Accepted paper:

Border surveillance, counter-surveillance and the 'realm of reconstruction'


Huub Dijstelbloem (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes the expanding European border surveillance infrastructure and the opposition it meets from various activist groups as a form of visual politics, a specific interplay between the ‘visible’ and the ‘invisible’.

Paper long abstract:

The intended 'interoperability' of border surveillance systems in Europe has introduced an infrastructure that aims to increase the 'situational awareness' of critical events. However, as Amoore (2009) has argued, homeland security in general and border control in particular is not 'primarily a way of seeing or surveilling the world, but rather a means of dividing, isolating, annexing in order to visualize what is "unknown" '. According to Rancière, the visual can be understood as a field in which 'the political' takes place by making some parts visible and leaving others invisible. To study this 'politics of visualization' this paper analyzes various forms of opposition border surveillance in Europe has met. Based on research in predominantly the Aegean area the paper analyzes various initiatives of international NGOs, grassroots organizations, artists, academics and activists to open up critical events. This paper holds this 'experimental activity' to open up critical events is not a forward-looking project aimed at constructing a common future. Instead, it implies a backward-looking political point of view that can be typified as 'the realm of reconstruction'. Whereas the state connects and relates various sorts of information from highly different technologies so as to visualize risks; the 'realm of reconstruction' aims to gather these scattered images together by re-uniting them in different ways so as to reattribute institutional responsibility. It aims to unveil the mediated nature of border surveillance and questions it by articulating the institutional and ethical voids it creates.

panel T085
Infrastructures, subjects, politics