Northwestern Events Calendar


"Mapping the Border Laboratory: Knowledge, experimentation, and necrological citizenship in the Mexican Borderlands"

When: Monday, April 19, 2021
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM Central

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Janet Hundrieser   847.491.3525

Group: Science in Human Culture Program - Klopsteg Lecture Series

Category: Lectures & Meetings



Lindsay Smith, Arizona State University


"Mapping the Border Laboratory: Knowledge, experimentation, and necrological citizenship in the Mexican Borderlands"


In the face of a migration crisis, with an estimated 70,000-120,000 migrants disappeared in the Mexican borderlands in the last ten years, migrants and human rights activists are relying on emerging digital and forensic technologies to navigate this humanitarian challenge.  In this presentation I will examine an assemblage of humanitarian technologies used in US-Mexico border region. Focusing on the Mexican borderlands, from Guatemala to the United States, I will discuss consolidation of four border technologies that straddle state-based and grass-roots responses to migration and migrant death: GPS and ICT technologies, forensic DNA, isotope analysis, and biometrics. Although emerging from disparate intellectual traditions ranging from molecular biology to spatial sciences, taken together these technologies highlight (1) borders as spaces of innovation and experimentation on the part of migrants (2) the role of technologies in migrant citizenship, and (3) the rise of hybrid technologies that fuse human rights and security goals. Developing the concept of necrological citizenship as an analog and accompaniment to biological citizenship, I suggest that the space of the surveilled and endangered body emerges as a potent site of organizing for new imaginaries and politics of the borderlands.


Lindsay Smith is a medical anthropologist and Assistant Professor in School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Her research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of transitional justice, trauma, and scientific meaning-making. Her book manuscript, Subversive Genes: Making human rights and DNA in Argentina, examines the impact of the invention of forensic genetics on the constitution of family, justice, and democracy in post-dictatorship Argentina. As an engaged anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker, Lindsay has made films and published in collaboration with human rights groups, including the documentary Aparición con Vida, detailing the use of DNA in the search for children kidnapped during the Argentine Dirty War. She is currently conducting an NSF funded ethnographic study of the border laboratory focused on the innovation ecosystems of migrants in the Mexican borderlands.

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