Accepted Paper:

The informationalization of 'race': Lessons from policing and border control  


David Skinner (Anglia Ruskin University)

Paper long abstract:

Significant scientific, governmental, and socio-technical developments are destabilising existing constellations of knowledge and understanding of race, ethnicity and racism. The aspect of this shift that receives the most attention is the way that the new life sciences have reinvigorated the biopolitics of identity and difference. But to appreciate fully what is happening to the 'race' object, we need to consider the inseparability of the corporal and the digital in contemporary projects to know and govern bodies.

This paper explores the consequences of what Peter Chow White terms 'the informationalization of race' - the processes by which the digital realm is an increasingly important arena for the construction of human differences. In particular it focuses on how racialization (in both senses of classification and discrimination) takes place through systems of data collection, storage and management. It develops three case studies of new security technologies: criminal forensic databases; biometric borders; and the application of data analytics to policing. In these cases we see the emergence of ways of working on 'race' (e.g. profiling, prediction and monitoring) that are discriminatory but, because they are coded in other terms and/or they are embedded in automatic algorithms and everyday techniques, are not easily accessible to conventional forms of anti-racist critique. These cases show how in the contemporary setting 'race' objects are bio-social-data hybrids that depend on their mutability and overt contingency to operate across institutional boundaries and locations.

Panel I1
Understanding techno-security: On pre-emption, situational awareness and technological superiority