Immigrant Sensibilities in Tech Worlds: Sensing Hate, Capturing Dissensus
Seattle and its environs are home to more than eighty tech companies, which have added 780,000 new jobs between 2014 and 2019. Along with these jobs comes increased immigration, especially from India and China. Some of Seattle’s Eastside areas now rank among the most diverse in the nation, even while the Pacific Northwest bears a legacy of white supremacist agitation. This essay explores the relationship between the Eastside’s tech industry, migration, and what the Attorney General’s Office of Washington State calls “hate incidents”—verbal attacks and harassment against minorities that do not rise to the level of hate crimes. I show how forms of evidence about hate incidents circulate in Asian immigrant communities. Victims of these hate incidences track evidence of racial bias simultaneously through material evidence, such as dog poop left on front lawns, and through organizing sense impressions to recognize a shouted slur as racially motivated. This sensory evidence falls below what Jacques Rancière calls a particular distribution of the sensible. I call these lost impressions “the sensate,” to capture how the theory of the senses developed by Rancière and others moves too quickly from distribution to dissensus. Instead, the idea of the sensate tracks the ways in which immigrants align, distance themselves from, and register the larger technical and economic scenes in which their lives unfold.