ToE Research Theme: Technology, Borders, Migration, Labor


Dagmara Jajeśniak-Quast (European University Viadrina, Frankfurt O.)

Aristotle Tympas (University of Athens). Contact: tympas[at]

The study of borders has been central to the Tensions of Europe (ToE) agenda from the beginning--from making visible the ‘hidden integration’ of Europe through transnational  railways, roads, electricity and communication infrastructure etc. to retrieving the politics of border-related technologies (border-related ‘technopolitics’) that have played a central yet understudied role in processes of European integration and fragmentation. From the 2nd ToE Conference on ‘Technology and Rethinking of European Borders’ (Lappeenranta, Finland, 2006) to the 8th ToE Conference on ‘Border and ‘Technology’ (Athens, 2017), ToE scholars have been constantly refining their understanding of the borders-technology relationship through fruitful interaction with researchers from related fields (e.g. Border Studies).

Recently, ToE scholars have been updating this understanding in response to emerging societal challenges, like the recent and ongoing migration challenge. To this end they are reaching out to Migration Studies and related fields; having to offer, in exchange, rich experience when it comes to much-needed research on migration-related technologies, especially regarding the border-shaping encounter between border-keeping technologies and border-crossing technologies. Central is also the study of the labor issue, especially in regards to the role of technology in filtering labor flows at European borders and defining labor identities and conditions.





Relevant projects:

  • European Challenges: Technological Change and Re-Arrangements of Migration and Work, funded by the European University Viadrina (2017-18). It was a collaboration between the EUV Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION CENTER and Tensions of Europe.

How does migration enact Europe? This question can be answered legally and politically, as most policy makers, sociologists and journalists are doing. Or, it can be answered technically. How do data infrastructures for migrant processing co-produce citizens, Europe and territory?

Intensifying migration waves are changing not only EU policies, but also the way knowledge about individuals, institutions and space is created. Information systems are key enablers of this knowledge. They materialize legislative, political, administrative dynamics in which citizenship, state and territory are co-produced. This is the point of departure of “Processing Citizenship. Digital registration of migrants as co-production of citizens, territory and Europe”, a five-year project involving a team made of sociologists, ethnographers, software developers and policy analysts.

Thanks to the financial support of an ERC Starting Grant (2017-22), we are investigating the informational processing of third-country nationals as inter-governmental practices that are challenging our established notions of “citizenship”, “state”, “Europe” and “territory”, as they become embedded in digital infrastructures that cross member states.

  • DIGINAUTS: Migrants’ digital practices in/of the European border regime

Despite the ‘digital turn’ in migration research, there has been a lack of studies focusing on migrants’ usages of information and communications technology (ICT). The interdisciplinary DIGINAUTS project sets out to investigate the digital navigation of migrants on arrival sites and en-route to Europe. The aim is to conceptually synthesize existing insights from Critical Border and Migration Studies, Social Media Studies, European Ethnology and Science and Technology Studies. By employing a set of mixed methods (combining ethnographic and digital approaches), the aim is to investigate how ICT, the digital practices of migrants as well as of aiding organisations and initiatives of the receiving countries intermediate and constitute new sociotechnical networks of community and solidarity, in turn re-enacting migrants as political subjects in/of the European border regime. Three sites have been selected for the ethnographic investigation of migrants’ digital practices: 1) the Greek borderland (with a focus on the islands of Lesvos and Chios and the capital of Athens), 2) the German-Danish border region and 3) the Öresund region between Denmark and Sweden.