4S EASST War of the Fingerprints


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The War of the Fingerprints: 

The War of the Fingerprints Ivan da Costa Marques – imarques@ufrj.br NCE/DCC-IM Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Henrique Luiz Cukierman – hcukier@cos.ufrj.br Pesc-COPPE Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Paulo Sérgio Pinto Mendes – ppssppmm@hotmail.com NCE/DCC-IM Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Pedro Rabelo Erber – pedro.erber@cornell.edu Department of East Asia Literature – Cornell University

The War of the Fingerprints: 

The War of the Fingerprints As of January 5, 2004, the U.S. Government imposed fingerprint and photograph identification at the airport on all foreigners who need a visa to enter the U.S. – in practice on all except those who come from the 27 countries which are part of the U.S. government’s 'visa waiver' program. After a Brazilian government office filed a formal complaint in federal court about the new U.S. immigration measures, a federal judge announced on December 2003 that, as of January 2004, U.S. citizens would be fingerprinted and photographed upon entering Brazil.

The War of the Fingerprints: 

The War of the Fingerprints The decision provoked a series of popular comments from people split on the issue, mainly in Brazil but also in the U.S. and even in other places, tending to take sides adopting either a pro or an anti American posture. During January two American citizens had their visa cancelled and were sent back to the U.S. for disrespect to Brazilian immigration officials in charge of the identification process. The sequence of events circumscribed an episode that was called 'the war of the fingerprints' in the Brazilian press.

The War of the Fingerprints: 

The War of the Fingerprints This essay relates so called 'material things' produced by modernity to identities, social classes, and hierarchies. It approaches the new identification devices and procedures from a socio­technical standpoint taking 'the war of the fingerprints' as an example. New identification devices and procedures are new 'material things' historically produced by modernity and translated into diverse forms all over the world, just like metal axes and hooks, riffles, vaccines, railroads, telephones, electricity, antibiotics, etc. have been new 'material things' before their provisional stabilization and naturalization.

The modernist constitution: 

The modernist constitution The work of purification allows for the faster and faster creation of pure forms of limits that are deployed into completely distinct ontological zones. In dealing with the limits of the state, 'identification delay' at the airports of the state’s territory is positioned in the technical area while at the same time the 'right to fingerprint' is brought into action in the political zone. In dealing with the limits of our bodies, their fingerprints, iris, DNA, etc. are deployed into the ontological zone 'nature' whereas their criminality, right to come and go, nationality, etc. are distributed into the ontological zone 'subject', 'culture', or 'society'. The work of translation juxtaposes heterogeneous elements expressed by pure forms created by the heirs of Boyle on one side, and those of Hobbes on the other side. Translations cross and mix the ontological zones of origin of diverse pure forms articulating them to construct quasi-objects and quasi-subjects which result, in fact, in hybrids of nature and society. (Latour, Bruno. 1993. We have never been modern. Harvard University Press. P. 10-11)

Approaching Angles: 

Approaching Angles Provisionally stable forms of the new identification devices and procedures, in particular for the identification of foreigners, are being achieved through negotiations carried out within hierarchical differentiated spaces ('frames of references'  ref. Callon, Michel. 1998. The Laws of the Markets. London: Blackwell) constructed from certain approaching angles. The approaching angles result from 'proto-negotiations' and have important built-in effects on hierarchy, social classes and identity formation and reproduction, though the discussion of approaching angles has been typically absent from the records of the war of the fingerprints.


TIME 'Claire Fallender, a 27-year-old American sociologist from Boston, … said she had been waiting for five hours. 'The only problem is without the technology to process people, it's causing frustration and losing the point of protesting American policy.' 'Angry Reax To Airport Screening' in CBSNEWS.com, January 5, 2004. Washington has been upset by Brazil's tit-for-tat reaction to the US-VISIT system that went into force Monday with digital technology after a year of preparation. … US travelers have complained of up to nine-hour delays at Rio de Janeiro Airport where Brazilian immigration authorities, only told of the order last week, are using ink pads and paper. 'Brazil Fingerprint Order Causing Delays' in AirWise News (Reuters), January 5, 2004


LAW 'Brazil's government has tried to make it clear the move to fingerprint and photograph all US visitors is the decision of a 34-year-old regional federal judge, not foreign policy. 'Brazil Fingerprint Order Causing Delays' in AirWise News (Reuters), January 5, 2004 'The US said it would watch closely the new Brazilian rules, but stressed that it was the country's right to impose such requirements. 'Our consulates general in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are monitoring developments on this issue closely,' said deputy US state department spokesman Adam Ereli. But he added that the US had no plans to complain or even discuss the regulations with the Brazilian authorities. 'This is their sovereign right to do if they want to do it,' he told reporters.' 'Rio mayor slams US visitor rules' in BBC News World Edition, January 3, 2004.


Identification Delay Brazil’s right to fingerprint Nature: Scientific-technological ontological sphere Society: social ontological sphere The War of the Fingerprints

TIME and LAW: 

TIME and LAW Negotiations take place more smoothly if and when made within bounds of previously agreed upon frames of reference because negotiating agents will not make unframed (external, 'irrational') demands. The result is as if there were two independent undisputable facts: 1) Brazil has the right to do it (social ontological sphere); 2) Brazil has to do it fast (scientific-technological ontological sphere).


Fingerprint Nacionality Right to come and go Criminality Ink pads and paper through a name: narrowband channel Patterns of privacy and identity Nature Society ACCURACY


ACCURACY Fingerprint Iris DNA Nacionality Right to come and go Criminality New identification devices: broadband Names inscribed in the body New patterns of privacy and identirty Nature Society

The War of the Fingerprints: 

The War of the Fingerprints Recently developed technological devices became important actants in the seemingly everlasting war waged around the endeavor to individually identify every body, and to do so in routine and constant ways. Powerful metaphors of naturalization are summoned to participate in this war where the limits of dimensions and positions of the human bodies in society – the rights of citizens’ bodies to identity and privacy – tremble at the accuracies of measurements of dimensions and positions of bodies in nature. Recently developed technological devices open broadband channels between that which heretofore customarily marked the traditional borders of human bodies (skin, iris, DNA) and the databanks of institutions. These broadband channels deconstruct the time-honored human body, the previous hard citadel of our identities and privacies. They make one more turn towards a world of, lets us say, cyborgs properly speaking, where bodies are immediately – or mediately – sensed by and sensitive to databanks of institutions. (Latour, Bruno. 2004. How to talk about the body. The Normative Dimension of Science Studies. Body andamp; Society, Vol.10 (2-3), p. 205-229).

The War of the Fingerprints: 

The War of the Fingerprints The police, the military and other medical, industrial, or commercial institutions are incorporated in our bodies, not metaphorically as we used to say, but literally. This new body will perform new translations of identities, social categories and hierarchies. It is likely that while the cyborg is shaped and shapes society, frames of references for negotiations of the body will be unstable and overflow more frequently. This third angle, accuracy, is much less universalized than time and law, since the accuracy of the new identification devices come together with radical reform in the sociotechnical identification of human bodies, with the creation of a new body and effects in identity, privacy, social categories and hierarchies. And negotiations get specially complicated when the proposed architecture of the reform puts its alleged capacity to curb terrorism as the core of its claims for legitimacy.

A crucial remark: 

A crucial remark And we would like to conclude with Donald MacKenzie’s words on why the fatalism of the metaphor of trajectory in technology constitutes a crucial flaw, in his study of nuclear missile guidance: 'For while the barrier to increased accuracy may not be surmounted, it may be circumvented by the adoption of new forms of guidance. Those who wish to stop missile accuracies from increasing could focus their efforts on preventing these becoming a reality. But they will not do so if they believe that missile accuracies will naturally continue to increase.' (MacKenzie, Donald. 1990. Inventing Accuracy – A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance. The MIT Press. P. 169)

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