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School of Politics and International Relations

Dr Keren Weitzberg, MA & PhD, Stanford University


Senior Lecturer and Fellow at the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences

Room Number: Arts One, Room 2.33A
Twitter: @KerenWeitzberg
Office Hours: By Appointment


Keren Weitzberg joined the School of Politics and International Relations in September 2022 as a senior lecturer and fellow at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences. Working at the intersection of science and technology studies, migration and border studies, and critical race studies, she examines problematics related to mobility, biometrics, and fintech. She has 15 years of experience carrying out archival research, fieldwork, and interviews in Kenya. Keren is also book reviews editor for the journal Africa, one of the premier journals devoted to the study of African societies and culture. 

Keren’s interest in the intersections between migration and digital identity evolved out of research for her first book, We Do Not Have Borders, which examined Somali transnational networks in Kenya. We Do Not Have Borders was a finalist for the 2018 African Studies Association Book Prize for best scholarly work on Africa.

Keren is now working on two new book projects. Biometrics from the Margins: Fingerprinting and Political Exclusion in Kenya weaves together ethnographic details from her time spent with undocumented and under-documented people in Nairobi and the town of Garissa in northern Kenya. It also looks at Kenya’s fraught history with fingerprinting, which was first introduced by British colonial authorities in the early twentieth century. This project examines how those at the physical and metaphorical margins of the nation (including migrants, nomadic populations, refugees, and border communities), who have historically struggled to access identification documents, are now navigating the new world of digital identity.

The Other Climate Technology: How Biometrics Will Shape Our Planetary Future, her second book project, looks at one of the most important yet overlooked technologies likely to shape a future defined by scarcity and climactic crisis: biometrics. Both proponents and critics of green growth have tended to focus on technologies intended to replace fossil fuels, overlooking those aimed at rationing and managing its diminishing returns and supplies. In contrast, The Other Climate Technology argues that biometric tools of identification, like fingerprinting and iris scans, can be conceptualized as climate technologies. Doing so allows us to think critically about the risks, possibilities, and pressing challenges of low-growth and post-carbon economies, including the future of migration and the politics of social welfare, rationing, and redistribution. 

In recent years, Keren has applied insights gleaned from her time in East Africa to broader global questions. Keren has worked on projects for civil society organizations like Amnesty International, Privacy International, and Campaign Against the Arms Trade that have explored the rights of refugees in the digital age, the growing use of digital technologies for border and immigration enforcement, and the use of biometrics in the humanitarian/aid sector and counterterrorism industry. She has also worked on a moving-image piece with filmmaker Edwin Mingard, funded by UCL Culture and Arts Council England, which explores the UK hostile environment. Her research has appeared in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Quartz Africa, and BBC World Service.


I am currently on leave from teaching.


Research Interests:

Borders and migration

Digital technologies

Political history of East Africa

Climate technology, degrowth, and low-carbon economies

Archival Research

Oral history and ethnography

Examples of research funding:

My recent work has been supported by the following grants:

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)/Facebook Ethics in AI Research Initiative for Africa (2020-1)

The Alan Turing Institute, Trusted Digital Infrastructure for Development research grant (2020-1)

Arts Council England Project Grant (2020-21)

UCL Trellis: Public Art Programme (2020-21)

UKRI GCRF Digital Innovation for Development in Africa (DIDA), Research network on datafication in East Africa (2020-21)

Fulbright US Scholar Award (2019-20)

American Academy of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship (2019-20)

Privacy International grant on Safeguarding Dignity, Identity and Identification (2019-2022)

British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (2018-9)



Weitzberg, K. (2017). We Do Not Have Borders: Greater Somalia and the Predicaments of Belonging in Kenya. New African Histories series. Athens: Ohio University Press.

Peer reviewed articles and book chapters

Young, A. and Weitzberg, K. 2022. Globalizing racism and de-provincializing Muslim AfricaModern Intellectual History. 19(3), pp. 912-933.

Weitzberg, K., Cheesman, M., Martin, A. and Schoemaker, E. 2021. Between surveillance and recognition: Rethinking digital identity in aidBig Data & Society, 8(1), p. 20539517211006744.

Weitzberg, K., 2020. Biometrics, race making, and white exceptionalism: The controversy over universal fingerprinting in KenyaThe Journal of African History. 61(1), pp. 23-43.

Akbari, S.C., Herzog, T., Jütte, D., Nightingale, C., Rankin, W. and Weitzberg, K., 2017. AHR conversation: Walls, borders, and boundaries in world historyThe American Historical Review. 122(5), pp. 1501-1553.

Weitzberg, K., 2016. ‘Rethinking the “Shifta War” Fifty Years After Independence: Myth, Memory, and Marginalization’. In: Kithinji, M.M., Koster, M.M. and Rotich, J.P. (eds). Kenya after 50: Reconfiguring historical, political, and policy milestones. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 65-81.

Weitzberg, K., 2015. The unaccountable census: Colonial enumeration and its implications for the Somali people of Kenya. The Journal of African History. 56(3), pp. 409-428.

Weitzberg, K., 2013. Producing history from elisions, fragments, and silences: Public testimony, the Asiatic poll-tax campaign, and the Isaaq Somali population of Kenya. Northeast African Studies, 13(2), pp. 177-206.

Select blogs and media

Martin, A., Schoemaker, E., Weitzberg, K., Cheesman, M. 2021. Researching Digital Identity in Times of Crisis. Workshop Report for the Alan Turing Institute. August,

Weitzberg, K., 2021. ‘Gateway or Barrier? The Contested Politics of Humanitarian Biometrics’. Datafication and Digital Rights (blog). 12 January,

Weitzberg, K., 2020. ‘Passing as a Refugee’. Africa is a Country. 10 November,

Weitzberg, K., 2020. ‘Machine-Readable Refugees.’ London Review of Books Blog. 14 September,

Weitzberg, K., 2020. ‘Countries Around the World are Using Border Surveillance Systems Against their Own Citizens’. The Conversation. 17 August,

Weitzberg, K., 2020. ‘In Kenya, You Cannot Go Anywhere Without an ID. I Don’t Have One’. Mail & Guardian. 13 April,

Weitzberg, K., 2019. ‘Mobile Credit Expands Mass Surveillance of Ordinary Kenyans.’ Coda Story. 11 September,

Weitzberg, K., 2019. ‘Kenya’s Controversial Biometric Project is Shrouded in Secrecy’. Coda Story. 3 May,

Weitzberg, K., 2017. ‘Instead of Building a Big, Beautiful Wall, We Should Rethink Our Idea of Borders’. The Washington Post. Made By History section. 11 August,

Reports for civil society groups

(Forthcoming) Pakzad, R. and Weitzberg, K. ‘Defending the Rights of Refugees and Migrants in the Digital Age’. Report for Amnesty International.

Weitzberg, K., 2022. ‘A Very British Problem: The Evolution of Britain’s Militarized Industrial Complex’. Report for Campaign Against the Arms Trade (4 August),

Weitzberg, K., 2022. ‘Biometrics Collection Under the Pretext of Counter-Terrorism: Case Study of Israel/Palestine and Case Study of Somalia’. Reports for Privacy International (28 May),

Public art projects

H is for Hostile Environment (2022). Trailer:


I am interested in supervising PhD students working on topics related to migration and borders, digital technologies, and/or East African politics.

Public Engagement

I have worked closely with a range of civil society groups including MakanPrivacy InternationalAmnesty InternationalAkwaaba, and Campaign Against the Arms Trade. I am on the advisory board for Haki na Sheria Initiative , a non-governmental organisation based in Garissa, Kenya, and am a member of the steering committee for the newly launched Just Tech and Migration Community, spearheaded by Amnesty International.

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