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Digital Lives Monthly Seminar with Dr Keren Weitzberg

When: Thursday, December 14, 2023, 12:45 PM - 2:00 PM
Where: Senior Common Room, the 4th floor, ArtsTwo Building, Queen Mary University of London, 335 Mile End Road, London, E1 4FQ

A part of the IHSS Digital Lives Research Programme's monthly seminar series on urgent matters related to the digital world

Keren will present about her in-progress book project, Fingerprint of Empire: How Biometric Identification Shaped and Reshaped Kenya. Since the start of the twenty-first century, a diverse group of national and international actors—both public and private—have coalesced around a core problem: how to help the purported 1 billion people worldwide without an official proof of identity. The proposed solution: digital identity systems, often based on biometrics. In partnership with tech companies and with funding from programs like the World Bank’s ID4D (Identification for Development) initiative, governments across Asia, Africa, and Latin America have been investing in new biometric systems, ostensibly with the goal of fulfilling UN Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 (“legal identity for all”). Long associated with surveillance, securitization, and coercion, biometrics have, in recent years, come to be seen as a means of financial inclusion and route to better service delivery, making them “constitutive of a politics of empowerment.” Fingerprint of Empire examines how the “unidentified” became a category of concern and care, using Kenya as its lens. It also homes in the experiences of those who have historically struggled to access official identity documents, focusing in particular on Muslim minority groups, nomadic populations, refugees, and border communities in Kenya. It asks: How are those at the geographic and metaphorical margins of the nation navigating new digital identity systems? By looking at the experiences of those who have been denied access to national IDs, birth certificates, and passports, this book critically interrogates the central promise of the digital identity sector: to provide a ‘legal identity’ to those who lack one. Keren will discuss the research and ongoing work on this project.

The IHSS Digital Lives Research Programme members invite those interested in digital matters to a series of seminars that will take place on campus during semester 1, 18 September - 15 December 2023. The seminars will host invited speakers discussing urgent matters related to the digital world. These monthly seminars aim to continue the conversations we started last year, welcome others to the ‘network,’ and share news of ongoing research and future plans for the digital collective at Queen Mary University of London.

For any queries regarding these seminars, get in touch with Dr Philippa Williams (School of Geography & Director of IHSS Research Programme Digital Lives ) at or Dr Cristina Moreno-Almeida (School of Languages, Linguistics and Film & IHSS Fellow) at

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