Standardizing Movements: The International Passport Conferences of the 1920s

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The First World War is usually conceived as a turning point in the history of migration policy. Before the war, borders were largely open, passports were in most places abolished, and the movement of people as well as capital and traded goods was understood through an optimistic and liberal institutionalist lens. At the outbreak of the war, states reinstated passport controls, presumably as a temporary measure, but they were never again dismantled. In this paper, I suggest that in order to comprehend this general norm change, it is useful to approach these developments in a piecemeal manner to uncover changes in governmental thought and practice. The focus is the International Passport Conferences, that were organized by the League of Nations in the 1920s, and which laid the groundwork for the modern passport regime. The argument is that the work of these conferences can be aptly analyzed as a process of standardization –a technology of government which was widespread at the time, that has particular characteristics as concerns forms of governing, the status of knowledge and the construction of identities. Among other things, this approach allows us to detect linkages to international technical standardization, and to states domestic attempts at homogenizing and making legible their own populations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec

Publication series

NameSTANCE Working Papers Series

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science


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