For this episode in the series I spoke to Btihaj Ajana who is a Senior Lecturer in Culture, Digital Humanities and Creative Industries at King’s College London and Associate Professor at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies.
We talk about her work on biometrics and self-tracking. She suggests that when our bodies are transformed into data they are able to be distributed over networks and our bodily boundaries become more open and fuzzy. She sees this as a shift from body as flesh to body as data and this new ontology requires a new engagement with ethics politics and regulation.
Our bodies become our password and this creates a strange paradoxical situation in which a distance is created through the datafication of our bodies but we are more strongly tied to them than before because of being so strongly identified by them.
We discuss how things have changed in recent years with a re-emergence of race and nationalism in politics with a concurrent decline in neoliberalism. The language of race was (for a while) transposed into discussions around immigration and we experienced what Etienne Balibar named “racism without race”.
Btihaj discusses the pressures on us to submit to biometric scans and classification in order to access certain spaces or services, whether that is in order to get a visa to travel to the USA or using our fingerprints to access our phones. She suggests that “state of exception” and “states of emergency” are used in order to justify increasing surveillance of our bodies in the name of protecting us.