Zak David Tobias

Thesis Title:

Transformation Zones: Digital Hubs, Class and (Geo)politics in Jordan


My project seeks to map the political agencies embedded in the development of digital infrastructures through an ethnographic study of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ) in Jordan. Its importance to academia and beyond lies in the need to reveal the way the changing landscape of labour arrangements are ‘routed’ in a politics of digital transformation. Home to Jordan’s only internet exchange point, Aqaba’s growing prominence at the intersection of transregional digital networks (subsea internet cables, data centres and exchange points) strategically repositions it as a ‘hub’ on the global fault-lines of digital development. Yet while free ports, and more recently free zones like ASEZ function as ‘modular technologies’ that enable highly segmented modes of capital accumulation, it is unclear how the ongoing extension of digital hubs effect these explicitly political technologies. Do digital hubs reconfigure market geographies through the enabling of platform-based labour whilst simultaneously extending the infrastructural reach of Free Zones? And if so, what are the implication for class and geopolitics as regional labour regimes are transfigured through localised ecosystems (virtual markets)? In asking these questions I look to build on an essential research agenda within critical political economy, specifically at the intersection of racial capitalism and Science and Technology Studies (STS).

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First Supervisor:

Laleh Khalili