Mapped Bodies : Notes on the Use of Biometrics in Geopolitical Contexts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


title = "Mapped Bodies : Notes on the Use of Biometrics in Geopolitical Contexts",
abstract = "“Mapped Bodies: Notes on the Use of Biometrics in Geopolitical Contexts” examines the role played by automated biometric technologies in migration control and in the so-called war on terror. Biometric methods such as automated fingerprint identification, iris scanning and facial recognition record microscopic bodily characteristics, computes patterns from them, and matches those patterns against already existing records in super-national databases. These technologies, we argue, are a telling example of a recasting of the relations between the body and state power, in which two current trends, the {\textquoteleft}biologization{\textquoteright} of the human being and the focus on security in the so-called war on terror, after 9/11 and subsequent terror attacks, are epitomized and combined. Starting from a visual culture studies perspective, this article discusses the negotiations of visibility and invisibility involved in biometrics, in connection to questions of power, subjectivity and citizenship. We draw on Vil{\'e}m Flusser{\textquoteright}s and Paul Virilio{\textquoteright}s respective understanding of visual technologies as being ultimately ”blind”. We also draw on Emmanuel Levinas{\textquoteright} and Giorgio Agamben{\textquoteright}s elaborations on the human face as an inherently ethical ”depth dimension” of interpersonal encounters, a depth we find at risk of becoming eclipsed by the biometric flattening of bodily topographies into abstract, encoded patterns. Ultimately, we argue, automated biometrics threatens to dissolve the bond between subjectivity and citizenship.",
keywords = "biometrics, philosophy, subjectivity, biopolitics, geopolitics",
author = "Max Liljefors and Lila Lee-Morrison",
year = "2015",
language = "English",
isbn = "9789004246270",
volume = "19",
publisher = "Brill Academic Publishers",
pages = "53--72",
editor = "Michelsen Anders and Tygstrup Frederik",
booktitle = "Socioaesthetics. Ambience – Imaginary",
address = "Netherlands",