Panel #4. Contesting “the other” in Urban Data and (Non-)Knowledge Practices

Sylvana Jahre, Geography Department, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany

In the frame of the European border regime, scholars have demonstrated how technology and data serve to systematically stigmatize, exclude, and oppress migrant populations through mechanisms of criminalization, identification, and social sorting (Metcalfe & Dencik 2019, Tazzioli 2019). As such practices are not limited to border regions but find itself deeply embedded into society, this panel aims at bringing together research on epistemic and political processes within the urban realm that either focus on the underlying discriminatory design of the socio-technical world that normalizes racial hierarchies (Benjamin, 2016: 148), or (research on) interventionist or oppositional practices and technologies.

Urban research and knowledge production, urban policies, urban data, and technologies are all too often presented as being neutral and objective, as their subject is “the city” and migration is treated as rather incidental. However, in doing so urban scholars and practitioners not only fail to acknowledge the various discriminatory and racist practices, but they also contribute to the reproduction of such mechanisms.

Approaches from feminist, postcolonial, and critical race STS are crucial to critically engage with power asymmetries that are enacted and/or reproduced through science, and technologies in the city. The panel invites research contesting the urban as objective and neutral and pointing to cities as frontiers for activating multiple truths, as well as sites of subversion, counter-narratives, and protest. Possible topics can encompass but are not limited to:

  • urban systems of categorisation and their contestations
  • the framing of migration in urban knowledge production, as well as subversion of such knowledge and practices of counter-knowledge production
  • racialised urban systems of control and surveillance
  • missing data with regard to cities
  • practices by migrant subjects and organizations in solidarity to migrants that contest, protest and subvert one or more of the above-mentioned issues

Literature cited:
Benjamin, Ruha (2016): Catching Our Breath: Critical Race STS and the Carceral Imagination.  Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 2, pp. 145-156.
Metcalfe & Dencik (2019): The politics of big borders: Data (in)justice and the governance of refugees. first Monday,
Tazzioli, Martina (2019): The Making of Migration. The Biopolitics of Mobility at Europe’s Borders. London: SAGE Publications.