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Biometrics, race making, and white exceptionalism: The controversy over universal fingerprinting in Kenya

Weitzberg, K; (2020) Biometrics, race making, and white exceptionalism: The controversy over universal fingerprinting in Kenya. Journal of African History , 61 (1) pp. 23-43. 10.1017/S002185372000002X. Green open access

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Abstract

This article excavates the imperial origins behind the recent turn towards digital biometrics in Kenya. It also tells the story of an important moment of race-making in the years after the Second World War. Though Kenya may be considered a frontier market for today's biometrics industry, fingerprinting was first introduced in the early twentieth century. By 1920, the Kenyan colonial government had dictated that African men who left their reserves be fingerprinted and issued an identity card (known colloquially as a kipande). In the late 1940s, after decades of African protest, the colonial government replaced the kipande with a universal system of registration via fingerprinting. This legislative move was accompanied by protests from members of the white settler community. Ironically, the effort to deracialize Kenya's identification regime only further normalized the use of biometrics, but also failed to fully undermine associations between white male exceptionalism and exemption from fingerprinting.

Type: Article
Title: Biometrics, race making, and white exceptionalism: The controversy over universal fingerprinting in Kenya
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S002185372000002X
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/S002185372000002X
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Arts & Humanities, History, Kenya, East Africa, technology, colonial administration, white settlement, race, identity., COLONIAL KENYA, STATE
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10098752
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