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.

Lawrence Cohen

Departments of Anthropology and of South & Southeast Asian Studies

University of California, Berkeley


2 thoughts on “About

  1. I look forward to reading the blog! I’m a PhD student in Edinburgh (Centre for South Asian Studies – with J. Copeman) and plan be in Kohima for field research on dreams and social change very shortly. I’ll be keen to see how the UIDAI program plays itself out in Nagaland and other hill-states.

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