Biometric identification and registration systems are being proposed by governments and businesses across the world. Surprisingly they are under most rapid, and systematic, development in countries in Africa and Asia. In this groundbreaking book, Keith Breckenridge traces how the origins of the systems being developed in places like India, Mexico, Nigeria and Ghana can be found in a century-long history of biometric government in South Africa, with the South African experience of centralized fingerprint identification unparalleled in its chronological depth and demographic scope. He shows how empire, and particularly the triangular relationship between India, the Witwatersrand and Britain, established the special South African obsession with biometric government, and shaped the international politics that developed around it for the length of the twentieth century. He also examines the political effects of biometric registration systems, revealing their consequences for the basic workings of the institutions of democracy and authoritarianism.
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administrative African Apartheid argument Asiatic Bantustan Bewysburo biometric government biometric identification biometric registration births and deaths Black Sash Britain British bureaucracy CAD NTS Cambridge University Press Cape Town Central Reference Bureau centralised civil registration claims Criminal Darwin decade Department documents Dompas Edward Henry effort empire eugenics Finger fingerprint registration fingerprinting forms Francis Galton global Henry’s Herero Hind Swaraj Ibid identity card imperial Indian Opinion Johannesburg Karl Pearson Keith Breckenridge KwaZulu Labour Lionel Curtis London M.K. Gandhi Milner modern Natal and Zululand Native Affairs NewYork nineteenth century officials organisation Oxford University Press payments pensions Pietermaritzburg political population register Pretoria progressivism protests race racial Registration of births Report SAB NTS satyagraha scientific Secretary for Native Simon Szreter Smuts Social South Africa state’s statistics surveillance technologies thumb-print tion Transkei Transvaal twentieth century Verwoerd welfare Witwatersrand workers Zululand