Technology, Surveillance, and Transnational Trafficking: Securing the Nation Through Narratives of (In)security

Thank you for everyone who joined me at my presentation at the American Studies Association 2015 conference, The (Re)production of Misery and the Ways of Resistance, October 8-11, 2015, Toronto, Canada

Sat, October 10, 10:00 to 11:45am, Sheraton Centre, Chestnut West

Fukushima Abstract

“Technology, Surveillance, and Transnational Trafficking: Securing the Nation Through Narratives of (In)security” by Annie Isabel Fukushima

Technology impacts transnational economies and technocultures, Anne Balsamo’s concept of how culture shapes technology and vice versa (that the two are not in opposition). For the transnational migrant crossing U.S. borders, he/she is impacted by the innovations in technology. Technology shapes mobile subjects. What is the role of technology in human rights endeavors? In 2011, Google gave $10.5 million to anti-trafficking organizations, suggesting that in a post-9-11 era, the relationship between technology and anti-violence efforts is an important area to be further investigated where the implications are human, political and social. Technology is central aspect in human rights endeavors, in particular, in anti-trafficking efforts, including wiretapping as a form of surveillance for prosecutorial purposes, media circulated public service announcements as a form of prevention and outreach, and online forms and data collection to better serve victims, However, insecurities are also sustained for the vulnerable migrant who is constructed by dualities of victim/criminal, illegal/legal, and citizen/noncitizen. As national borders are militarized furthering the belief that the world is a dangerous place, transnational migrants trafficked in the U.S. are also shaped by discourses of (in)security. How are the discourse and practices surrounding technology and human rights shaped by notions of (in)security? The technologies range from technologies of mobilizing a human rights agenda through apps to surveillance of Asian massage parlors. I focus on a particular transnational subject: transnational Asian migrants constituted as trafficked in the United States. Through examining legal court records and media discussions surrounding technology and violence, I address the (in)securities reproduced through nationalist narratives of misery in the form of human trafficking. As anti-trafficking discourse and the reproduction of (in)security is furthered, new relations and subjectivities are also forged through and shaped by technology innovations and implementations to address violence and human trafficking. Take for example the use of technologies to control the U.S. borders, where migrant crossings are seen as victims to be rescued and criminals to be deported. And diasporic subjects are positioned as naturalizing settler narratives – migrants as deportable and foreign or victims on a path to citizenship who are to be rescued and restored. In this paper I will discuss the role of technology in human rights efforts as a central aspect of furthering notions of (in)security. Therefore, to reposition how one witnesses notions of rights and (in)security, I call for an unsettling witnessing of transnational subjects.

Here is the title and description of the panel. My wonderful co-panelists were Ayano Ginoza and Crystal Baik, moderated by Ju Hui Judy Han:

Contesting Inter/national Militarized Security in the “Asia Pacific” and Imagining An Otherwise


In this proposed panel, participants address the “Asia Pacific” in relationship to the intersecting histories of U.S. and Japanese militarized imperialisms— enmeshed (neo)colonial dynamics that scholars, including Naoki Sakai, Setsu Shigematsu, and Keith Camacho, refer to as the enduring “transpacific alliance.” Mobilizing the “Asia Pacific” as an analytic and a politics of knowledge rather than a fixed geographical region, panelists engage with a spectrum of transnational sites and spaces acutely impacted by Japanese and U.S. empire building projects sustained by militarisms in Korea and the Korean DMZ (Baik), the continental United States (Fukushima), and Okinawa and Japan (Ginoza).

Paying attention to the production of “disposable” subjects living on the fringes of national citizenship and heteronormative life, this panel explores a central conundrum: the ways in which neocolonial regimes (including but not limited to the United States) conceptualize misery, violence, and surveillance as central to and necessary for the contemporary projects of global humanitarianism, inter/national safety, and democratic freedom. Examining these interconnected spaces and sites as nodes located within an extensive militarized geography, this panel is particularly interested in the oppositional logics that guide and undergird the biopolitical project of inter/national security— necessity/expendability, paradise/militarism, legality/illegality. Yet, even as they examine the serious material consequences and ontological conditions associated with militarized imperialism, panelists also engage with local ways of resistance, emergent forms of affinity politics, and alliance building— ranging from cultural production to disidentification practices and transformative methods of witnessing—that have crystallized among militarized subjects. As discussed within the panel, such practices do not merely trouble or challenge militarized imperial logics. Rather, they labor toward a new understanding of “security” de-linked from nationalist and militarized sentiments, and consider the radical possibilities of demilitarization and decolonization.