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

Tamara Vukov

Abstract

Taking the Canada–U.S. border as a starting point to reflect on emergent smart border practices, this essay analyzes the differential 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 offer a more scientific and “postracial” mode of border control, the essay offers a situated conceptual reflection 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. The essay proposes to think through four different 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 reflecting on how these algorithmic technologies inflect the biopolitical targeting of race and mobility in ways that serve to insulate smart border practices from democratic accoun tability.