Infrastructure inscribes political power, often circumventing legislative processes and exploiting the murky waters of international jurisdiction. “In a site of multiple, overlapping, or nested forms of sovereignty, where domestic and transnational jurisdictions collide, infrastructure space becomes a medium of what might be called extrastatecraft — a portmanteau describing the often undisclosed activities outside of, in addition to, and sometimes even in partnership with statecraft.” (Keller Easterling). A recent example is Eurosur, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation at the External Borders’ (aka Frontex) massive surveillance system that is designed to become a platform for “the frictionless circulation of identity data within a single globalised market of information”.
Yet, digital security infrastructure is often far more visceral than we imagine: in a desperate bid to escape the dragnet of this ‘frictionless’ circulation of biometric identity data, migrants have been driven not only to burn their passports, but to also erase any physical biometric markers by mutilating their fingertips by burning them, using acid or cutting them with a razor, giving a dreadful final twist to the Latin etymology of ‘digital’ in digitus — finger.1
This is symptomatic of the rise of what geographer Louise Amoore has named the ‘Biometric border’. Biometric borders are interfaces between digital technologies and databases, and managerial expertise in risk management. Within this new paradigm, Amoore writes, “identity is assumed to be anchored as a source of prediction and prevention”.2 The body becomes the border. Defined by The Research Center for Proxy Politics (Boaz Levin and Vera Tollmann)
1. Boris Buden, Maria Hlavajova, Simon Sheikh (eds.), ‘A single swing of the shovel’, Former West: Art and the Contemporary After 1989 (Massachusetts: MIT Press, forthcoming March 2017) .
2. Louise Amoore, ‘Biometric borders: Governing mobilities in the war on terror’, Political Geography, 2006; 25:336-351.