The Bhalisa Network

The Bhalisa Network is an actively inter-disciplinary group of two hundred researchers, policy makers and implementers who work on the political, economic and moral effects of digital population registration systems. The word, bhalisa, means “cause to be written, or registered” in isiZulu. The group dates from the first meeting, in the Hague, in 2015, and it has hosted three subsequent meetings: at WISER in Johannesburg in 2017, Jesus and St Johns Colleges, Cambridge in 2019, and the Faculty of Law, Bergen in 2022. (More information on these meetings is available on the links below). The group includes prominent researchers in engineering, including Ross J Anderson professor of computer security at Cambridge and Edinburgh; human rights lawyers, including Laura Bingham, Bronwen Manby and Gautam Bhatia, many anthropologists, like Ursula Rao and Vijayanka Nair; historians, like Eddy Higgs, Simon Szreter, Keren Weitzberg; political scientists, including Imke Harbers, Wendy Hunter and Marielle Debos; and sociologists, like Richard Banegas, Georges Eyenga and Jonathan Klaaren. Over a dozen of the young researchers on the list can best be described as working in the general field Science and Technology Studies, with a strong empirical focus on the new registration and credit surveillance infrastructures being developed in Asia and Africa. In addition to this interdisciplinary research strength, the network also includes some of the most prominent policy-makers including Joseph Atick, Alan Gelb and Jaap van der Straaten. Many officials, donors and funders are also active members of the network and participants in the email discussions, and biannual meetings, that animate the group.

The Bhalisa list is an active, high-value mailman listserv (email) forum for specialist research into contemporary state practices of identification and registration, hosted by Keith Breckenridge.  The list was formed out of the first meeting of the group in The Hague, organised by Jaap van der Straaten. 

Please note that we apply a set of criteria to all requests for new membership. In the first instance any new member should be specifically recommended by one of the current members of the list, ideally one of the original and active members. The names of these members are available off the links below. New members should also bring published research or experience of regions, or practices, that we don't know much about.  To see the collection of prior postings to the list, visit the Bhalisa Archives. (The current archive is only available to the list members.)


The Hague 2015  |   Johannesburg 2017  |  Cambridge 2019  |  Bergen 2022 | Amsterdam 2024

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