Refugee Body in the Era of Data-craving

This article traces the travel of biometric data of Syrian refugees in Jordan through a hastily evolving political economy characterized by a pervasive craving for the extraction, storage and brokering of displacement data. It analyzes iris-enrollment as problematic acts of quasi-citizenship for the displaced requiring the performance of social and economic docility in order to attain identity, cash and service provision. Quasi-objects in the form of digital footprints are fashioned through infrastructures that simultaneously seek to model, yet fail to capture, socioeconomic existence in displacement contexts. Discourses of anti-fraud, donor dictates, upward accountability and strategies of financial inclusion of ‘the unbanked’, facilitate the marketization of the creation of data-doubles in laboratories of displacement and loopholes for externalization. Driven by increasingly blurred lines between technological, humanitarian and financial interests, this development has transformative effects on both those displaced, and on a humanitarian sector tasked with safeguarding their rights.

Also see:

Martin Lemberg-Pedersen. (2021) The Humanitarianization of Child Deportation Politics. Journal of Borderlands Studies 36:2, pages 239-258. Ana López-Sala, Dirk Godenau. (2020) In private hands? the markets of migration control and the politics of outsourcing. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 0:0, pages 1-19.

Martina Tazzioli. (2020) Extract, Datafy and Disrupt: Refugees’ Subjectivities between Data Abundance and Data Disregard. Geopolitics 0:0, pages 1-19.

Elisa Pascucci. (2021) More logistics, less aid: Humanitarian-business partnerships and sustainability in the refugee camp. World Development 142, pages 105424.


Zuzana Uhde. 2021. The Structural Misrecognition of Migrants as a Critical Cosmopolitan Moment. Migration, Recognition and Critical Theory, pages 309-331.


Full titleRe-assembling the surveillable refugee body in the era of data-craving
PublisherCitizenship Studies 24,2020, 607-624
Media typeArticle
Topics Border and Surveillance Technology & Industry, European Agencies (Frontex, GIZ & Co), International governmental organisations, IGOs (UNHCR, IOM)
Regions All Regions

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