CfP: Digitized Migrants

The two Global Compacts on migration have advocated the increased use of digital technologies to enhance the protection, welfare, and development of refugees and migrants. The use of new technologies of surveillance that identify, track, and control the people crossing borders result in the increasing digitalization of borders, migrants, and their management. Biometrics and automated decision-making tools, as well as the surveillance of social media have increasingly become central to migration management technologies. These border security technologies are not simply technological improvement of existing forms of border control or governance. The militarization and computerization of borders raise important questions about the politics of data, data subjects, biopolitics, (scales of) sovereignty, regulation, and different forms of sovereign, regulatory, and disciplinary power. We are yet to fully grasp the social implications of this new regime of automated truth registration. Does it create new inequalities and/or reinforce old ones? Is it only a tool of oppression, appropriation and exclusion, or does it offer any opportunity for emancipation? How can we think about agency and solidarity in a digital word?

First, the digitalisation of migration management does not operate in a vacuum. Governmental and corporate responses to the pandemic have rendered visible the increasing digitalization of lives and surveillance of both migrants and non-migrants, and they have further contributed to the normalization of these technologies, their traveling policy assemblages, and the formation of digital fortresses, as well as new ways of subjecthood and life. They have also opened new frontiers of accumulation. Who creates, who owns and who manages data? How are digital technologies of surveillance transposed across policy realms?  What differences and similarities can we observe across digital governance policy realms?

Second, the digitalisation of migration management does not  emerge from a vacuum either, but rather reinforces the most pernicious and hierarchical elements of the bordering process. Much like ‘the migrant’, the digital migrant is gendered and racialised, a product of the coloniality of asylum and migration management, and it is important to critically acknowledge fundamental continuities in distinct eras of border control as well as genuine ruptures. To what extent and in which ways does digitalisation reinforce the hierarchical ordering of human lives? To what extent and in which ways does it reframe and transform such ordering?

Third, refugees and migrant organisations frequently take advantage of digital technologies. In this context, digital technology is an important tool to access services, to create alternative channels of information, and become crucial for digital and online activism. Are digital technologies and online platforms an effective mediation for the self-representation of migrants and refugees? How do the refugees, migrants, and activist networks benefit from digital technologies and online platforms? To what extent does the inter-connectiveness provided by these technologies contributes to generate solidarity with refugees?

Fourth, the translation of non-digital elements and identities into a digital world, the co-existence of digital and analogue technologies in the process of border management, the multiplicity of actors involved in the creation and maintenance of digitized borderscapes, make digital surveillance and control always subject to deflections, contestations, and reappropriations. What omissions, mistakes and misrepresentations occur in the translation between analogue and digital worlds? And what are their implications? What new forms of exclusion and marginalisation are produced by today’s digital literacy requirements? And how does digital literacy transform the role, functions and power of street-level bureaucrats, police and border guards?

Ultimately, the digital border has its own borderlands too and it is important to ask where are borderlands located in a digital age, how are they constituted, what new forms of governance and abandonment do they engender, and what opportunities for escape and subversive engagement do they enable/constraint.

Participants will reflect and comment on the above issues through presentations covering one or more of the following themes (the list is not exhaustive):

  1. major challenges and effects of digitization of borders
  2. surveillance and migrants
  3. digital economy, data centres, and migrants
  4. the digital glue binding welfare and security
  5. legal implications of digitisation
  6. financial digitisation, role of supply chains, and role of informal migrant and refugee labour
  7. Big data, AI, social media, and migrants and refugees
  8. Digital activism

Hosted By:

Institute for Human Sciences (IWM)

Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (MCRG)

Migration Research Centre, Koç University (MiReKoc)

Limited funds are available for accommodation and travel to the Digitized Migration Conference. Please send your title and abstract (no more than 250 words) by May 1, 2022 to and . Decisions will be sent by June 1, 2022 and participants are expected to submit a long abstract note by August 1.