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Biometric Capitalism

In this lecture, Africanist Keith Breckenridge recognizes a particular mode of capitalism currently developing on the African continent: population registries based on biometric identification technologies that serve as a credit risk scoring tool for financial firms. He describes how such privatized biometric data keeping and processing transforms citizenship under the pressure of rapid demographic changes and states incapable of administering their population.

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Keith Breckenridge

Wits Insitute for Social and Economic Research

Dr. Keith Breckenridge is a Professor and Deputy Director at Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, and one of the editors of the The Journal of African History. He writes about the cultural and economic history of South Africa, particularly the gold mining industry, the state, and the development of information systems. His interest in the history and contemporary politics of biometrics has also drawn him into the global institutional history of state documentation, especially the forms of birth, death, and marriage registration that are ubiquitous (but very poorly understood) in Europe, Asia and the Americas. He is currently working on several book projects.