Panel 46

Looking at borders through an infrastructural lens

Organizers: Timothy Raeymaekers; Noemi Bergesio; Anna Claudia Martini

UNIBO, Italy

Topics: Technoscientific promises, imaginaries and expectations; Governance of and by data infrastructures; Sociotechnologies of (in)secure worlds to come; Extractivist powers, imaginaries and asymmetries

Keywords: borders, infrastructures

In an era apparently characterised by the progressive dissolution of borders, scholars have been studying the ways in which borders are actually multiplying and deepening through space and time. The interdisciplinary field of Critical Border Studies has been pushing forward a “processual shift” in the study of borders, leading to the re-conceptualisation of borders as active processes and social practices of spatial differentiation and racialisation. More recently, academic contributions have been looking at biometric borders and at processes of data extraction and circulation, but also to the digital and physical infrastructures that play a role in facilitating, channelling and/or filtering human, non-human and more-than-human “flows”. As such, bordering processes have direct effects on the bodies of mobile subjects while becoming important devices for the extraction, elaboration, and management of biometric and biographical data of people on the move.

When focusing on the processes of borderwork, it becomes paramount to acknowledge the role of infrastructures in the creation, shifting, alignment and contestations of borders, and their direct effects on the bodies of people on the move. In this panel, we broadly conceptualise infrastructures as physical or digital networks that facilitate the flow of goods, people, or ideas and allow for their exchange over space (Larkin 2013: 328-329), which includes mobility infrastructures, such as vehicles and roads, bordering elements such as sediments, natural elements (rivers, mountains, etc.), and the propelling force of human movements, which itself contributes to shaping borders, as well as patterns and processes of circulation (Thomas, 2021).

A focus on bordering infrastructures has the potential to open a lens towards the study of the socio-material entanglements of border control. It may also encourage analyses of borders as embodied technoscientific and political intervention and extraction, and it may open up the emotional and affective relations between human and non-human forms of actorness, practices of activism and struggle that continuously re-negotiate borders. In this panel, we invite scholars to reflect on the ecological, affective, and socio-material dimensions of contemporary border work through an engagement with digital and physical infrastructure scholarship. Areas of interest involve, among others, biometrics and data mining, control and circulation, but also the dynamic interactions and relations between human and more-than-human elements as socio-material entanglements in which such multiplication of borders unfold and come to matter.

We prioritise panel contributions that focus on one or several of these dimensions:

  • The human, non-human and more-than-human entanglements of contemporary border work;
  • Affective border(ing) and the affective politics and assemblages involved in such entanglements;
  • The socio-material and socio-ecological dimensions of contemporary border(ing) infrastructures;
  • Border management through digital border infrastructures, biometric databases, anddata mining;
  • The relation between border(ing) infrastructures and bodies (embodied borderwork);
  • Border infrastructures as sites of struggle and contestation;
  • Methodological and ethical problems that can arise when conducting research on border infrastructures;
  • The biopolitics and governmentality of border(ing) infrastructures.