In this theme section we explore why and when states knowingly refrain
from recording people and their activities. States are not simply in pursuit
of enhanced “legibility”; at times they also need to be able to “look away.” In explaining
strategies of nonrecording, our focus is on how subjects negotiate with
state recording agencies, how nonrecording relieves state agents from the burden
of accountability, how the discretionary power of individual state agents affects
(non)recording in unanticipated ways, and how states may project an illusion of
vigorous recording internationally while actually engaging in deliberate nonrecording.
Presenting case studies from China, Greece, the Netherlands, India, and Romania,
we show that strategies of nonrecording are flexible, selective, and aimed
at certain populations—and that both citizens and noncitizens can be singled out
for nonrecording or derecording. In analyzing this state-produced social oblivion,
divergences between national and local levels are of crucial significance.
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