Current Projects

Digitization and the Indian Bureaucracy

Ursula Rao’s work on the digitization of Indian welfare programmes raises questions of embodiment. How can a living organism be transformed into a quasi-fixed document-like thing that the government then uses to manage citizens and organize welfare programmes? What new identities emerge when people struggle to become machine readable and thus recognized as citizens with rights? The project is situated in India and follows the application of fingerprinting in multiple field sites, taking note of the development ambitions of the government and the struggles of poor people to be seen and recognized by the government. Officers, intermediaries, and citizens quickly learn that currently available biometric technology is extremely error-prone and creates a plethora of biometric misfits. In order to function, the biometrically organized administration must deal with such exceptions. Sometimes these are granted generously; other times, the unbiometrifiability of a large number of people is silently welcomed because it helps reduce costs. The project explores the situational use of technology as well as its flaws, and draws conclusions about the consequences of the application of biometric filters for remaking subject positions. 

Third Party Funding

02/2020 - 12/2023
Digital governance and the respatialization of the Indian state
Contact: Ursula Rao
Project A5 in the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 1199 "Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition" 

01/2020 - 12/2022
Infrastructure and the re-making of Asia through adopting, orchestrating and cooperating
Contacts: Ursula Rao and Arne Harms
Funded by: Shaping Asia NetworkDFG Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

01/2020 - 12/2022
Life, living and livelihood in Satellite Cities: New Urban forms in India
Contacts: Secondary Investigator Ursula Rao │Primary Investigator: Tanya Jakimow
Funded by: Australian Research Council

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