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Experimentality, Surplus Data and the Politics of Debilitation in Borderzones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages22
E-pub ahead of print29 Dec 2020

King's Authors


The use of digital devices and the collection of digital data have become pervasive in borderzones. Whether deployed by state or non-state actors, digital devices are rolled out despite intense criticism and controversy. In this article, I propose to approach these interventions through the prism of experimentality. Experimentality was initially formulated in the anthropological literature on the globalisation of clinical trials and, more recently, revisited in feminist science and technology studies. Drawing on this work, I argue that experimentality has become a rationality of governing in borderzones, which renders social relations continuously decomposable and recomposable by inserting mundane (digital) devices into the world. The introduction of various digital devices in Greece since 2015, starting with Skype for the pre-registration of asylum seekers, helps shed light on a particular form of governing through experiments without protocol. This form of experimentality has specific political effects for migrants’ lives. Firstly, experimentality builds upon and intensifies neoliberalism by rearranging rather than redressing precarity. In so doing, experimentality through digital devices produces debilitation rather than better connectivity or access to asylum. Secondly, migrants become not only subjects of surveillance, but subjects of extraction of ‘surplus data’ which entangles their lives into the circuits of digital platforms.

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