Collecting, assembling, ordering: Border politics and the invisible data work of asylum

Lucrezia Canzutti*, Claudia Aradau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article 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, we attend to the work of collecting, assembling, and ordering different forms of analogue and digital data inherent to the asylum process. Building on feminist interdisciplinary debates on work and drawing on a selection of asylum appeals from Italy and the UK, we argue that seeking asylum entails extensive and continual invisible work that requires significant resources, effort, skills and time. Attending to these forms of invisible work is crucial to understanding the challenges of seeking asylum beyond the migration 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 understanding the resources, responsibilities and resistance to the border politics of making precarious subjects.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Feb 2024

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