The Politics of Seamless Travel: From matters of care and concern to matters of dissent

Monday, 23 October, 2023 - 16:00

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The realisation of seamless travel – that is: travelling without being stopped by border controls –has featured prominently on the agenda of the aviation industry as well as providers of security technologies for a while now. Starting from an analysis of the first facial recognition tunnels that have started to operate at large airports like Dubai International, this paper asks how border controls can possibly be turned into an issue of political contestation, when the exclusions, discriminations and violence implicated by border controls have largely been displaced. In the context of facial recognition tunnels, passengers become enrolled as active enablers of their own surveillance and identification, resulting in border controls that have largely been invisibilised and turned into an absent presence. Hence, the Althusserian injunction of the police ‘hey you stop!’ has been replaced by the Rancièrian understanding of the police ‘Move on, there is nothing to see here!’ This raises the question how one can make present excluded non-publics as well as the processes of discrimination and violence facilitating their exclusion? I argue that prominent concepts from Science and Technology Studies (STS) that are usually mobilised for politicising issues, such as Latour’s matters of concern or Puig de la Casas notion of matters of care are insufficient because they promote a politics of interference that ultimately results in reformist modes of critique. Drawing on Ranciere, I argue that the logic of police pervading seamless travel can only be interrupted and contested by rendering the technologies and practices that facilitate invisibilised border controls as a matter of dissent.

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