Performing Welfare, Producing Bodies & Faking Identity

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India’s identity project is the the world’s largest biometric database — currently consisting of almost 600 million enrolled. By locating this techno-utopian vision within the larger surveillance state that a unique identifier facilitates, Malavika Jayaram — lawyer, Berkman Fellow, and Fellow at the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore — describes the ‘welfare industrial complex’ that imagines the poor as the next emerging market. She highlights the risks of the body as password, of implementing e-governance in a legal vacuum, and of digitization reinforcing existing inequalities. By offering a perspective that is somewhat different from the traditional western focus of privacy, she hopes to generate a more inclusive discourse about what it means to be autonomous and empowered in the face of paternalistic development projects.

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