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Self-witness: countermapping the data politics of asylum

Self-witness: countermapping the data politics of asylum, by Dr. Lucrezia Canzutti, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of War Studies (Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy) and Gary Zhexi Zhang, Somerset House Studios Resident aims to explore the role of data in migrants’ asylum claims. 

Green intersecting lines, dots and names against a black backgroundImage: The First 10,000 Years, Gary Zhang in collaboration with Agnes Cameron

Self-Witness is a collaboration between Gary Zhang and Dr Lucrezia Canzutti from the ERC-funded project SECURITYFLOWS. It aims to explore the role of data in migrants’ asylum claims: both data collected by states and by migrants themselves. The project will develop a digital interface and installation of artefacts, which draw on SECURITYFLOWS’ research, to shed light on human narratives and the digital infrastructure that underlie what the project calls the ‘data politics of asylum’.

The digital work aims to inform and visualise datafication processes through ‘countermapping’, while the artefacts seek to surface the emotional, material and labour dimensions of asylum-seeking. 

Project team

Lucrezia is a Research Associate at the Department of War Studies working on the research project SECURITYFLOWS (‘Enacting border security in the digital age: Political worlds of data forms, flows and frictions’), funded by the European Research Council and led by Professor Claudia Aradau. Within SECURITYFLOWS, Lucrezia is investigating how ‘datafication’, the process of transforming our everyday lives into quantifiable data, is also transforming borders and migration governance today. She is also contributing to the development of a multi-modal methodology aimed at analysing how data flows in practice and has been carrying out archival and ethnographic research in Italy and the UK.   

Gary is an artist and researcher whose works explore social and conceptual infrastructures, particularly in finance, ecology and information. His recent solo exhibition, Cycle 25, documented objects at the boundaries of politics, economics and nature, such as imaginary nations and cosmic economies. He has held fellowships exploring art and technology at the Berggruen Institute in L.A. and Sakiya - Art Science Agriculture in Ramallah. With Agnes Cameron, he has made ecological simulation narratives such as Permaculture Networks and He is a co-founder of design studio Foreign Objects, which was a recipient of the Mozilla Creative Media Award in 2019. Recent publications include Against Reduction: Designing a Human Future with Machines (MIT Press, 2021) and Catastrophe Time! (Strange Attractor Press, forthcoming). 


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