Digital Enclosure and Colonial Technology Travel: Safe Cities from Xinjiang to Kuala Lumpur

In his award-winning book, Terror Capitalism, anthropologist Darren Byler considers how the ubiquity of pass-book systems, webs of biometric surveillance, urban banishment and mass internment camps have reshaped human experience among native Uyghurs and Han settler-colonizers in Northwest China. His current research follows up on the argument of his first book, In the Camps, to consider how contemporary capitalism and colonialism travel through digital infrastructural systems from China to Malaysia and affect Rohingya and other stateless populations in Kuala Lumpur. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Xinjiang and Malaysia, this talk will show how digital infrastructures combined with state-corporate enforcement of technological counterterrorism to produce new forms of Muslim enclosure, labor extraction, and, ultimately, a subtraction of life itself. He particularly attends to the experiences of youth, including a North American international student—who was made the primary target of state violence—and how they cope with novel forms of unfreedom. By tracing the political and economic stakes of emergent technopolitical systems, the talk demonstrates how state-directed capitalist dispossession is co-constructed with relations of domination that have global implications.



Michael Laffan | Paula Chow Professor of Int'l and Regional Studies; Professor of History, Princeton University

Darren Byler | Assistant Professor of International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia

Angela Ke Li | Fung Global Fellow 2023-24


February 22, 2024


4:30 p.m.


Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building, A17


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