Virtual borders: human rights and the fluid subject of algorithmic governance
Dr Dimitri Van Den Meerssche (Queen Mary University of London)
Public Seminar Series
Thursday, 02 March 2023, 12pm to 1pm
Seminar Room 2, Oxford Department of International Development, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB
Hosted by Refugee Studies Centre
RSC Public Seminar Series Hilary Term 2023
'Forced Migration and Digital Technologies: (Dis)continuities in Actors and Power Relations'
Series convenors: Dr Derya Ozkul and Dr Marie Godin
This year the RSC Public Seminar Series will take place through (usually) fortnightly seminars on Tuesday lunchtimes from 1-2pm, but please check the details for each seminar.
About the seminar
Who is the subject of human rights? This concern, which has been at the heart of postcolonial and feminist critiques on liberal human rights, has a renewed importance in the literature of algorithmic governance, where anxieties about the loss of human agency and autonomy are prevalent. In this talk, Dimitri Van Den Meerssche explores how digital technologies of data collection and analysis entail new forms of subject-making that displace and disrupt the liberal subject at the heart of human rights law. Drawing on an empirical study of data-driven border control projects developed in the EU and the UK, this talk observes how the placement of people in patterns of data – described by the EU Commission as the ‘unsupervised uncovering of correlations’ – enacts a new subject of governance: the fleeting and fluid ‘cluster’ (of data points, propensities, inferred attributes). This development, the paper argues, risks eroding existing legal safeguards (in anti-discrimination law, for example) and troubles the conditions of possibility for collective political action. Yet, in response to these problems, a return to ideals of the liberal human subject might neither be possible nor desirable.
About the speaker
Dimitri Van Den Meerssche is a Lecturer in Law and Fellow of the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (IHSS) at Queen Mary University of London. Dimitri’s current research studies the impact of new digital technologies on global security governance, with a focus on counterterrorism and border control. He is interested in the forms of inequality and exclusion enacted by practices of algorithmic governance, and how these practices impact political subjectivity and the prospects of collective action. This work is inspired by critical security studies, feminist technoscience, infrastructure and design theory, and critical black studies.