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Nishat Awan

On race, digital technologies and borders

Easter 2021-2022

Tuesday, 24 May 2022


In this talk, Nishat will discuss the intersection of race, digital technologies and the production of borders, focusing on some of the shortcomings of a forensic or evidentiary approach in visual culture/architecture. Often practices of digital witnessing, aided by remote sensing, modelling and satellite imagery, allow us to ‘see’ further and deeper into places that are at a distance from us, but at the same time they create the conditions that make certain subjects recede from view. Such technologies have the potential to erase the political, and often racialised, subject. How might we use architectural methodologies of mapping and modelling to produce a practice of 'affective witnessing' (Awan & Musmar, 2020; Schankweiler et al, 2019) that does not elide the digital while making room for marginalised subjects?


Nishat Awan’s research focuses on the intersection of geopolitics and space, including questions related to diasporas, migration and border regimes. She is interested in modes of spatial representation, particularly in relation to the digital and the limits of witnessing as a form of ethical engagement with distant places. Currently, she leads the ERC funded project, Topological Atlas, which aims to produce visual counter-geographies of the fragile movements of migrants as they encounter the security apparatus of the border.
In 2015 she was an Independent Social Research Foundation early career fellow working on the project, Edges of Europe, exploring European belonging through migrant experience. Her book, Diasporic Agencies (Routledge, 2016) addressed the subject of how architecture and urbanism can respond to the consequences of increasing migration. She has also addressed alternative modes of architectural production in the co-authored book Spatial Agency (Routledge, 2011) and the co-edited book Trans-Local-Act (aaa-peprav, 2011).

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