This chapter examines how a combination of approaches from anthropology and data science disciplines has supported my exploration of lives lived at similar intersections. It describes work I have done at two research sites. One, through self-tracking and the quantified self, is focused internally. The other, with a community of startup developers in Jamaica, is focused on struggles to realise the potential of the global knowledge economy from its margins. While differing in their geographies and scales, both spaces allow for an interrogation of the potential of combining data science and ethnography: its new methods, modes of inquiry and modes of expression. For both myself and those I work with, data acts a conduit across borders of nation, history and flesh, promising new existential and epistemological models, and a means of affecting personal and national transformation. Its analytical lines offer the ability to connect and communicate, to modulate ideas of difference, and to help construct new identities. I discuss the uneven realisation of this potential, and how the attempts at its operationalisation reveal productive complications and reformulations at the convergence of engineering and ethnography.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book shows the undeniable contribution and the limits of the biopower theory in the understanding of dead bodies en masse. It talks about the fact that criminology has for so long ignored mass crime, even though the link between the corpse and the criminal is one of the fundamentals of the discipline. The book addresses the issue of the practical and symbolic treatment of corpses by societies affected by mass violence. It shows how working ideologies along with historical legacy and geographical landscapes determined the disposal of the bodies. The book examines the simultaneously diplomatic and medicolegal nature of the activities of the French Search Commission for Corpses of Deportees in Germany. It also draws on German archives to describe the various modalities of treatment of corpses in Croatia.