Panel 42

Revisiting identification and registration of humans and more-than-humans: long-term perspectives and implications

Organizers: Chiara Loschi; Annalisa Pelizza; Paul Trauttmansdorff

University of Bologna, Italy

Topics: Health policies, governance and practices in a postpandemic era; Technoscientific promises, imaginaries and expectations; Methodological challenges in a more-than-human world; Postcolonial technoscientific futures; Governance of and by data infrastructures; Sociotechnologies of (in)secure worlds to come

Keywords: registration, identification, infrastructure, longue durée, chain of translation

This panel aims to reflect on the long-term perspectives and implications of today’s societies and their interest in identifying and registering human and more-than-human life. Practices of identification and registration shape the realms of human, artefact and animal mobility, policing, health and medicine, education, or the climate transition, to name a few. They are often rightly criticized as attempts at control and surveillance, but this criticism usually adopts a temporally punctual perspective and is less inclined to examine their long-term implications. Our panel suggests exploring, and discussing, the longue-durée of identification and registration.

Groebner’s (2007) history of identification traces the imperative to “register everyone and everything” back to the sixteenth century in Europe. Authors like Carroll (2006) and Mukerj (2011) have highlighted a link between identification and registration and nation state formation. Mitchell (2002) has extended this argument to imperial and colonial ambitions. Establishing data systems and relying on more or less stabilized infrastructures, identification and registration enact new and old subjectivities, orders, knowledges, practices, and classifications as “spatial, temporal, or spatio-temporal segmentation[s] of the world” (Bowker and Star 2000, 10). Forms of monitoring and screening, information-sharing and categorization can become catalysts for new institutional orders and relationships (Andersson 2015). Kloppenburg and Van der Ploeg (2020) demonstrate how recent biometric techniques of identification are “producing and enacting [new] gender and ethnic classifications and identities” (p. 57). Pelizza (2021) has proposed to see registration and identification as a chain of translation which enacts specific subjects, enrols stakeholders, and alters institutional orders. And yet today, identification and registration do not only concern humans, but also animals, artefacts, plants, commodities, and other heterogeneous assemblages (see Tsing 2015). What are, for example, the long-term consequences of the identification – the reductio ad unum – of novel inter-species viruses? And what novel orders may emerge in the long run?

The panel invites conceptual and empirical contributions that help shedding light onto long-term methodological perspectives and implications of processes and practices of (human and more-than-human) registers, databases, infrastructures, or other sociotechnical knowledge practices such as monitoring, screening, categorization, and selection (considering also critical events such as global epidemics recurrent in the history). We would like to engage with (the interaction between) past, present, and future genealogies, epistemologies and power relations, as well as conflicts, compromises, and ambiguities revolving around identification and registration.

This panel welcomes a broad range of papers that leverage genealogical and/or STS concepts and methods to explore, amongst others, the following themes:

  • Genealogies of data systems and/or population registers
  • Identification and registration in the realms of medicine, mobility, security, climate transition, citizenship, and others
  • The coloniality of identification and registration systems
  • Their consequences for power relations and geographies of responsibility
  • Human and more-than-human population censuses, taxonomies, systematizations, and other technologies of knowledge-based governance
  • Statistics and the production/circulation of numbers
  • Futures and future-making practices and their governance implications
  • The role of sciences and scientists in societies of identification and registration