Digital registration of migrants as co-production of citizens, territory and 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. This is a pressing technical and operative issue. Technically, migrant data circulation requires infrastructural standardization and integration among agencies at European, national and local levels. Operationally, gaps and misalignments in data collection, classification and circulation can lead to major drawbacks not only in the European migration machine, but also in European multi-level governance.

At the same time, Processing Citizenship aims to develop a history of the present that accounts for contemporary material practices of alien registration as activities of governance transformation. As in the past infrastructures for mobility, information, landscape and water management have contributed first to the formation of the most powerful techno-social assemblage for knowledge handling – the nation-state, and then to the construction of Europe, Processing Citizenship investigates this “re-making” of Europe, one of the most fundamental since the Treaty of Rome 60 years ago.

The project analyses information systems, registration practices, data architectures and territorial patterns. Data are collected via qualitative and computational techniques.

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