Epistemic Practices, Logics of Visualization: Migrants, Asylum-Seekers, and Deviant Subjects

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:30 PM
Room: Booth 44
Oral Presentation
Irene VAN OORSCHOT , Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Sanne BOERSMA , Faculty of Social Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Maja HERTOGHS , Social Sciences, Anthropology, PhD Student, Amsterdam, Netherlands
In its study of ‘epistemic practices’ (Lynch 1993), the field of Science and Technology Studies has displayed a sensitivity towards the local articulation of objectivity and (scientific) truths, and the deployment of optical devices and inscriptions in these practices. In this presentation, we wish to take this sensitivity with the situated ‘fabrication’ of truths (Latour 1999) into the study of three practices other than those of natural scientists: those of immigration officials deciding over the acceptability of asylum applications, those of social scientists measuring immigration and integration, and those of criminal law judges deciding on verdicts.

Based on ethnographic research into these sites, we explore these practices in the following ways. First, we will focus on the precise ways differences are made and remade, focusing in particular on the taken-for-granted classifications that are not ‘looked at’ but ‘seen through’, i.e. the figure of the immigrant, that of the asylum-seeker, and that of the deviant subject (Bowker and Star 1999; Mitchell 2012). Second, we will pay attention to the techniques, instruments, and inscriptions that allow for such difference-making. In particular, we focus on the visual materials (graphs, charts, etc.) social scientists produce in their work practices, and on the visualizing technologies (case files) and truth-finding procedures (interrogations, court hearings) both judges and immigration officials deploy in their practices. Seeing and visualization, we argue here, are capacities concentrated in specific centers of expertise and are enabled by and produced in a knowledgeable engagement with the instruments and optical devices of the ‘trade’ (Cf. Goodwin 1994; Haraway 1988). As such, they exhibit logics of visualization.