Digital registration of migrants as co-production of citizens, territory and Europe

PAUL TRAUTTMANSDORFF

 

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Research

I joined Processing Citizenship in May 2022 as a postdoctoral researcher and I work here in the project’s Work Package 5. We deal with the following overarching questions: How have political concepts of territory and citizenship transformed over the years and what configurations of the concepts can be identified in history? What territorial patterns have enabled and legitimized mobile people to move? What forms of territoriality are enacted by today’s digital architectures of data processing and data exchange? And how are citizenship and non-citizenship entangled with these configurations?

 

These questions will be explored, and answered, in cooperation with the work done in Processing Citizenship’s WP4. Our investigation relies on the extensive reading and review of historical and sociological literature, but also on comparing it with new results that have emerged from Processing Citizenship research activities. Ultimately, our questions aim to produce some theoretical conclusions about emerging territory/citizenship couplings in today’s datafied border and migration regimes.

Expertise

I have graduated in Political Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science and then completed my PhD in Science and Technology Studies at the University of Vienna. During my time as PhD candidate, I was a fellow of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and holder of the Marietta-Blau scholarship of Austria’s Agency of Education and Internationalisation.

 

In my academic career I have so far been particularly interested in the manifold contestations and controversies around techno-scientific innovation, the development and maintenance of infrastructures, and the transformations of border and migration regimes. I am intrigued by questions around the social, political, and ethical implications of digital transformations and the infrastructures that undergird and sustain them.

 

My research has always sought to develop, and deploy, interdisciplinary thinking and research—something I have gradually acquired during my education. It has characterized my PhD work, in which I combine conceptual strands of STS, Critical Security Studies, and Border Studies.

In my thesis, I explored how new digital borders are not designed straightforwardly as tools of securitization, but emerge as assemblages of future visions, actors, values, and practices that interact with the materiality of technologies and infrastructure. I have traced the visionary dimensions of digital infrastructuring to explain how imagination becomes incorporated into the design of databases, participating in contemporary bordering practices such as classifying, sorting, and discriminating mobile individuals. My thesis also conducted an empirical investigation into the European Union agency eu-LISA, the official European body for the management of large-scale IT systems in Europe. I investigated how this agency articulates, collectivizes, and stabilizes future visions of border (in)security—opening or closing down sociotechnical realizations and governing processes of digital infrastructuring.

 

In my current work as a researcher in the Processing Citizenship team, I am expanding my knowledge on how migrant identities are shaped in and through information systems and registration practices, and how transnational institutions and territory are transformed through large-scale databases. Furthermore, together with my colleague Chiara Loschi, we have been looking into the development of database interoperability in the EU border regime, especially in the years that followed the so-called “migration and refugee crisis” in 2015 and before the adoption of its legal regulations in 2019.

Inspiration

I am motivated by several questions and interests that drive my research. On a broader level, I am interested in how do contemporary societies and cultures shape and respond to digital transformations, and what political and ethical repercussions they have. What collective visions of the future coin our technopolitical orders, political decisions, or social practices? More specifically, I am interested in how technology- and policymaking shapes concepts and practices of control and surveillance. How do digital infrastructures and the collections of data reconfigure forms of mobility, control, sovereignty, autonomy, and citizenship? And how can imagine alternative futures, forms of mobility, or political governance?