Urban and Urbanization

Proactive state geographies: Geocoded intelligence in London’s ‘suburban shanty towns’

This article draws on an ethnographic approach to concrete institutional practices and machine learning algorithms to analyse emergent proactive state geographies in London’s suburbs. The article assesses predictive modelling in housing enforcement in respect of the government of migrant housing precarity in the interstices of rentier and racial capitalism. The article develops two central contentions concerning these proactive state geographies. First, relations between geopolitics, the racialisation of urban space and algorithms need to be situated in relation to institutional state prosaics. ‘Connecting the dots’, a motif of post-9/11 pre-emptive securitisation, is located in suburban housing enforcement regimes corresponding to the politicisation of overcrowding, while the enactment of data-driven intelligence, including in raids, renews the border in these suburbs. Second, proactive technologies work through state data infrastructures. Geocoding, a technique of urban legibility designating the property grid, organises the algorithmic production of legality/illegality and consequently public health and housing futures in the digital city. While the analysis stems from a specific context, the article aims to contribute to interdisciplinary debates about politics, algorithms and state transformation spanning political, urban and digital geography and cognate fields.

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Volume 39 Issue 4

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