Critical Digital Sovereignties

Reimagining Digital Borders from Above and Below

This path aims to question how digital technologies have become central to our imagination, articulation, and realization of borders. As the papers, by Stanislav Budnitsky, Zane Griffin Talley Cooper, and Mariela Morales Suarez show the current re-imagining of borders in the digital age is shaped by both continuing and new tensions around national identities, global distribution, and claims to sovereignty, processes that need to be examined both from above and below.

As Budnitsky explains data embassies - servers set up by the Estonian government outside of its national territory - are simultaneously central to Estonia’s re-imagining as a post-national country and essential components of its national geopolitical imperatives and perceived threats to its national sovereignty.

Zane Griffin Talley Copper’s piece focuses on the logistics of the global supply chain that supports the digital infrastructure, with a specific focus on the politics of extraction and mining for rare earth minerals needed to support our digital lives. As he shows, such complex global logistical arrangements and extractive practices raise urgent questions about national sovereignty and power in the digital age.

Mariela Morales Suarez contrasts the Cuban state’s approach to digital sovereignty with the notions of sovereignty at play in the informal data distribution networks set up by ordinary Cuban citizens to circumvent the restrictions on internet access enforced by the island nation’ state. As she shows, these competing notions of technological sovereignty shed light on how digital borders can be remade and contested from above and below.


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