both the material and affective geographies of the contemporary world—including the fraught and power-laden categories of state, nation, race, and citizen.
For this session, we welcome both empirically grounded and theoretical contributions, including those that draw from related fields such as migration studies, communication studies, and science and technology studies. We encourage submissions that address recent developments in the fortification of borders in Europe, North America and other world regions, as well as empirical case studies of new technologies in practice. We aim to publish a selected number of papers in an edited volume or special issue.
Potential paper topics might address, but are not limited to, the following topics:
• Studies of digitally mediated activism, both in support of and against immigration.
• Migrants’ use of technologies in support of (spatial) mobility and (political) mobilization.
• Critical and geographically informed perspectives on “digital diasporas” (c.f. Brinkerhoff 2009; Alonso and Oiarzabal 2010; Oiarzabal & Ulf-Dietrich Reips 2012; Bernal 2014).
• Enrolment of technologies, both new and old, in emerging regimes of bordering and migration management: surveillance systems; the overlap between migration control and anti-terrorism programs; “humanitarian” interventions (e.g., anti-trafficking programs); the telescoping of borders both within and beyond the territorial borders of nation-states.
• Technological practices of inscribing borders, challenging borders, and imagining alternative cartographies.
• Engagements with specific, material technologies (e.g., the drone, the biometric passport, facial recognition software, risk assessment algorithms, watch list databases, virtual border fences) and their entanglement with border management.
Potential session participants should contact Camilla Hawthorne (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 15 August 2015 to indicate their interest in participating in the session. Please include a proposed title and 200-word abstract.