A fixation with quantification and the age of 18? Inscriptions in a new technology for age assessment for asylum cases in Sweden
(University of Gothenburg)
Paper short abstract:
A controversial technology for age assessment of asylum seekers was implemented in Sweden in 2017. By deconstructing the design, and combining insights from STS with studies of social constructions of children and age demarcations, the assumptions inscribed in the technology are shown.
Paper long abstract:
How to determine whether or not an unaccompanied asylum seeker´s claim about age is true or false has been a vivid topic of discussion in Sweden during the last years. When the request for medical age assessment increased and the Swedish Paediatric Society advised its members to not participate in the current methods, the Swedish Government instructed a government authority to develop a new technology for medical age assessment. Since the implementation of the new technology, in March 2017, the evidence-base of it has been widely debated. A controversy between different experts has been played out openly and the Swedish Migration Agency is under pressure to make efficient, yet evidence-based, decisions before the "actual children" turn 18.
In this presentation I will discuss desires, theories and beliefs that are inscribed in the design of this new technology for medical age assessment of asylum seekers in Sweden. By combining insights from STS with studies of social constructions of children and age demarcations, I will deconstruct the design of the technology through an analysis of official documents from the designers and video material from Sweden's largest, political venue where the designers presented the technology. Firstly, I will argue that there is a fundamental assumption that the chronological age of 18 is a fixed demarcation for whether or not an asylum seeker should be treated as a child. Secondly, neutrality and scientific authority plays an important role in the legitimation of this new technology through the language of quantification.
Scrutinizing (bio-)technological truth assessments