Postcoloniality and Extractivist Bioeconomies of Displacement

  • Martin Lemberg-Pedersen (Lecturer)

Activity: Talks and presentationsConference presentations


The extraction, storage, and trading of data about people experiencing different forms of displacement has come to permeate current European displacement politics, illustrated by an expanding number of databases spanning from the EU, the UNHCR and the World Bank. Visions of transnational smart border systems, of data-driven “refugee economies,” and of tools predicting the volume and routes of displacements now constitute policy-salient knowledge regimes on displacement. In three steps, this talk applies a postcolonial perspective to examine the materialist, functional and epistemological aspects with this development. The first step sketches some of the technological and functional dynamics surrounding the use of data in recent European and global displacement politics. These are characterized by blurred boundaries between public, humanitarian and commercial interests, and are imbricated in financial markets of extracted displacement data. The second step then historicizes the functionality of data extraction in displacement contexts by considering actors and interests from two colonial bioeconomies of displacement in the 19th and early 20th centuries, namely the interstate US slave trade, and European policies of reconcentrating displaced colonial populations in Cuba, South Africa and the Phillippines. A third step compares the epistemologies of data-drives in current and colonial bioeconomies of displacement and offer some reflections on inquiries into postcolonial continuities. The empirical data is derived from fieldwork in European border-regions, South Africa, the Caribbean, Ghana, and the US, as well as archival research and online databases.
Period11 Dec 2019
Held atGoldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Data
  • Extractivism
  • Postcoloniality
  • US South
  • IOM
  • Slavery
  • Displacement
  • Humanitarianism
  • Governance