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Counter-mapping the mobile border: Racial surveillance and data justice in spaces of disappearance

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-20, 05:03 authored by Emma RussellEmma Russell, Poppy de Souza
Following significant social and legal challenges to Australia’s colonial policy of ‘offshoring’ immigration detention, the system has become more mobile and diffuse, expanding through a range of new, ad-hoc, and established detention sites both ‘on’ and ‘offshore’. Refugees, asylum seekers and other non-citizens are frequently transferred and dispersed between these sites, which form ‘spaces of disappearance’. In this article, we draw upon concepts of racial surveillance capitalism and data justice to analyse a work by the Manus Recording Project Collective, titled where are you today, that sought to expose and counter the colonial border’s disappearing effects. The work involved the creation and distribution of audio-recordings from inside detention sites to subscribers. Recordings were distributed via text messages that also plotted individual subscribers in spatiotemporal relation to the detained artists that created them. The Collective thereby appropriated the tools of surveillance capitalism – such as GPS tracking and timestamping – to create dynamic digital cartographies of the mobile-carceral border. Through studying this work, we aim to deepen understandings of colonial bordering practices and highlight possibilities for disrupting the social divisions and exclusions that they reproduce.


Publication Date



Environment and Planning D: Society and Space




SAGE Publications



Rights Statement

© The Author(s) 2023 This article is made available under the CC BY-NC licence: