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new chapter – “Sorting Identity”

published in Cambridge Handbook of Surveillance and Race. Kwet, M. (ed.). Cambridge University Press, 2023 pp. 19-32.

An extract:

…This chapter will deploy a social model of the multiple and variable self to consider how identity is constructed within contemporary cultures of surveillance. We will attend, therefore, to biographical identity rather than to metaphysical questions. Our concern is not with establishing the necessary and sufficient conditions for being a person as opposed to a non-person.Rather, we will consider identity construction as an action of individuals in, and in relation to, society, and we will consider this issue particularly with regard to surveillance technologies as socio-technological systems.

Sorting identity is meant in two senses: as categorizing and resolving. Algorithmic sorting of personal data is a fundamental aspect of twenty-first century surveillance. Less obvious is the governmentality dimension. States seek to govern identity and govern by identity. Complex identity, to organizations, is like a suspended chord whose tension demands to be resolved to a satisfactory harmonic conclusion. Identities that are fluid and multi-dimensional are much less easily contained and managed by institutional authorities than identities assumed to be composed of binary and discrete categories. Race is a particular example, but ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality pose similar challenges because they comprise contested, sometimes indeterminate, dimensions and intersections….

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