The Border as Speculative Infrastructure: Between probabilities and possibilities

CfP for panel at RGS-IBG conference 2021

February 2nd at 12:02pm

In this session we are interested in exploring the different ways in which border infrastructures are produced and resisted through speculative reasoning. Shaviro notes that ‘extrapolation is grounded in probabilistic reasoning’ whereas speculation is ‘concerned with possibilities’ (2019). Yet, as Amoore has shown border control and security regimes move between these two modes so that ‘decisions are taken on the basis of future possibilities, however improbable or unlikely’ (2013) – what Shaviro calls ‘improbable possibilities’ (2019).

The probabilistic and possibilistic modes of reasoning operate as apparatuses (Barad 2007) and are required for the production, management and apprehension of borders. In border areas, they result in particular kinds of infrastructure, such as walls, drones and heat sensors that are directly concerned with border control, or those that operate more systemically in the management of borders such as nested legal regimes and speculative development.

Topics to be explored could include but are not limited:

-- the use of technologies such as remote sensing, drones, heat sensors, motion detectors etc. and the ways in which they deploy calculative and probabilistic reasoning, sifting through data and algorithmically producing ‘truths’. In contrast to these, ‘ground truths’ are often positioned in opposition, operating in proximity rather than at a distance.

-- infrastructural development deployed in border areas to produce governable people and securitised places. Here speculative finance and speculative models of development come together to produce plans to be enacted in a distant future-to-come – plans that are often postponed or abandoned halfway.

-- security and legal regimes that manage border flows and often operate between possibilistic and probabilistic modes of reasoning but are also considered forms of systemic arbitrariness.

We invite papers that explore these conditions and their underlying modes of reasoning, from probabilities to possibilities, including any forms of resistance, subversion or ‘living-with’ the border as speculative infrastructure.

Please send abstracts of 250-300 words by 1 March 2021 to Nishat Awan:

Amoore, Louise. The Politics of Possibility: Risk and Security Beyond Probability. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013. Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Duke University Press, 2007. Shaviro, Steve. ‘Defining Speculation: Speculative Fiction, Speculative Philosophy, and Speculative Finance’. ALIENOCENE, no. 6 (December 2019).