On dis/abled clandestine bodies: Producing European borders through uneven technological battles

Vasilis Galis, Spyros Tzokas, Aristotle Tympas

Publikation: Artikel i tidsskrift og konference artikel i tidsskriftKonferenceartikelForskningpeer review


Against what the dominant rhetoric of globalization would led us to assume, we live in a world that is overwhelmed by the presence of borders. Erasing some borders, so as to allow for easier and increased flow of commodities, was frequently coupled by the introduction of additional borders, to disable the free flow of people. Similarly, the loosening of borders within a cluster of partner states (like the EU ones) has frequently led to the introduction of even more rigorous borders between these states and their exterior. Whatever the benefits of globalization might have been, they were not all that apparent to the mass of migrants who have been risking their lives to cross borders. Delineating and demarcating borders has always involved the use of material arrangements to check, control and filter the flow of people. In regards to the EU borders of the recent years, a suggestive body of literature has focused on their reinforcement through the deployment of all kinds of state-of-the-art policing technology, from ICT to biotech. Our research makes a notice of this literature but seeks to approach the technological borders of the EU through the study, also, of the technology that migrants used to try to make it to Europe.

A good part of our broader research project concerns a specific group of migrants, namely migrants with dis/abilities. Dis/ability may be a cause or consequence of migration and may become a barrier to both accessing protection and to entering a country. In any case, migrants with dis/abilities have remained largely invisible. Moreover, very little is known about cross-border mobility of dis/abled migrants. In the framework of our research, dis/ability is not solely treated as bodily disadvantage or social oppression. We treat dis/ability as an interaction between impaired displaced bodies and disabling socio-material barriers. In this sense, dis/ability cannot be detached from the performative role of policing technology. Instead, however, of staying at something like the technology of a patrolling EU police helicopter with electronic eyes, we want to study how this state-of-the-art EU helicopter was actually used against a humble migrant rubber raft. Preliminary research has shown to us that this technological battle has also generated a new form of human body. This type of body is defined by different sorts of disablements and displacements. Dis/abled-displaced human bodies are the other side of enabling border technologies. Based on the stories that we have found, our research suggests that technological battles over border production have also produced clandestine dis/ability.

In this paper we present a sample of our broader research by introducing to three versions of the technological clash between migrants and EU/Greek border authorities: truck crypts used by migrants versus thermal cameras used by border authorities to detect them, landmines and fences that border authorities could rely on to limit migrant flows, and rubber boats and related artifacts used by migrants at sea against superior EU and Greek detection and ‘push-back’ technology.
TidsskriftTensions of Europe
StatusUdgivet - 2013
BegivenhedTensions of Europe: Democracy and Technology: Europe in Tension from the 19th to the 21st Century - Olivier Jacquet. Université Paris-Sorbonne, Paris, Frankrig
Varighed: 19 sep. 201321 sep. 2013
Konferencens nummer: 6


KonferenceTensions of Europe
LokationOlivier Jacquet. Université Paris-Sorbonne


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