Biometric citizenship

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32 Citations (Scopus)


The article considers the issue of citizenship in light of the recent developments in biometric identification techniques. It aims to answer the question as to what kind of citizenship is the 'biometric citizenship'. Drawing on several empirical examples including the Iris Recognition Immigration System scheme, identity cards and current citizenship reform plans in the UK, I argue that biometric citizenship is at once a 'neoliberal citizenship' and a 'biological citizenship'. The neoliberal aspect of biometric citizenship is demonstrated through the rearrangement of the experience of border crossing in terms of the neoliberal ethos of choice, freedom, active entrepreneurialism and transnational expedited mobility. At the same time, these are enacted alongside the exclusionary and violent measures directed at those who are considered as risky categories illustrating the constitutive relationship between the 'biometric citizen' and its 'other'. As regards its biological aspect, biometric citizenship is embedded within rationalities and practices that deploy the body not only as a means of identification but also as a way of sorting through different forms of life according to their degree of utility and legitimacy in relation to market economy. This aspect also carries a racial and national dimension exemplified in both the national identity card scheme and the very technical infrastructure of biometric technology. Overall, what these two features have in common is the reduction of the principle of citizenship to processes of identity management and technical procedures without, however, purging it altogether from its all too familiar national and race-based components.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)851-870
Number of pages20
JournalCitizenship Studies
Issue number7
Early online date15 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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