I posted a few days ago about one biometrics book. Another is by Kelly Gates – Our Biometric Future – and she is interviewed about her book -here at The Critical Lede. These books signal a cultural moment in which the body is positioned as the source of truth and perhaps the only source of truth left. Crucially though the body is only accepted as an index of the truth when it is read through systems of information technologies, databases and images.
Shoshana Magnet comments on the corporeal fetishism (taken from Haraway’s use of the term) that is involved here. In other words the representation of the body becomes a thing in itself and this representation – rather than lived experience – is taken for the reality of human bodies and lives. Biometric indicators take the body to be a fixable set of co-ordinates that can be read through data and/or imaging technologies. This fixity is an error because bodies constantly change and experiences change the kind of data or images that can be collected.
It seems to me that this technologised body has become some kind of centre of reality for science and politics alike. Replacing a political reality or a system of objective truths, the body as read through high tech systems (DNA sequencing, iris scanning, or finger printing), or paired with data collections with which it can be corrolated, has become the source of a certain kind of contemporary reality. Of course the messy and uneven distribution of this ordering of truths is the problem. Gates talks in the interview, and writes in the book, about the way that this kind of regime has very personalised and racialised effects, as a direct result of being taken for some kind of neutral or machinic system.