About the project

Biometric Border Worlds - Technologies, bodies and identities on the move

The collaborative research project 'Biometric Border Worlds' was initiated in July 2016, funded by the Velux Foundation. On the one hand, it explores the epistemological foundations, practical applications and social implications of biometric technologies in the context of migration. On the other hand, it investigates migrants’ experiences, knowledge and (attempted) circumvention of biometric technologies, and how this may influence further technological development.

Recent years have seen increasing use of biometric technologies to track the movements of migrants and refugees and register their identities. As global voluntary and involuntary (refuge) migration continues to rise, there have been significant investments in the development of biometric security measures and border control techniques. While biometric technologies are often portrayed as objective by developers and stakeholders, they are, in fact, embedded in specific societal contexts. This anthropological project examines such contexts, focusing on how new technologies come into being, their social and political significance, the assumptions attached to their use as well as the identities, practices and relations that they enable and/or disable. The project is highly topical and offers an important contribution to research on migration, identity, subjectivity and social relations, as well as an ethnographically grounded contribution to studies of surveillance and technology.

The project is being carried out by Professor Karen Fog Olwig, Kristina Grünenberg, Perle Møhl & Anja Simonsen, all based at The Department of Anthropology, The University of Copenhagen.