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Target Practice: The Algorithmics and Biopolitics of Race in Emerging Smart Border Practices and Technologies

Tamara Vukov

Keywords: algorithmic governmentality; assemblage; biopolitics; border technologies; race; smart borders


Taking the Canada–U.S. border as a starting point to refl ect on emergent smart

border practices, this essay analyzes the diff erential yet central place that race

continues to hold in the regulation of mobilities through the technopolitical

mechanism of the border. Against claims that smart borders off er a more

scientifi c and “postracial” mode of border control, the essay off ers a situated

conceptual refl ection on how race is currently being (re)shaped by the complex

intersection of biopolitical and algorithmic forms of governmentality as

they converge in border technologies. Th e essay proposes to think through

four diff erent sets of smart border technologies that enact and track race as a

biopolitical assemblage in particular ways, analyzing the associated perceptual

codes each puts into play (biometric, movement sensing, drone, and databased).

It closes by refl ecting on how these algorithmic technologies infl ect the

biopolitical targeting of race and mobility in ways that serve to insulate smart

border practices from democratic accoun tability.

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