Journal Article

Clean skins: Making the e-Border security assemblage

Published 5 August 2017 / By William Allen

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Abstract: How do border security practitioners engage with data and technology, and what difficulties or limitations arise from these engagements? Responding to calls for critically examining how technological ‘solutions’ are enacted, we analyse the notion of e-Borders in the UK context as an assemblage comprising abstract conditions, concrete objects, and agents whose roles often manifest themselves through perceptions and practices. We draw upon interviews with former and currently serving senior staff from the UK Home Office, UK Border Force, intelligence services, and private sector suppliers. Practitioners’ reflections reveal how political, social, and human factors—including intuition and management cultures—both construct the e-Border assemblage and introduce discontinuities and frictions within it. Using a more tightly specified theory of assemblage, we highlight how human agents contribute to datafied phenomena like border control. In total, our study emphasises how assemblages are dynamic, never entirely coherent, and always being re-made.


Allen, W & Vollmer, B (2017) Clean skins: Making the e-Border security assemblage Environment and Planning D: Society and Space; DOI: 10.1177/0263775817722565