Abigail De Kosnik on Border Technologies and Racism

03 Mar, 2021

Abigail De Kosnik on Border Technologies and Racism

BCNM Director Abigail De Kosnik wrote a reflection to the United Nations Special Rapporteur E. Tendayi Achiume on "Border Tech and Racism."

From the written reflection:

In this short paper, I discuss a range of scholarship and projects pertaining to the U.S-Mexico border and the Uighur population in China. This is a summary of what I teach students about border technologies in my annual graduate seminar, History and Theory of New Media, and will teach in my upcoming undergraduate course, Transforming Tech.

In 2019, a group of University of Arizona researchers published a paper in the Journal of Borderlands Studies discussing SBInet, a high-tech surveillance network that the U.S. installed in some areas along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2006. The authors described how the network, which consists of hi-res imaging, radar, and ground sensors that detect movement was designed to create a “funnel effect” that deters would-be migrants away from ”traditional urban crossing areas like El Paso and San Diego and into rural desert areas of southern Arizona.” This technological influence on migrants to use remote, rugged, and often dangerous routes ”has the outcome of maximizing the physiological toll imposed by the landscape,” “resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of individuals who have perished attempting the journey north” and contributing to the “crisis of disappearance” on the border involving individuals whose whereabouts or remains are never located or identified.

Read the entire reflection here!