1st Edition

The Biometric Border World Technology, Bodies and Identities on the Move

    252 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    250 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Since the 1990s, biometric border control has attained key importance throughout Europe. Employing digital images of, for example, fingerprints, DNA, bones, faces or irises, biometric technologies use bodies to identify, categorize and regulate individuals’ cross-border movements.

    Based on innovative collaborative fieldwork, this book examines how biometrics are developed, put to use and negotiated in key European border sites. It analyses the disparate ways in which the technologies are applied, perceived and experienced by border control agents and others managing the cross-border flow of people, by scientists and developers engaged in making the technologies, and by migrants and non-government organizations attempting to manoeuvre in the complicated and often-unpredictable systems of technological control.

    Biometric technologies are promoted by national and supranational authorities and industry as scientifically exact and neutral methods of identification and verification, and as an infallible solution to security threats. The ethnographic case studies in this volume demonstrate, however, that the technologies are, in fact, characterized by considerable ambiguity and uncertainty and subject to substantial subjective interpretation, translation and brokering with different implications for migrants, border guards, researchers and other actors engaged in the border world.


     I. In the laboratory

    Kristina Grünenberg

    Introducing the Site

    1. Body Cartographers: Mapping Bodies and Borders in the Laboratory

    2. The ‘Biometric Community’: Friends, Foes and the Political Economy of Biometric Technologies


    II. On the border

    Perle Møhl

    Introducing the Site

    3. Vision, Faces, Identities: Technologies of Recognition

    4. ‘Is It a Donkey?’ Presences, Senses and Figuration in Human-technological Border Control


    III. En route

    Anja Simonsen

    Introducing the Site

    5. Fleeting (Biometric) Encounters: Care and Control at Italian Border Sites

    6. ‘In-formation’ and ‘Out-formation’: Routines and Gaps En Route


    IV. In the family

    Karen Fog Olwig

    Introducing the Site

    7. Biometric Verification Vs. Social Validation of Relations of Kinship: Somali Refugees in Denmark

    8. Mouth Swabs and Other Techniques of Verification: Determining Refugees’ Rights to a Family Life




    Karen Fog Olwig is Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

    Kristina Grünenberg is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

    Perle Møhl is Researcher at CAMES – Copenhagen Academy for Medical Education and Simulation, Denmark.

    Anja Simonsen is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.