Digital Confinement The Reconfigurations of Borders and Detention Through New Technologies

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Jaana Carolina Sanchez Boe


Universite de Paris and CUNY


DKK 1,433,175




Reintegration Fellowships


The use of new technologies for immigration control is expanding rapidly, as tech giants are investing in immigration enforcement, a market that was, until recently, dominated by technologies developed by government agencies themselves or by contractors from the prison or military industrial complex. The US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently installing facial recognition software on the cell-phones of asylum seekers as an alternative to immigration detention and has started collaborations with tech companies for the extractions of larger, complex datasets involving migrants and citizens who assist them within US borders.


The project conceptualizes 'Digital Confinement' and the ways in which detention and internal border control are reconfigured through new technologies. While drawing on and developing existing theories on the spatial and temporal dimensions of confinement, it works with the hypothesis that the deployment of tech, such as facial recognition as an alternative to detention implies a transformation of detainability and deportability, that is, the experienced risk of being detained and deported. Beyond its theoretical significance for confinement and migration research, the project will contribute to the wider scholarly debates on public/private partnerships, on surveillance capitalism and the protection of personal data, also within the context of scientific research itself.


In order to understand and convey the spatial and temporal experiences of migrants submitted to 'Digital Confinement', I will carry out ethnographic fieldwork and visual research, including documentary filmmaking. In parallel, through interviews with stakeholders and documentary research, I will map the larger complex network of private and public actors who advocate for or against the use of tech for internal border control, with a focus on the political and economic logics at play. Finally, I will foster research collaborations with civil society stakeholders and Danish and international colleagues on the urgent questions of methods and ethics in research that involves tech and vulnerable populations.

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