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Type: Public event

Recasting the technologies of the carceral empire: India, South Africa, and the political paradoxes of post-colonial citizenship

Part of the Behind Walls, Beyond Discipline: Science, Technology, and the Carceral State webinar series


Keith Breckenridge, University of Witwatersrand; in conversation with Dr. Ursula Rao, University of Leipzig

Date & time

May 14, 2021, 12:00 pm EDT


This is a Virtual Event.

If India in the 19th century was the global laboratory for enduring Utilitarian experiments in carceral government, South Africa played the same role – informed by the racist priorities of Atlantic Progressivism – in the 20th. The intellectual and institutional histories of these two sites of imperial government have strongly shaped each other, and – over the last decade – they have converged on an apparently similar model of biometric citizenship. The administrative, intellectual and political histories of the two countries are, however, also very different. My talk will show that these differences equip the contemporary technologies of biometric government in each region with very different political capacities and purposes. But it will also discuss the grounds for a disturbing convergence. In the very recent past both countries host similar political movements driven by potent forms of nationalism that may foster news of carceral government aimed at the identification and exclusion of long-resident populations newly defined as illegal immigrants. Addressing these crises will require – in the United States and Europe as much as in India and South Africa – new understandings, and new technologies, of citizenship and its entitlements.

Behind Walls, Beyond Discipline: Science, Technology & the Carceral State

Behind Walls, Beyond Discipline: Science, Technology, and the Carceral State is a series of weekly events held virtually every Friday between May 14 and June 11, 2021 at noon Eastern. Events include a featured conversation with Keith Breckenridge, three panels that bring together international experts to discuss a single theme, and discussion of the film El Panóptico Ciego. Discussions will draw from short, pre-recorded talks which will be available to registrants two weeks before each event. Attendance at each event's webinar requires separate registration. This event is sponsored by the Ford School's Science, Technology, and Public Policy program and LSA's Science, Technology, and Society program. For more information, and a full list of co-sponsors, visit

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