Migration cannot be readily seen. Yet the study of contemporary migration control and border management, particularly with respect to Europe, abounds in the use of ocular terminology, such as surveillance and monitoring. We approach these issues by asking how the visualization of border lines and their crossings is enacted. More specifically, we seek to conceptualize the visual infrastructure through which border lines and movement lines are drawn, deployed, and authorized. We show how deceptibility and a dispersal of identity documents are constitutive of the specific modes of visuality at play in border crossing. Subsequently, we analyze two ways of visualizing cross-border migration. The first—medical visualization—works by permeating space with a contrast medium. The second—statistical visualization—works by composing systemic migration patterns out of migration data.
Drawing Lines, Enacting Migration: Visual Prostheses of Bordering Europe
Rogier van Reekum is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Public Administration and Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam. As part of the Monitoring Modernity project (European Research Council Starting Grant) supervised by Willem Schinkel, he is conducting research into the visualization of irregular migration across Europe. He wrote his dissertation (cum laude) at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research at the University of Amsterdam on public and political debates over Dutchness (1972–2008) and has published on nationalism, citizenship politics, immigration policy, and education. Recent publications include The Mediterranean: Migration Corridor, Border Spectacle, Ethical Landscape (2016) and Raising the Question: Articulating the Dutch Identity Crisis through Public Debate (2016). He is an editor at Sociologie and Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy.
Willem Schinkel is a professor of social theory at Erasmus University Rotterdam and a member of the Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is an Institute for Public Knowledge alumnus, having been a visitor at New York University in 2007 and 2010. He is currently principal investigator of the European Research Council project Monitoring Modernity, which studies practices of monitoring and surveillance in the fields of climate change, financial oversight, and migration management. Forthcoming is a book on social imagination and immigrant integration in Western Europe.