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Building a Borderless Digital Nation: Estonian e-Residency and the Work of Scalability

Lori Weekes
Date and Time: 
Monday, April 30, 2018 - 12:30

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


On December 1, 2014, anyone, living anywhere in the world, became eligible for Estonian e-Residency. Though e-Estonians are not entitled to physical residency or social services, in exchange for biometric data and a 100€ fee, they receive an e-ID card issued by the Republic of Estonia and, with it, digital access to several of the hundreds of online services Estonia already provides its residents and citizens, most notably digital identity authentication, digital signing, and the ability to remotely found and operate an Estonian limited liability company (OÜ). E-Residency’s universal invitation to “be part of our country” represents an apparent departure from the logics of jus sanguinis citizenship and territorialized nationhood that have animated many aspects of Estonian statecraft and civil society since Estonia’s 1991 independence from the Soviet Union. In this talk, I take the apparent tension between e-Residency’s digital open door and the ethno-nationalist commitments that undergird Estonian statecraft more broadly as a point of departure for exploring e-Residency as a tool of scalability, a techno-legal assemblage that allows Estonia to rapidly increase the size of its national economy while at the same time avoiding undesired concomitant impact on Estonia’s politic, demography, and civic society.

Lorraine Weekes is a media anthropologist working in Estonia. Her research ethnographically examines Estonian e-government and its effects on the pursuit and enactment of citizenship, nationalism, and state sovereignty. More broadly, her work asks how emergent technologies and the governance practices they facilitate enable new forms of national and non-national political communities and change how citizens conceptualize themselves as political subjects. Lorraine's background includes training and expertise in law and bioarchaeology; she holds a JD from Stanford Law School and a BA and MS in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania.