Session Abstract: As attitudes toward the liberating potential of online media begin to sour, and discussions about online privacy and security concerns continue to grow, this panel explores the historical and contemporary ways identity—legal and otherwise—is uniquely digitized in Asia. Elizabeth Lhost’s paper draws attention to connections between financial innovation and sovereignty by using the history of paper currency scandals in late-19th-century British India to ground discussions about citizenship, biometric identity, and financial inclusivity in India today. Her paper looks to the past to provide an introduction to the key concepts that surface in the anthropological analyses that follow. Elliott Prasse-Freeman’s ethnographic research, for instance, examines the use of Blockchain technology within the Rohingya Muslim diaspora to question the role of the state in mediating financial citizenship and belonging. Timothy Gitzen then flips this idea on its head to comment upon the ambiguity of faces and the body in the visual surveillance and identification of queer and trans folks in South Korea. Andrew Carruthers considers modes of measuring “qualities of life” in the Malaysian palm oil estate. Finally, Elizabeth Rhoads considers the potential benefits and drawbacks of digitizing property records as a technocratic solution to the poorly understood problem of real estate transactions in contemporary Yangon. Each paper evaluates technology as part of a larger conversation on technology’s role vis-à-vis international law, domestic security, identity, and belonging, hoping to initiate a larger conversation on the place of Asia in nascent debates on global governance and the future of state and stateless technologies.
Paper Presenter: Elizabeth Lhost – Dartmouth College
Paper Presenter: Elliott Prasse-Freeman – National University of Singapore
Paper Presenter: Elizabeth Rhoads – University College London
Paper Presenter: Andrew Carruthers – University of Pennsylvania
Paper Presenter: Timothy Gitzen – University of Hong Kong