The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity

Civil Registration Centre for Development, The Hague and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg

The ecology of Aadhaar: Biometrics, Paper ecologies and governance

The last decade has have seen the rolling out of massive informational infrastructures in India that have little parallel in any postcolonial society. Biometric identification, GIS mapping, transportation databases, city-wide CCTV cameras are among the many initiatives underway. The ‘informational turn’ poses a cluster of new questions for research on postcolonial media infrastructures. The informational turn has mobilized regime modernizers, corporate reformers and social movements. Transparency discourses are significant, as technologies of visibility seek to reassemble undocumented populations into enumerated biometric databases. We are witnessing a major attempt to transform the existing technologies of managing urban populations since 1947. New information infrastructures attempt to rearrange the relationship between urban governance and traditional politics, seen as expressive of a corrupt and opaque urban system. I look at the vast ecology of the biometric Aadhaar project, while linking it to earlier histories of paper-based enumeration.

Event reference: 
The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity