Current Institutional Affiliation
Anthropology, City University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2017
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, City University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center
Documenting the Undocumented: Experimenting the Future of Europe in the Migrant Archive

What is there to make of the fact that the so-called "undocumented migrants" are, effectively, the most documented subjects in Europe today? The current European refugee and migrant crisis is commonly considered a crisis of border and immigration regulation, seen as both a tragedy and a threat of unlawfulness. Yet this crisis has emerged within what is appearing to be the most regulated, documented, bureaucratized, and quantified migration trend to date. By examining how the EU, international corporations, anti-migration entrepreneurs, human rights NGOs and migrants themselves engage in projects of expansive migrant documentation, surveillance, and registration, the multi-sited research project will investigate (1) how and why the "illegal" migrant became a prioritized site for experimentation in technologies of planned governance, valorizing surveillance as a means of refugee protection and ensuring fundamental rights; (2) how systematic documentation of the migrant functions as a central technique for ideologically contrasting and competing enterprises; and (3) how these experiments affect the kind of identities, networks, and strategies that refugees and migrants have to cultivate in order to secure a livable life. Finally, the multi-sited research will tackle "Europe" as an object of study, interrogating the dynamics between its presumed center (Brussels) and its frontiers (the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe). The research will be divided into three component parts: The first part will look at the emergence and expansion of the EURODAC (European Dactyloscopy) Scheme—the EU's biometric database for asylum seekers and "irregular migrants." The second component will examine how the EURODAC project is being countered by grassroots non-state initiatives, including private border patrols, counterfeit border checkpoints, and entrepreneurial bureaucrats in Poland. The concluding part will probe the various strategies taken by "the undocumented" as they maneuver between Europe's various documentation regimes.