‘Hands off my citizenship!': Biometrics and its politics in Mauritania

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores the messy politics of the ‘biometric turn’ in Africa, critically engaging with the notion that it constitutes a radical departure from the administrative past. Drawing on qualitative data collected between 2010 and 2017 in Mauritania, it seeks to complicate the conventional narrative that depicts the conversion of civil registration systems to biometrics as an apolitical, seamless transition from a ‘documentary’ state to a ‘biometric state.' Focusing on the critical moment in which the government tried to impose the new registration procedures, I show how Mauritanian citizens negotiated their inclusion in the so-called Secure National ID Registry. This chapter documents how the Mauritanian public’s engagement with the modus operandi of the new programme affected its implementation, arguing ultimately that the biometric system is neither experienced uniformly in all African countries nor divorced from local political contexts and histories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIdentification and Citizenship in Africa
Subtitle of host publicationBiometrics, the Documentary State and Bureaucratic Writings of the Self
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781000380033
ISBN (Print)9780367513085
StatePublished - May 10 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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