Underground Politics: Transport Networks, Urban Borders/Bodies and Assemblages of Resistance

Vasilis Galis, Jane Summerton

Research output: Contribution to conference - NOT published in proceeding or journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


Public spaces are often contested sites involving the political use of sociomaterial arrangements to check, control and filter the flow of people (see Virilio 1977, 1996). Such arrangements can include configurations of state-of-the-art policing technologies for delineating and demarcating borders of various kinds, as well as for identifying and displacing undesired individuals/groups/bodies. A case in point is a recently-established police project (REVA) in Sweden for strengthening the so-called internal border control. Specifically, several underground stations in Stockholm now have checkpoints where policemen are entitled to ask citizens to identify themselves. However, authorities imposing and defining borders do not only create boundaries to fence the insecurity of a homogeneous community. Borders are also made to be crossed. The crossing of borders often involves a complicated set of ritual practices, symbolic gestures and movements (Stavrides 2001). This paper will discuss the emergence and implications of these practices, as well as the ways in which activist groups organize and perform resistance through the use of counter technologies (ICT and other information technologies) in the transport sector. We will show how the use of alternative technologies by activist groups provides temporary spatial asylum to groups of immigrants without papers. REVA Spotter, for example, is a tool, a manifesto and a peaceful mean of resistance to the REVA policing methods through continuous Facebook status updates on identity checks at the metro stations in Stockholm and reports on locations and time of ticket controls for warning travelers. Thus the attempts by authorities to exert control over the (spatial) arena of the underground is circumvented by the effective developing of an alternative infrastructural "underground" consisting of assemblages of technologies, activists, immigrants without papers, texts and emails, homes, smart phones and computers. Investigating the embedded politics of contested spatial arrangements as characteristic of specific societies one can discover not only the uses and meanings of space but also the politics of creating and sustaining different sociomaterial subjects (Stavrides 2001). Thus in this paper, resistance cannot be detached from the (counter-)performative role of (policing) technology. One tentative observation is that struggles between border-enforcing technologies and human migrants have generated a new form of human subject that is defined by various sorts of displacements. In attempts at political control within transport systems, displaced human subjects are the other side of enabling technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateOct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013
EventSociety for Social Studies of Science - San Diego, United States
Duration: 9 Oct 201312 Oct 2013


ConferenceSociety for Social Studies of Science
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego
Internet address


  • Public spaces
  • Sociomaterial arrangements
  • Border control
  • Activist resistance
  • Counter technologies


Dive into the research topics of 'Underground Politics: Transport Networks, Urban Borders/Bodies and Assemblages of Resistance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this