Theorising Digital Dispossession: An Enquiry into the Datafication of Accumulation by Dispossession

  • Aishik Saha National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Keywords: digital labour, accumulation by dispossession, data colonialism


In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of work and labour was being deeply pondered upon. The demarcations that emerged out of this juncture led to a bifurcation of labour into ‘essential workers’, who are pushed into precarity from the threat of disease and contractual uncertainty in employment, and those who ‘work from home’. While geo-spatial segregation of these distinctions is contingent upon the specific relation of the nature of work with datafication, we are impelled to ponder upon the role that the accumulation of surplus value plays in this process. More specifically we must ask, what role does digital labour play in the datafication and datafied reorganization of work and workplaces? The inadequateness of data colonialism as a theoretical tool that accounts for the historical-materialist and dialectical roots of extraction and accumulation of user data requires a retheorization of the process. In this paper, I shall examine the ontological inadequacies of the metaphors of colonialism, and its extractivist logic, being transposed and mapped onto the studies of datafication. Following this I shall explore ‘digital dispossession’ as a convergence of Digital Capitalism and the neoliberal reorganization of digitized social labour, alongside its necropolitical implications. Drawing upon David Harvey’s theorization of ‘Accumulation by Dispossession’, I argue for a classical Marxist interpretation of datafication as a new reorganization of capitalist accumulation that acts and appropriates surplus generated by prosumers through the unpaid and discursive digital labour performed on digital platforms.

Author Biography

Aishik Saha, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Aishik Saha is a PhD candidate at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He obtained his M.A. in History from Jadavpur University in India. His research interests include Critical Theory, Fascisms, Comparative Politics, Global South and Colonialism.