South Asia Center of the University of Pennsylvania and the Consortium for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (Philadelphia, PA)
Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 7:30am
Lecture and Workshop
The End of Biography and History: Biometrics in India and the "De-Duplication" of Society Lawrence Cohen, University of California, Berkeley November 16, 2016 6:00 - 7:30 PM Annenberg Building, ANNS -111, University of Pennsylvania In the 1990s, two distinct assemblages of bureaucracy, biometrics, and big data emerged in India, respectively organized around border security (the National Population Register or NPR) and financial security and the future of welfare (the Unique Identification Authority or UIDAI). Each made a claim to create a national ID that would enfold all of the currently proliferating forms of state, civil, and corporate identification within it. Two intertwined historical and sociological glosses have emerged to explain both UIDAI and NPR and adjudicate the difference: a hermeneutic of suspicion organized around data monetization and surveillance under neoliberal expansion, and a hermeneutic of generosity organized around the condition for a mass biopolitics after labor ceases to organize future politics or utopia. The respective "Concepts" of the two biometric ID programs, to use the engineering term, centered on the relation of data to biography, history, and territory. This talk, speculative in attending to unfolding events, thinks with the claims for data of the two programs and the possible shift in these claims as the programs' contested relation has been transformed under the current government. It attends as well to the periodic intervention of the divine in the emergent everyday life of data. Lawrence Cohen's primary field is the critical study of medicine, health, and the body. His book No Aging in India is about Alzheimer's disease, the body and the voice in time, and the cultural politics of senility. His two current projects are India Tonite, which examines homoerotic identification and representation in the context of political and market logics in urban north India, and The Other Kidney about the nature of immunosuppression and its accompanying global traffic in organs for transplant.
November 17, 2016 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM LGBT Center, University of Pennsylvania Speakers: Prof. Lawrence Cohen, University of California, Berkeley "Life after Labor: Biometrics and the Figure of 'Service' in Contemporary India" Prof. Banu Subramaniam, University of Massachusetts, Amherst "Other Worldly Tales: Hindu Nationalism and Science in India" Prof. Amit Prasad, University of Missouri "Miracle or Science: Stem Cell Research and Therapy at a Clinic in Delhi" Prof. Bharat Venkat, University of Oregon "Wax & Wane" Dr. Medha Saxena, Delhi University "Island Networks: Early Years in the Establishment of Telecommunication in the Bay of Bengal" Dr. Eram Alam, University of Pennsylvania "Global Medical Labor and Questions of Equivalency" Co-sponsored with the South Asia Center of the University of Pennsylvania