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Call for papers: Datafication of borders and migration

November 30, 2022


For an international workshop, co-convened by the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration; Intimacy in Data Driven Culture project, Tampere University; and Co-Designing a Fair Digital Asylum Research Project and Digital Migration Special Interest Group, Utrecht University

Date: Thurs. May 25, 2023

Location: CERC Migration, Toronto Metropolitan University

Format: In-person presentations, with audience participation in the hybrid form of in-person and online

Digital technologies and datafied systems are increasingly used to surveil, control and manage migration, shifting the balance in the humanitarianism-securitization nexus. New automated systems from facial recognition to language detection have profoundly intensified and changed migration and border policies (Nalbandian, 2022). Data driven technologies have rendered borders ubiquitous, multi-layered and mundane: the outside border control has become increasingly mobile, now travelling with and tracking migrated bodies after border crossings (Leurs & Ponzanesi, 2023; Aradau & Tazzioli 2020; Dijstelbloem, 2021; Metcalfe & Dencik, 2019; Chouliaraki & Georgiou, 2022; Ahouga, 2022).

Datafication is often framed as a phenomenon that concerns everyone: in a highly networked digital world, datafication cannot be escaped. However, datafication does not treat everyone in the same way. Automated social sorting, critical data studies highlighted, is often based on categorizations and assumptions that echo existing social biases and historical power structures, as well as pervasive and accumulative surveillance of the already marginalized (Gangadharan & Niklas, 2019; Ajana, 2019; Colman, 2016; Nikunen & Valtonen, 2023). At the same time, data driven technologies also provide systems of help, aid and witnessing, as well as new forms of resistance and activism to support people who are seeking asylum or who are on the move (Gillespie et al., 2018, Glouftsios & Scheel, 2020; Latonero & Kift, 2018).

The goal of this one-day conference is to bring together scholars to introduce their research on digital technologies and datafication in migration and discuss the ambivalent and contradictory role of datafication and digital technologies for migrants and refugees, as well as the unsettling consequences of datafication in bordering and policymaking.

We invite papers that explore these issues from different global contexts and disciplines, from media and communication, migration studies, critical data studies, cultural studies, gender studies, postcolonial studies, science and technology studies, law, social anthropology, criminology, data science and geography. The event fosters cross-disciplinary dialogues of qualitative research, ethnography, digital methods and critical data studies.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Affect and emotions related to border practices
  • Biopolitics of borders
  • Border and migration policy and datafication
  • Data biases
  • Datafied border infrastructures
  • Detention, incarceration and data
  • Digital bordering
  • Digitization of asylum procedures
  • Experience of data and borders
  • Gender, decolonial, postcolonial and critical race studies
  • Resistance, protest and activism
  • Information practices
  • Surveillance
  • Witnessing

Submissions for papers should include an abstract (300-400 words indicating main research questions, methods and expected results) and a short biographical note (150 words) about the author including her/his/their current position and interest in the field of digital media and migration.

Submissions should be emailed to by January 17, 2023.

Accepted participants will be notified by January 30, 2023.

For further questions please mail: and

Organizing committee:

  • Koen Leurs, Utrecht University
  • Kaarina Nikunen, Tampere University
  • Anna Triandafyllidou, CERC Migration, Toronto Metropolitan University
  • Younes Ahouga, CERC Migration, Toronto Metropolitan University
  • Lucia Nalbandian, CERC Migration, Toronto Metropolitan University and University of Toronto

The conference is organized in collaboration with the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration, Toronto Metropolitan University; Intimacy in Data Driven Culture (IDA) project, Tampere University; the Co-Designing a Fair Digital Asylum Research Project and the Digital Migration Special Interest Group, Utrecht University.