This panel is focused on identification documents in Africa as objects of governmentality, from the colonial moment up to current biometric times. It seeks to go beyond a state-centric perspective to analyze, from below, the social life of papers and related ordinary practices of citizenship.
For a variety of reasons, the norms and practices of biometric identities and identification are currently objects of global fascination, anxiety and scrutiny. This panel is focused on identification documents in Africa as objects of governmentality, from the colonial moment up to current times. It seeks to go beyond a state-centric perspective by approaching the multiple registers of identification as technologies of power on the one hand, and as material contributors to the emergence of moral and political subjectivities, on the other. Recognizing the pluralization/privatization of identification infrastructures, we will adress the diversity of these documents that refer to different types of identification (national, social, regional, religious, political, professional, etc.). We aim to understand the complex relations that individuals weave around or with these documents and their institutions and agents. We will also attempt to empirically test the hypothesis that there is an ongoing popular appropriation of bureaucratic imaginaries and practices. The panel will welcome papers focused on the « encardment » of individuals and on the role of the bureaucratization of identification, in order to revisit the issues of state formation and citizenship in Africa. We will encourage papers that analyze the social life of identification documents and/or study the material culture of identification documents to highlight the practical negotiations that occur around the making of such documents as well as their everyday use, including in relation to state authorities. Either case studies at national or local level, or comparative analysis, the papers will necessarily be empirically grounded. Panel sponsored by the International African Institute.