Call for Papers: “When was the ‘Smart Border’? Tracing Critical Histories of Media Technological Border and Migration Control, Dresden, 15.-17.11.2023, Deadline: 14.07.2023

Call for Papers
When was the “Smart Border”? Tracing Critical Histories of Media Technological Border and Migration Control

Location: TU Dresden, Germany, hosted by the Chair of Digital Cultures
Date: 15-17 November 2023
Format: in-person presentations
Submission deadline: 14 July 2023
Conference website:

Confirmed keynote speaker:
Dr Iván Chaar-López<>, University of Texas Austin

The conference is organized in collaboration between the Chair of Digital Cultures at TU Dresden, Germany, and the Department of Media and Communications at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), UK. The event is funded by the Internationalization Strategy of TU Dresden and the LSE Global Research Fund.

Organizing team:

Dr Michelle Pfeifer (TU Dresden):
Dr Philipp Seuferling (LSE):

The buzzword “smart borders” commonly captures the widespread digitalization and automation of migration control and the expansion of racial capitalist security regimes by technological means. Yet, the term describes only the most recent instance of media technologies constituting and enabling state bordering. While states around the world rely on and invest in ever newer “smart” technologies to control migration, these developments stand in longer historical continuities, not least hailing from projects of mobility and population control of colonialism, racism, eugenics, or carceral regimes (Chaar-López, 2019; Weitzberg, 2020; Pfeifer, 2021; Leurs & Seuferling, 2022; Tazzioli, 2023).

This conference aims to address the international research field on temporalities and histories of smart borders, to trace genealogies and longue durées of media, communication, and information technologies in the control of borders and migration. Such histories can be traced on different levels: materialities of media technologies, uses and practices around them, struggles against bordering tactics and technologies, as well as socio-technical imaginaries of what these technologies can and cannot do – all of which are characterized by continuities and change. While media shape borders across time, media technologies are also shaped by and emerge from projects of bordering. In this sense, borders can be better understood by attending to their media, and vice versa, media histories more generally can be explored at the border – a “technological testing ground” (Molnar, 2022) historically and today.

Questions guiding the conference are:
*   How can we understand histories of the “smart border” within histories of media technology and digitalization, as well as within histories of territorialization, biopolitics, racial capitalism, colonialism, and bordered states?
*   How are technological innovation as well as processes of digitalization and computation historically tested, developed, and trialed in the context of border and migration control?
*   How has the entanglement of media technologies with borders evolved over time?
*   How can historical perspectives on smart borders advance critiques of violence and discrimination enacted by smart border regimes today?

We explicitly welcome papers that engage with queer, feminist, decolonial, postcolonial, abolitionist, and critical race perspectives on the histories of mediated bordering.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
*   Theoretical perspectives on “smart borders” across time
*   Methodological approaches to historicizing “smart borders”
*   Histories of digitalization and automation, in contexts of mobility, migration, and border control
*   Studies of historical empirical contexts of mediated borders
*   Histories of border and technological regulation, policy-making, and law
*   The role of risk, uncertainty, and security in genealogies of border and migration control
*   Genealogies of datafication of people on the move
*   Histories of biometrics, surveillance, policing, and carcerality
*   Mediated containment, surveillance, and control of people on the move, mobility, and movement concerning imperatives of digitalization, automation, and artificial intelligence
*   Histories of struggles against and contestations of “smart border” regimes

Submission guidelines:
Submissions should include an abstract (300-400 words), as well as a short biographical note (100-150 words). Please use this form:

The submission deadline is 14 July 2023. We plan to notify applicants about proposal acceptance by 4 August 2023.

Funding will be available to support travel and accommodation of invited speakers. Please note whether you need financial assistance in the submission form.