The Cybernetic Border: Drones, Technology and Intrusion
(Duke University Press, 2024)
The matter of “the border” is as much a cultural question as it is a technological one. In The Cybernetic Border, Iván Chaar López argues that the settler US nation requires the production and targeting of a racialized enemy that threatens the empire. The cybernetic border is organized through practices of data capture, storage, processing, circulation, and communication that police bodies and constitute the nation as a bounded, territorial space. Chaar López historicizes the US government’s use of border enforcement technologies on Mexicans, Arabs, and Muslims from the mid-twentieth century to the present, showing how data systems are presented as solutions to unauthorized border crossing. Contrary to enduring fantasies of the purported neutrality of drones, smart walls, artificial intelligence, and biometric technologies, the cybernetic border represents the consolidation of calculation and automation in the exercise of racialized violence. Chaar López draws on corporate, military, and government records, promotional documents and films, technical reports, news reporting, surveillance footage, and activist and artist practices. These materials reveal how logics of enmity are embedded into information infrastructures that shape border control and modern sovereignty.
Technoprecarious (Goldsmiths Press, 2020)
An analysis that traces the role of digital technology in multiplying precarity.
Technoprecarious advances a new analytic for tracing how precarity unfolds across disparate geographical sites and cultural practices in the digital age. Digital technologies—whether apps like Uber, built on flexible labor, or platforms like Airbnb that shift accountability to users—have assisted in consolidating the wealth and influence of a small number of players. These platforms have also exacerbated increasingly insecure conditions of work and life for racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities; women; indigenous people; migrants; and peoples in the global south. At the same time, precarity has become increasingly generalized, expanding to include even the creative class and digital producers themselves.
Technoprecarious is a multi-authored monograph by Precarity Lab (Cassius Adair, Iván Chaar López, Anna Watkins Fisher, Cindy Lin, Silvia Lindtner, Lisa Nakamura, Cengiz Salman, Kalindi Vora, Jackie Wang, McKenzie Wark with Meryem Kamil).
Border Circuits (in progress)
Computing’s rise as an economic and technological juggernaut is often associated to the historical development of Silicon Valley, an industrial district made through innovative practices and bodies of knowledge. This project flips the script of industrial and technological innovation by examining how the racialized invisible labor of Mexican women became integral to the development of electronics manufacturing and the computing industry since 1965. Mexican women’s labor was made invisible—simultaneously describable and rationalized for factory operations, and yet unimaginable as significant or worthy of attention in the public imaginary. Through archival research and oral history interviews, the project draws together the experiences, practices, and ideas of multiple communities including Mexican workers, United States and Mexican factory administrators, and Mexican government officials.
Image source: Gil Trevino-Ortiz, "Hughes Electronic Plant in Mexicali" (1977)