Biometric voter registration: A new modality of democracy assistance

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It has been argued that we are witnessing a retreat from democracy promotion in liberal interventionism. Focusing on the roll-out of biometric voter registration (BVR) across Africa, as supported by institutions such as the United Nations Development Programme, this article suggests that rather than a retreat we are seeing the emergence of a new and seemingly lighter approach to liberal democracy promotion. Through an analysis of the use of BVR in Kenyan elections, the article illustrates some key implications of this development. At the local level, the framing of BVR as a ‘solution’ omits important challenges to democratic elections in Kenya. At the global level, the roll-out of BVR reinforces unequal global power structures, for example by constituting an increasing number of African states as laboratories for the trialling of a technology which, due to fears of hacking, has now been rolled back in the US. To make this argument, the article combines insights from recent debates about the state of liberal interventionism, with insights from Michel Foucault and Sheila Jasanoff about the politics of technology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCooperation & Conflict
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)127-148
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 232068393