14:30 - 15:00
ID, Please! How Identity Politics shape Digital Borders

Short thesis

How are marginalized communities affected by digital border management systems? Both the EU and the US are undergoing severe changes in the way they handle migrants’ and travelers’ identities. Frequently the individualization of borders results in more surveillance and less mobility for refugees from the Global South and people with lower income.


In the wake of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean, several countries of the European Union have reintroduced physical border controls within the Schengen area. Donald Trump won the 2017 US elections not least because he promised to build a physical wall between the country’s Southern border and Mexico. These events however diverge from a major transformation that state boundaries are undergoing right now. Travel and migration are being individualized, quantified and enhanced through biometric-based processes, in short: digitized.

These technologies increasingly automate border crossing processes while large-scale transnational databases store information and enable comprehensive profiling. While this makes traveling and migration faster and seamless for certain groups of people, it raises new issues for other already vulnerable groups. What defines and forms the border space has shifted, changing the sensorial perception of a border but also its effects on a societal level.

How do new digital forms of borders work and what specific implications these developments have for people with different legal statuses, races, sexualities, nationalities and economic background?

While many people worldwide profit from the introduction of digital identity systems, allowing access to new services or rights, others, like asylum seekers, are subjected to a heightened traceability. Digital borders are a development furthering the deterritorializing of borders but also making the experience of crossing one distinct for different people. Among the systems to be scrutinized are the EU data bases; a new worldwide platform for traveler data proposed by the World Economic Forum; no-fly lists; but also the fast-traveller programs and migration procedures employed by the U.S.

This presentation examines how new connections between identities and geography are currently being shaped.