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Accepted Paper:

Democratic (Im)Possibilities?: digital data turns, pandemic surveillance, ethnography  
Nurhak Polat (University of Bremen)

Paper short abstract:

Digital smart technologies do not only transform lived experiences of surveillance. They also raise new questions and challenges with renewed urgency – both for fragile democracies and authoritarian regimes. This paper aims to address democratic (im)possibilities in light of this urgency and beyond.

Paper long abstract:

Data turn is a new buzzword in politics and in the anthropology of surveillance. Digital smart technologies are changing not only the lived experiences of surveillance, but also the normative and contradictory politics of, with, and in data. In the wake of multiple crises - especially the rise of authoritarian regimes in Europe and elsewhere, political upheavals and the Covid-19 pandemic - new questions and challenges have been raised with renewed urgency, both for fragile democracies and authoritarian regimes and for anthropological research. Drawing on my remote-ethnographic research on pandemic surveillance and digital proximity systems such as Hayat Eve Sığar (HES, “Life Fits into Home”) in Turkey, this paper aims to address this urgency for anthropology in relation to surveillance and data politics in the context of authoritarianism(s). These systems, as “algorithmic sociotechnical assemblages” (Liu & Graham 2021) raise a number of ethnographic questions related to the volatile entanglements between state power, algorithmic surveillance, digital practices, infrastructures and data politics, socio-technical imaginaries and authoritarian politics. Taking this as a starting point, I will address some methodological and conceptual questions: How can ethnography capture the democratic (im)possibilities “in the service of political hope”, as the call for this panel states it, for and within digital, datafied worlds? To what extend do the practices and politics of data and counter-data matter? What anthropologies do we need to bring to in face of this to this historical moment of seemingly multiple crises of democracies that requires more than critical and public voices?

Panel P020a
Ethnographies of surveillance: a methodological conversation I
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -