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Beyond Identification: Biometrics and Everyday Life

Sat, September 2, 9:00 to 10:30am, Sheraton Boston, Floor: 3, Gardner B

Session Submission Type: Traditional (Closed) Panel


From unlocking personal smartphones and designing national IDs and passports, to conducting criminal investigations and verifying financial transactions, the use of fingerprints, facial recognition data, iris scans, and other biometric modalities in ID cards, databases, and scanning devices is increasingly becoming part of governing social life. The use of biometric identification technologies not only places the locus of identity onto the quantified human body, but also intervenes in and (re)configures a variety of sociotechnical relationships. These include, but are not limited to, relationships across: security, risk, and civil liberties; exclusion, criminalization, and citizenship; data, subjectivity, and ontologies of the body; power, expertise, and resistance to surveillance; and histories of biometrics, antecedent identification practices, and techno-optimistic (or pessimistic) future visions of achieving “unique” identification. The ubiquity of biometric technologies as preferred methods of identification, and their inscription into everyday digital infrastructures, presents opportunities to critically examine how the use of biometrics constitutes new conditions of governance and resistance. This open track welcomes papers that investigate how identification technologies, particularly those based on biometrics, are reshaping the governance of social life across national, social, political, administrative, institutional, infrastructural, and technological contexts. It aims to interrogate the socio-cultural and techno-political dimensions of biometric identification technologies beyond their usual framing in terms of security or surveillance by bringing insights from STS into conversation with perspectives in surveillance studies, critical security studies, information science, and other fields.

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