We are all foreigners in an analogue world: cyber-material alliances in contesting immigration control in Stockholm’s metro system

Publisher's full text
Vasilis Galis

Public spaces are often contested sites involving the political use of socio-material arrangements to check, control and filter the flow of people. In Sweden, the recently established police project (REVA) in is an attempt to strengthen ‘internal border’ controls. This paper discusses the emergence of practices in which activist groups organized and performed resistance through the use of counter technologies in the transport sector. We explain how a hybrid alliance of human and nonhuman others generated new virtual and urban spaces and provided temporary autonomous zones, to groups of undocumented immigrants. REVA Spotter, for example, was a tool, a manifesto and a peaceful means of resistance to the REVA policing methods through continuous Facebook status updates on identity checks at metro stations in Stockholm. The technology enabled reports on location and time of ticket controls to warn travellers in real time. Attempts by authorities to exert control over the ‘spatial’ underground were thereby circumvented by the effective development of an alternative infrastructural ‘underground’ consisting of assemblages of technologies, activists, undocumented immigrants, texts and emails, smart phones and computers. Based on ‘netnographic observations’ and interviews, the paper utilizes the case of the REVA to illustrate processes and practices that simultaneously configure the powerful surveyor, the discriminated and those who contest these politics through hybridities of cyber/material, human/nonhuman and urban/virtual space. The paper argues that by configuring such hybrid alliances, activists provided cyber-material autonomy to undocumented immigrants and other travellers in the metro, thereby creating new virtual and urban spaces for mobility and flows.

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