S. E. Freeman
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationCalifornia, Berkeley, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10216
Approve DateOctober 7, 2021
Project TitleFreeman, S.E. (California, Berkeley, U. of) "Quantifying Mobility: An Ethnography of Humanitarian Data Collection in South Sudan"
Despite outnumbering refugees 2:1 in the world today, internally displaced persons (IDPs) present a challenge for humanitarian actors. In contrast to refugees, IDPs do not cross an international border and many live beyond camp walls, making it difficult for humanitarians to identify and assist them. South Sudan presents what is seen to be a particularly mobile landscape: the majority of the country’s 1.3 million IDPs live outside of camps yet continue to move through and receive services within them. Here, humanitarian actors are turning to biometric technology and large-scale data collection to render visible those in need of assistance. Attending to the discursive and material practices through which displacement is categorized, measured, and quantified in South Sudan, this research asks: How is the use of biometric technology changing the identification and evaluation of lives worth saving? Approaching the infrastructure of humanitarian data collection as a contested terrain through which decisions over life and death are made, my dissertation explores how humanitarians are mobilizing new technologies to adapt to a world defined by increasing movement, redefining what constitutes political life for a digital age.