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Publication Detail
Promises made to be broken: Performance and performativity in digital vaccine and immunity certification
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
    Article
  • Authors:
    Taylor L, Milan S, Veale M, G├╝rses S
  • Publisher:
    Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date:
    06/2021
  • Journal:
    European Journal of Risk Regulation
  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Print ISSN:
    1867-299X
Abstract
Digital vaccination certification involves making many promises, few of which can realistically be kept. In this paper we demonstrate how this phenomenon constitutes various forms of theatre - immunity theatre, border theatre, behavioural theatre and equality theatre - doing so by drawing on perspectives from technology regulation, migration studies and critical geopolitics. Technological and political theatre often serves a valid function, but these forms are problematic for several reasons. First, they involve real-world infrastructures that, while unlikely to accomplish the task at hand, will nevertheless last a long time and be repurposed. It therefore constitutes governance by data infrastructure, diverting action and control away from elected legislators to for-profit contractors. Second, vaccine certification effectively legitimises inequalities between countries and people by formalising ways to distinguish between the vaccinated and non-vaccinated, and to exclude the latter, thus reinforcing both the mobility and the connectivity divides. It serves as a way to (further) close borders, and to regulate, through code and infrastructure, access to public goods such as employment and public space. Finally, the project of certification displaces a more important action, namely addressing the radical inequality in countries' ability to combat the pandemic.
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