Social Justice and COVID19: The tracing and distancing of digital bodies

Every year, a renowned researcher within the field of global development studies is invited to the university to hold a public lecture for the NMBU Global Development Studies programme.

This year, we were delighted to host Professor Kristin Bergtora Sandvik from the Department of Criminology and the Sociology of Law, University of Oslo. 

Watch the talk here:

*Those who appear in the video have consented to be recorded. 

The impacts of Covid-19 and efforts to contain it have had enormous implications for existing struggles around human rights, while also giving rise to a host of new struggles.

At the same time, the outbreak has accelerated the ongoing global digital transformation. This talk explores the intersection of these developments, arguing that data governance and the uncertainty of digital bodies must come to the fore of how we think about marginalization and injustice after Covid-19, and the strategies we devise to achieve social justice.

The talk offers three reflections: first, on the meaning and vulnerability of ‘Digital bodies’, here understood as images, information, biometrics, and other digitalized data that represent the physical bodies of populations, but over which they have little control or say.

Next, using examples from the Covid-19 response, the talk discusses tracing and distancing as digital public health governing techniques that have contributed to knowledge-based public health policy but also to extraordinary individual legibility, extensive population control measures – and an unprecedented hoarding of personally and demographically identifiable information.

Finally, what is the legacy of these techniques and their potential for marginalization, discrimination, and exclusion? How does the accumulation of data generate resources and power for the private sector in a way that restricts future pathways for welfare and public health programming?

About the speaker:
Kristin Bergtora Sandvik’s research focuses on the development of a political and legal sociology of humanitarianism. Her research combines top-down and bottom-up perspectives on the development, role and place of legal norms, legal categories, legal identities and legal claims-making in conflict and humanitarian action. Sandvik is particularly concerned with soft law and with issues related to legality, legitimacy and accountability. Sandvik graduated from the University of Oslo with a Masters in Women’s Law in 2002.  She obtained an LL.M (waived) from Harvard Law School in 2003, and a doctorate in Juridical Sciences (S.J.D) from Harvard Law School in 2008. She has also studied social anthropology at the University of Oslo, and she has been a guest researcher at the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre and the Refugee Law Project (Uganda).

Sandvik has published in journals such as Law and Society Review, Feminist Legal Studies, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Journal of Human Rights Practice, International Journal of Refugee Law, Third World Quarterly, Third World Thematics, Oslo Law Review, the Australian Feminist Law Journal, Journal of Military Ethics, International Review of the Red Cross, Disasters, Millennium-Journal of International Studies, Refugee Survey Quarterly, Nordic Journal of Human Rights, Conjuntura Austral and RIS - La Revue internationale et stratégique.  Sandviks work has been translated into multiple languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Arabic. Sandvik is also the co-editor of:

  • Worlds of Human Rights. The Ambiguities of Rights Claiming in Africa (Brill, 2013)
  • UNHCR and the Struggle for Accountability: Technology, Law and Results-based Management (Routledge, 2016)
  • The Good Drone (Routledge, 2016)
  • Refugee Resettlement: Power, Politics and Humanitarian Governance (Berghahn Books, 2018)

In 2009, Sandvik was hired by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) as a senior researcher. In 2011, Sandvik co-founded the Norwegian Center for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS), where she was the director from 2012 to 2016. From May 2016, Sandvik has been an associate professor at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, while maintaining a 20% position as a research professor in humanitarian studies at PRIO [Source: UiO].


Published 7. December 2020 - 19:42 - Updated 8. December 2020 - 7:53