On humanitarian refugee biometrics and new forms of intervention

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

This article traces a development from UNHCR's initial use of biometrics in a few pilot projects (early/mid-2000s), to the emergence of a UNHCR policy where biometric registration is considered a "strategic decision". Next it engages key insights from current debates about 'materiality' and agentic capacity in combination with current debates about new forms of intervention. Finally, these insights are combined into a framework through which the last part of the article engages critically with this development of humanitarian refugee biometrics by posing the following question: how does an approach to technology that takes seriously the idea of matter as capable of agentic capacity enhance our appreciation of the ways in which these humanitarian technology may contribute to the emergence of new forms of intervention. Through an analysis of how the emergence of a new type of data, namely digitalised biometric refugee data, has affected the relationship between UNHCR, donor states, host states and refugees, the article shows how UNHCR's trialling of new biometric technologies,
combined with actual and potential data-sharing practices, has advanced the
technology's performance as well as its acceptability, whilst at the same time also rendering new dimensions of refugee life interveneable - not only to humanitarian actors.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Intervention and Statebuilding
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)529-551
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2017

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - intervention, experimentation, humanitarian biometrics, assemblages of intervention, science and technology studies, critical security studies

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