Understanding UIDAI

This blog is my effort to begin to understand and assess the implications of UIDAI—the Indian program to create a universal national identity card, using “biometrics” to record and audit personal identity.

Many scholars, journalists, activists, bureaucrats, and interested others have written on UIDAI, and the first aim of the blog will be to sample these writings, both to learn from and think with them. The goal is the design of an informed research project and a variety of endeavors, including academic and popular publications, emerging from that.

Blogs engender conversation and debate: many anthropologists worldwide, and several of my students and colleagues, have pioneered their use in our discipline. Time is limited: my hope is to be able to engage at least three postings sent in response to each entry, building a series of conversations in support of critical understanding.

Self-publishing in this way carries its own hubris: I am as of yet no informed scholar of UIDAI or the sociology of identification. There are graduate students out there right now—some of whom I hope to work with—planning or doing terrific research on UIDAI or tangentially in relation to it.

The purpose of the blog is nonetheless an open process of inquiry. I will engage one short piece of information—culled from a news article, scholarly study, government report, web posting, and so forth—every few days, and slowly build up a fund of knowledge and a set of problematizations. That at least is the hope. My sense is that it may be helpful to trace a line of inquiry as it moves along, doubles back, discovers or loses its purpose, and generates other forms of work.


9 thoughts on “Understanding UIDAI

  1. Hi Lawrence, welcome to the world of information practice begetting yet more information practice! I’m looking forward to reading. By the way, I have found blogging on climate quantification to be incredibly helpful as a way to think through specific examples but also to track changes in my own orientation and just to keep things in order! And sometimes people even make intelligent comments about what I’ve written (not too often, tho). Cheers!

    • Yes, the recursion terrifies. Thanks for this. At some point I will learn how to link up blogs. I imagine there is a whole geography of recursion, loops upon loops of second-order observation, what a grad school classmate would understandably dismiss as the ‘chattering classes’ in a new vein. But perhaps worth tracking the vectors and whorls.

  2. Hi Lawrence, Congratulations on taking the leap into 21st century technology with your research. You’re a pioneer! I’ve been fascinated with UIDAI and its possible applications for public health in India and look forward to a stimulating discussion of the many issues involved in its implementation and un/intended effects in various regions.
    (in BLR until 1/16)

  3. I think it would be useful to discuss one of the tags that his post has which is “method.” I would be interested in your perspective on the uses of this blog and the information that you curate for it. The Anthropology of the Contemporary group has addressed this in various ways, especially in relation to collaboration (for example the exchange between Collier, Marcus, and Lakoff here: http://anthropos-lab.net/wp/publications/2007/08/exchangeno1.pdf). The steadfast but eroding claim of the primacy of ethnography for anthropological data makes me wonder whether if we can only posit this blog as anthropological if we run data/content through anthropological versus cultural studies or sociological critiques or formulations.
    I have a feeling that the question of method has been bracketed until the blog’s dough has risen; do forgive the anxiousness.

  4. Pingback: “Aadhaar Fraud”: a case study in Hyderabad | followuidai

  5. Pingback: “Aadhaar Fraud”: a case study in Hyderabad | followuidai | The Forensics Study Site

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