Rethinking the Human: Epistemology/Therapeutics
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Good afternoon and welcome to the Mellon Sawyer Seminar Session Rethinking
the Human: Life Between Epistemology and Therapeutics.
I'm Lisa Lowe, I'm the director of the Center for the Humanities, and
I convene the Mellon Sawyer Seminar in Comparative Global Humanities.
And I'm particularly grateful to the Mellon Foundation, but
also to Sarah Pinto, the chair of the Department of Anthropology who's
conceived and organized this special session.
The Mellon Sawyer seminar, if you haven't been attending our events,
innovates humanity's research by bringing together scholars in history,
religion, literature, the arts and anthropology.
To consider what defines the human and
to think about the role of the human that is so
central to the humanities but also to the human sciences.
And we found it generative to compare definitions of the human from various
humanities and human science disciplines, and also across different cultures.
We've also considered the human as a species in relation to nature,
the machine, to animals.
And we've also been concerned to rethink the human from the boundaries of
the humanities disciplines.
That is, to think about where philosophy, history,
literature in the arts meet medicine, the law, and technological sciences.
We're very fortunate today to have two distinguished scholars,
Emily Martin and Lawrence Cohen,
whose research brings these cutting edge perspectives on these questions.
I'd like to turn over now to Sarah Pinto, to introduce the session.
She's going to make some remarks about the themes and
the topic and then she will introduce our speakers.
Thank you, Sarah.
>> Thank you very much, Lisa.
It's really an honor to be here today,
and I'm really delighted to have been asked to put together this session.
It's a thrill to introduce this event and to welcome our guests who are two of my
most favorite scholars and most favorite people, Emily Martin and Lawrence Cohen.
And to orient the themes of today's conversation.
So when Lisa approached me last year about putting this together as part of
the year-long seminar on the global humanities,
I think it's possible that I took the framing of the global humanities
a bit more literally than some of my colleagues.
I was instantly taken by the idea of thinking about
how disciplinary interventions, including those organized around or
under the sign of the humanities, take root and take form in diverse ways.
Ways that can help us destabilize the centrality of Europe in
our sense of what the humanities are and do.
I was inspired to put into conversations scholars who from different
vantage points, geographic but also by challenging conventional geographies.
Situate their work at junctures of expertise, scholarship, and
the daily lives and practices in which, and
through which those authoritative projects unfold, rather than imagine this as
a space of effects of the global on the local, for example.
I wanted to think together with scholars whose work has
mapped this out along different lines about something
like feedback circuits in which scholarship informs its own objects, and
life worlds give rise to expertise, scholarship and facts.
If we thought about this with the global humanities as our center,
then something about the human might be at stake.
Particularly in fields of practice that skirt around the human, giving shape to it
in a kind of parallax while investing themselves in its components, parts,
particulates, qualities, others and shadows.
These fields include medicine, science, technologies for managing life.
They also include fleshy, wordy, and mindly things, that escape even as they
enliven the forms of capital, governance, and knowledge production in and
through which the human, as such, or in relief, might emerge.
For anthropologists, these are familiar entities,
what I will call now components, or versions of the human.
Personhood, relations, kinship, rationality, sexuality, life.
In anthropology and other disciplines seeking the human involve seeking
a particular set of productions or accumulations.
This might be a project of comparison or of defying the comparative urge.
It might be universalizing or
interrogate what we mean by invoking something shared in common.
Or it can involve, as Emily Martin has pointed out, finding a comparative and
universalizing mechanics in science and scholarship.
Scholars looking for the coalescence of the human often turn to innovations
in medicine, technology and clinical therapeutics.
Seeking emergence in newness, but also reminding us as Lawrence Cohen does,
that newness and oldness are seldom what they seem.
The fixity of the human at any point in time or
location is precisely the illusion we are looking for.
For scholars of science and technology, often what is exposed is
the interpenetration of scholarship with its objects of inquiry.
None perhaps more so than the human.
A production mapped onto existence that at once vexes and inspires anthropologies and
anthropologists who work with living, speaking, thinking people.
People who change their minds, who ask questions, who write articles,
who present at conferences and more basically who think, shout, whisper,
lie imagine, see, dream etc.
For STS and anthropology both, projects of articulating the human transcend
boundaries between scholarship and
practice, as well as between disciplines and their epistemological differences.
And between disciplines and
their epistemological differences in different global sites of production.
The question is, is the human the product of these processes, or
is it the loosely braided to evoke Martin's invocation of Wittgenstein?
The loosely braided set of meanings through which these differences
are produced are reproduced?
And for those of us, all of us behold into these ever-shifting visions
of the boundaries and parameters for our being, feeling,
loving and knowing what is at stake to invoke a Cohen invoking climate.
In the work of Emily Martin and Lawrence Cohen, who both worked in and
through worlds of scientific, medical, media and authoritative knowledge
production in the US, Europe and India, and in cultural anthropology more broadly.
There are few, if any, baselines, or even straw men for this project.
We are far more often interested in personing the human than
in humaning persons.
[COUGH] This is where the notion of the global encounters
the fact of a big, big world of connected difference.
Our gold standards are always in flux,
as Cohen describes in writing about modernity.
And they are never permitted to be completed by the everyday
realities of our minds, bodies, and lives,
as Martin writes in discussing rationality and individuality.
In Cohen's' book, No Aging in India, and that tomography of aging, senility,
Alzheimer's disease, and medicine in India,
we are led to ask, to what purpose is a medical vision of a senile brain?
Put when deployed in life worlds where the weaknesses of aging reflect moral
visions of kinships functioning.
The heat and coolness of bodies materialize labor, and all denote the ways
things like caste, gender, and family life bear histories of labor, power,
marginalization, and a relationship to the state.
In Martin's bipolar expeditions, an ethnography of mania and
depression in America, to what purpose is the idea of rationality put?
When applied to persons who because of their class, race, and gender stand for
rationalities on even distribution as an imaginary.
Or in a context in which the mania that denotes irrationality is lauded as
an ethos for economic growth, as Martin describes it in Bipolar Expeditions.
For Cohen Who asks that we attend to the fleshy.
What are the stakes of the citizenship constantly reinscribed through shifting
demands to make a body available to a polity, a state, a system,
a kinsman from Martin, who turns to the power dynamics of language and meaning?
What are the implications of a universal subject understood to be necessary for
experimental science to function?
Several sub-themes have guided conversations in the Sayer Seminar and
they're in the title up here, including violence, migration,
colonialism, and also justice.
I would like to take a moment to explain how I see these themes and
anthropology's commitment to particularizing the human to be related.
To begin, for anthropologists working at the juncture of expertise, engineering,
and epistemology, at the junctures of expertise, engineering, and epistemology,
that attend to persons in the world,
these sites always involve deliberations about what proper personhood consists.
And those deliberations are cast in and through layered systems of value.
Inequalities and systematized deprivations.
What we do seeks to highlight that.
As a friend of mine in graduate school put it in a conversation about Emily Martin's
work and about how lucky we were to be able to learn from her.
He said, it blew my mind to realize that we talk about bodies the same way we talk
How radical to wonder as Martin demands we
do in her work on the cultural metaphors that inform scientific understanding.
How radical to wonder if our evaluations of bodily functioning are grounded
in signs from an ostensibly different system of value, one that so
vividly generates the structural violences in which the people whose bodies
are measured in its terms, let's also live.
In the same way, in an essay on an organ transplantation entitled, where it hurts,
Lawrence Collin quite uncomfortably keeps in the foreground the intimacies of
indebtedness that form the social material for organ transplant regulations in India.
Those oriented around the idea of the gift, of love, the system is materialized
in the kidney transplant scar that as he puts it, hurts when the money runs out.
Because it is the place where the donor receives the brunt of domestic violence.
Violence of all kinds, immobility, forced mobility, and
inequality, are not a part of how we make, regulate, and
enforce personhood because they are part of making, regulating, and enforcing.
They are intrinsic in widely diverse ways to systems of casting a thing in
terms of what it is not.
A person, a citizen, a valued entity, a sane mind, a healthy body, a human.
According to rules, those laid out in law and those that are shifting and unspoken.
Today, we invite a conversation about the production of the human
as a condition of global processes as that question is asked in and through science,
medicine, and statecraft and
as it is pursued in what I think of as a distinctly anthropological way.
Beginning with what is really going on under the rocks of our heavy categories,
and personing humanity.
Some of us begin personhood with this moral fleshiness,
its enmeshing in relations, kinship,
the intermaterial relations that are the stuff of reproduction.
The moral and material relationships that are the stuff of class, cast, race,
and other vectors of difference.
This is a way of attending to productions of composite link and
diffuse conditions of being.
Is also a way for
destabilizing the center around which the notion of the humanities revolves.
While searching out and asserting in and against those spaces of production,
ethoses in action, as we co-found critiques with an eye towards something,
So though I have begun to introduce Lawrence Cohen and
Emily Martin in these comments,
I'm gonna add a few more words by way of a sort of more biographical introduction.
First, Emily Martin, professor of anthropology at NYU,
has truly created a method, one that is also an epic.
Her work offers us a mode of critique that is also a vision
of how knowledge production and social life are connected.
In her work on medical and scientific knowledge making and
the many universes in which they are infused.
From her early work, recently reprinted on money in China, to her path breaking book,
The Woman in the Body: a Cultural Analysis of Reproduction, published in 1987.
Through Flexible Bodies about immunity in the age of AIDS and Bipolar Expeditions,
also a path breaking work on manic depression,
which won the 2009 Diana Forsythe Prize for
the best book of feminist anthropological research on works science and
technology and into her newest work on the history of experimental psychology.
Emily Martin's distinct and brilliant method demands we think about circulation,
money, stuff, relations, chemicals, commodities, bodies,
and expert knowledge as a composite.
She demands we remember always that the bodies, minds, and
person who is created through medical knowledge and practice,
are never, ever the neutral, neutered tobularised we are told they are.
Her work was deeply intersectional before the term was current.
Finding our scientific imaginaries to be sodden with race, gender, and
And the people living out these imaginaries to be constantly confronting
slyly concealed tropes with the facts of messy lives and
astute critical understandings.
Standpoint theory in practice, intersectionality,
and aims and effects, and more than the sum of both of these in its contribution
to the anthropology of the body.
The woman in the body, like Martin's later work, is a model of engaged research.
Martin's approach was described by a AAA panel in her honor several years ago as,
waking sleeping metaphors.
I love that phrase, I thought it was really great.
Enlivening metaphors for us by showing how they are made tacit conventional
wisdom at the points at which expertise and everyday life bleed into each other.
Generations of students have now learned that the egg and the sperm do not,
in fact, act out stereotypical American gender roles in our bodies.
>> [LAUGH] >> And
people from fields well beyond anthropology, turn to her work for
its careful unpacking of medical power, its ability to locate meaning,
fraught with social orders in the most mutual seaming of languages.
A friend whose son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder gushed after I had sent
him bipolar expeditions, that this was the only book of the many, many that he had
read, that spoke to him about what the diagnosis might mean for his son.
That underscored his own experience of the simultaneous fixity and
malleability of diagnosis.
And on a personal note, I was incredibly fortunate to spend my first two years of
graduate school learning from Emily, it was like waking up.
And every time I read another piece by her, I have that same feeling of being
awakened to something, having my world made sharper.
Lawrence Cohen, professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley,
has likewise created a method and style of analysis, writing, and critique.
One I would define as characterized by a constant restless inquiry.
Take nothing for granted, follow the discourse, find the bodies.
In his work on global medicine, sexuality, organ transplantation,
violence, law, state health intervention, film,
personhood casting kingship in South Asia and on.
He has set a new standard of global inquiry,
one whose global is in a sense a matter of domains of life's practice
rather than geography mapped to the Earth's surface.
For example, like Emily Martin, he is not content to settle the matter of
medicine in power with the notion of medicalization.
But rather finds even scholarly categories like medicalization or
cultural concepts to be things that happen through and
as a part of the post colonial map of time and space.
One at times characterized or
driven to fulfill an imaginary of what he terms the split world
in which backward looking claims abut the alterity of modernity and its futures.
His book, No Aging in India, which won the 1998 Victor Turner Prize, 1998
AES First Book Prize, and the honorable mention for the 1999 welcome medal, Is
a model of anthropological willingness to contend with layered and colliding worlds.
Worlds that are not aligned as they say they are.
For a south Asianist, the book is pure pleasure.
Moving from transnational conferences, to middle class neighborhoods, to films and
epic stories, to clinics and homes in lower class and caste neighborhoods.
Always with the materiality of human relations and you.
A series of important pieces on transgender, third sex, and
hetero persons up ends what western gender theory thinks it knows about identity.
I use this work to teach the limits of Butlerian emphasis on the performativity
of sex and gender with a far more complicated,
and indeed critical synthesis of body, sexuality and being.
Likewise, Colin`s work on organ transplant has challenged
the way scholarly understandings of the global organ trade, and
in an account of what he calls vampiric expansion.
He re-orients circuits of mobility away from a centering around the west.
His concept of bio-availability, in this and other contexts, likewise demands we
include in our understandings of medicine's global formations,
the relational investments, and
materially moral citizenships of those upon who capital crazed.
There is more work on gay gurus, icamps, political cartoons, dancing boys, and
the list goes on.
But I will leave it with that.
And by saying after two decades of conversation with Lawrence first through
his writing and later in person, I remain in awe of what is for me a model of what
I will relentless anthropology as an ethnographic and ethical project.
So, with that I will turn it over to Martin.
>> First of all sound check.
Can you hear me?
>> [LAUGH] >> Thank you, Sarah, for
that very over the top introduction, but I appreciate it very much.
And I also thanks to Lisa and everyone else who organized this event.
Got the funding for it.
Set up the mechanics, which I know is always time consuming.
And it's made a wonderful opportunity for
me to be here with an extremely esteemed colleague, Lawrence.
And one of my, can I say,
favorite students [LAUGH] who I don't see nearly often enough, Sarah.
So, with that, preparing for this event was a bit
of an adventure, because there's, oops.
There is, goodness, we saw the whole thing.
>> [LAUGH] >> That was quick, wasn't it?
[LAUGH] We have these very awesome title, what happened to it?
There it is.
With many abstract terms and a challenge to think about how they might be related,
and then Sarah wrote a provocation, which I don't know if everyone here has seen.
But asking us to think about these huge terms in slightly more specific context,
which in my reading of it, asks us to pull together.
Technology, especially therapeutic technology, definitions of a human,
what counts as a human, and lines among disciplines,
disciplinary formations, and how they're made and how they're changed.
So, that's a lot.
And to top it off, we only have 20 minutes.
Is that right?
30, 30 minutes.
That's not very much.
>> [LAUGH]. So, what I have to offer is a rather
informal series of comments, and thoughts about this
triangular relationship that has been set up for us, which is,
comes out of my current research, which I've written a few things about.
But it's actually not really written up at all, the bulk of it.
The book is called, Experiments of the Mind, and it's
an ethnography of experimental psychology, and history of experimental psychology.
So, I want to focus these remarks on a story of how it was that at
the very beginning of these two disciplines, mine, anthropology,
and experimental psychology, they were very connected.
They used each others tools they use each others methods,
they have overlap in their views of the world, and
what humans were and what was important about humans.
And this was in the late 19th century.
And then, over the next decades, the two disciplines really
ripped themselves apart until somewhere in the 1920s,
there really wasn't any recognizable relationship left between the two forms of
inquiry that had started out very cousin like, or even almost siblings.
So, my question for today and very, very briefly is, how did this happen?
What was involved in this happening?
And what are the stakes of it happening?
[COUGH] And so, I'm going to start with just
a taste of the research that I actually did.
If you wanted to be an anthropologist and study experimental psychology,
and you were like me, you've done other studies about other things.
Your first thought would be, that's my colleagues.
I'm at NYU there's tons of experimental psychologists there,
not to mention CUNY, Columbia, The New School and so on.
I'm here to tell you,
I couldn't get anybody to agree to let me hang out in their labs.
Anybody and, you know,
I'm pretty friendly, whatever.
>> [LAUGH] >> So,
maybe they had read some of my work, it's possible.
Maybe they just thought, why should I take the risk of having somebody in here seeing
things that I don't necessarily know what they're gonna see, or say.
But, anyway, it took me two long years, for
those of you who have launched into field-work projects.
Two long years.
And we tell our graduate students, no data is really data.
No data is really data, write it down.
But when you have to go for two years with no data, it's really, really, really hard.
>> [LAUGH] So, in desperation, not having a field site.
I noticed that all the bulletin
boards I was hanging around in the hallway had requests for
research subjects in experiments for experimental psychology.
So, I started tearing off the little tabs and calling, or emailing the numbers,
and I would always, if I got someone to answer the phone I would say, what I am,
an anthropologist, and I was sort of like learning the language of a new field.
And would like to be a subject in their experiment.
And I almost never, ever got turned down.
I told them my age.
That is no problem, no problem, really?
No problem, because most of the subjects are of course undergraduates, but
that already very startling to me.
So, this is just an image from one of the first experiments that I
sat in on a subject.
I have electrodes on my face where presumably
facial expressions will register.
Through these electrodes and make a line on a computer screen or in a programmer.
And then they're gonna show me, they told me it might be kind of upsetting, but
anyways, they'll be showing me photographs of all different sorts animals,
humans all kinds of different things.
Some of them calm and peaceful, some of them eliciting anger or fear,
all kinds of different emotions and
they were gonna keep track of various variables involved with this setting.
So far so good, right?
This is fairly common sense, no problem here.
But then, just as the graduate student running the experiment
was about to leave me to look at this computer screen right in front of me.
So here's the computer screen, right over here was the readout machine.
There were my responses right there next to me.
So I said, wait a minute, wait a minute, I think you need to cover that up or
something because just a little turn of my head and I can see the readout,
and she said that's okay, it doesn't matter.
This was one of those everyone that does field work has these moments where you're
like what is going on here?
What is going on here?
What kind of a field is this, what kind of a notion of-
>> [LAUGH] Well I don't mean that in
a pejorative way really,
I mean what is the logic of inquiry such as my ability
to see my own feedback was not considered a problem.
So that was a motivating moment in the following period of
time where I finally did get three labs to let me hang out,
and I did do the study that I had wanted to do.
Okay, so that's one thread.
Another thread is the popular media coverage of psychology,
of experimental psychology.
And here you could write at least a book, you could write 10 books about this.
So I just picked one recent story that was in The New Yorker.
In which psychology plays a very predominant role.
The knowledge from experimental psychology.
If anthropology had it If we had an article like this, in a publication of
this widespread readership and caliber of reporting and writing,
we would have died and gone to heaven and it just hasn't happened much for
anthropology, but it happens a lot for psychology.
And this article is about confirmation bias.
Do you know what that is?
It's that aspect of human psychology which means you tend to
believe what you think no matter what negative evidence is presented to you.
But you argue with other people.
So you distrust what other people say, but
you in spite of all kinds of contrary information,
you continually believe to continue to believe what you think.
And there`s all kinds of very clever and
interesting experiments that have shown how profound this effect is.
So, these are a couple of quotes from an article in The New Yorker about why
this confirmation bias thing would be an aspect of universal human psychology.
And you can see some of the themes of this seminar.
It is assumed to be a universal
feature of human psychology.
And it arises out of an evolutionary need in this quote,
making sure that you're not the one taking the risk.
Others are taking a risk and you get to loaf around the fire, so it's
got a kind of a very acute socio-biological tenor to it or
another, oops, another version of the same thing.
Basically because in human evolution cooperation is difficult to establish and
difficult to sustain.
So for any individual freeloading is always the best course of action.
This is just one example, it's a popular media,
I'm not by any stretch of your imagination.
Imagining that an actual experimental psychologist would of put it this way.
This is what happened in this story when it got
made into a story in The New Yorker.
But still this is what is out there for the media to go through to consume.
Okay, so what I would like to do is understand the scene
I started with where my consciousness as a subject
is ruled out of being relevant in the experiment.
And second, both why psychology has penetrated into the media so thoroughly.
And why and how it has at least believably works
with a picture of humans as kind of naked individuals.
Kind of alone, and where the individual is a given,
and the social is hard and difficult to maintain.
I think anthropology's view is quite different from that.
It starts with the givenness of the social, and
the oddness of the individual, that conception of
the individual that arose historically as an important time.
Okay so far?
So a little bit of background before I leap to the next lily pad.
I sort of have a number of lily pads trying to figure out whats going on here.
The background is that experimental psychology got started in Germany at
Leipzig and it was under the guidance of, oops, my slides have gotten all messed up.
I might have to jump around because somehow or other in the audio sound,
things have been moved around.
Anyway, the professor in charge of this lab in Leipzig, Germany was Wilhelm Wundt
and he build into his experiments which were to measure reaction time.
So you'd start the clock, and then there would be some kind of psychological
process, and then you'd end the clock.
And you were measuring the time between those two events.
But the interesting about Wundt's method is that there was
a subjective component right in the middle of it.
That you can see from this slide, you have one trial where the subject
presses the key as quickly as possible when a stimulus like a word or
color drops down in that device.
And then you measure that time, that's trial one.
Then in trial two you wait until the subject has recognized what the word is or
what the color is.
So if it's red block, you first know somethings there, but
you will wait until you know it's red and you mark that time.
So you have two trials with two different times and
usually the second trial takes longer.
And the difference between the two is called the perception time, okay?
Does that make sense?
So he's actually trying to measure a psychological process.
We would call it, recognizing what a word means or
recognizing, identifying what a color is.
And he's grounded, he's got it measured in time but
you notice that this depends on the subject having an opinion.
Having like a conscious, recognition, identification.
The subject is really really in there.
And in fact the subject is so importantly,
the subject's awareness is such an important part of
this method that the laboratory itself became a kind of
world in which everybody, all the graduate students and
the professor had to share their life circumstances.
Their eating, their exercise, where they lived,
had to be all shared because otherwise, how could you have a group of human
subjects that would have reaction times that would be in the same range?
Since, the reaction time included recognizing and
identifying okay you follow me?
It was pretty cool.
So practice, practice, practice.
Wundt insisted that every person who wanted
to be a subject had to do 10,000 practice
trials before they could be made adequate subjects.
Okay, so this is in the late 19th century, and it's very,
very different from what I showed you at the very beginning
because in that case my current [LAUGH] fieldwork setting,
my role as the subject was deemed not relevant.
Okay, so there is experimental psychology in Litzen.
And there was an anthropological expedition in the late 19 Century 1898
that went from Cambridge University all the way to the other side of the world to
the Taurus Straights, which is between Australia and New Guinea.
And as I was saying, trying to explain that the two disciplines have a lot to
do with each other, the Taurus Straights expedition took a lot of
equipment directly from Wound Slab with them.
So they not only -- you know -- I mean they just went straight to the father
of it all.
Wilhelm Wundt and [UKNOWN] got all this equipment and
took it with him to the other side of the world.
And he also took with him the idea that if you, sort of, live and
work in the same environment, then you can be a comparable subject or experiment.
And so those tourist traits anthropologist from Cambridge lived
in the first one of the very earliest kinds of field expeditions.
They lived kinda rough.
I'll tell you more about that in a minute.
But here's one of the experimenters, Alfred Cort Haddon, and
he's with a Torres Strait Islander, who's name is Tom.
And it looks like Haddon in the hat is going to test Tom with his device,
but actually that's not what is happening.
What is happening is that Haddon is training Tom to use the device on him.
So in a little while they will switch.
So if all the people of the Torres Straits, and all the anthropologists
live in the same environment have the same sort of lifestyle,
then they can all be comparable human subjects.
So it's a pretty radical thing, I think, in the late 19th century,
to go far from home, take these experimental devices and
the whole concept of an experiment on the human mind.
And assume that if you join the Torres Strait Islanders in certain ways,
you can all be comparable.
And they found, it's a long story, and I don't have time for it, but
they found comparability on all the perception,
all the kinds of perceptions that they could measure.
So here they are, I don't know if you can see this too well, but
living rough, no shoes, dirty, dirty, dirty clothes.
Sitting on the dirt there is two Torres Strait's anthropologists [LAUGH]
two Cambridge anthropologists on the left side sitting on the ground.
And that's a family that they knew very well clustered all around them.
And the head of the family has his hands on the shoulders of
the two anthropologists.
I don't wanna read too much into a photograph.
But [LAUGH] if you look at other pictures of early anthropologists,
you will not see dirty clothes, no shoes, sitting on the ground below
the height of the people that you're studying.
So there was something rather remarkable going on here.
Okay, so here is a time late 19th century when the two disciplines are carrying out
comparable kinds of studies on different sides of the world.
So then my question that I started out with is, what happened?
Because why don't we have now, a kind of psychological anthropology.
There is such a thing,
but it doesn't share much ground with what was going on here.
So what happened?
I couldn't finish this story, even if I did have time.
But just to give you a few, I liked some of it, and
I guess this is to say, this is what happens when you start studying something
contemporary by going back in the history of the disciplines that you are seeing.
You find out that it really, it`s almost unrecognizable,
the shape of things, not even that long ago.
That there's dramatic changes in the concept of what a discipline is,
what its concept of a human subject is in this case.
So in 1886, back in Wundt -- Wilhelm Wundt's Leipzig Laboratory,
a student came from America, his name was Cattell.
And he couldn't do it.
We've all had this experience in class.
It's like, whatever, biology, I can't remember all the bones.
Or in math, I just can't get algebra or whatever.
Well Cattell was a graduate student in Wundt's lab.
He was supposed to be, like all the other graduate students, able to make reaction
times that fit within the expected range so that they're all comparable, right?
He couldn't do it.
Either his reaction times were too quick or they were too long.
He tried and tried and tried.
He practiced and practiced and practiced and
finally he decided the whole thing is botched.
There isn't anything real there because
it's not being measured when I do it.
So he invented,
he didn't invent it, it was an existing piece of technology, like a telegraph key.
So he puts the key in his mouth, attached to an electric current.
And when the word or the color slide drops down,
he measures the time between when he sees the stimulus,
say a word, and the time he silently reads the word.
When he silently reads the word, the key closes, and that ends the reaction time.
The idea was that silently reading the word,
they thought at the time, was always going on as we thought.
So a silent, you would just automatically, and I see the word.
Torres Strait in reading a book or whatever,
my mouth would just go, Torres Strait, sort of silently.
So he had a way to get rid of the mind,
to get rid of consciousness, to get rid of subjectivity, does that make sense?
So he just clipped it out, and then wrote this amazing book back in
the late 19th century that says all there is is the brain and sensation.
There's no perception, there's nothing psychological between
the brain and sensation.
I mean, I've written a lot about the brain and neuroreductionism, and so on.
I had no idea that this all began many,
many decades before what we call neuroscience,
so anyway, that's one lily pad.
[COUGH] Now remember, one setup has this thing called recognition,
identification, or whatever kind of psychological kind of process,
where you know what the word says, or you know what the color is.
That whole business was called introspection, okay, so introspection.
I asked my current fieldwork
informants, what happened to introspection?
Why wasn't it there in the little field experiment I was doing,
what happened to it?
And everybody, all my interlocutors said, Watson, Watson did it.
Watson did it?
>> [LAUGH] >> Who's Watson?
Does anybody know who John D Watson is, anybody even heard of him?
A little bit, maybe, no?
Anyway, I had barely heard of him, but just recently, because of this event,
I started looking, well, who is this Watson?
Well, he was a psychologist, he gave a lecture in 1913 that,
apparently, really set this field on its ear.
And instead of introspection, in the Jungian sense,
he had everything rely on behavior,
that the only thing you really could know for sure was behavior.
He had already been doing a lot of animal studies, Watson had, mice and
other animals as subjects.
And he made, in this lecture that was given at Columbia University,
this extraordinary threat.
I mean, if somebody stood up in a major lecture today and
said this, you'd go, what?
It's almost libelous.
He was really saying, if you human psychologists, and there were many, many,
many of them, fail to look with behavior on our behaviorist overtures and
refuse to modify their position, the behaviorists will be driven to using human
beings as subjects and to employ methods of investigation which are exactly
comparable to those now employed in animal work.
And in animal work, they could do anything, they could blind animals,
they could remove their hearing, they could amputate limbs.
They could do anything, so this is a terrible threat.
I'm finally in my last minute, couple minutes.
[LAUGH] What went along with getting rid of subjectivity,
getting rid of introspection, and substituting behavior for it,
came this very important thing, applicability, usability.
How can you apply this knowledge to improve the human condition?
So they were so blunt about it, I was blown away by the bluntness at
this turning point, right before the First World War.
The spokespeople for a behaviorist model, it's like the Lipke model,
are saying that what matters is, well, get rid of introspection, substitute behavior.
And then we can apply psychological knowledge to psychology of drugs,
advertising, legal settings, testing, psychopathology.
All these things will be benefited by our ways
of applying this knowledge, vocational bureaus.
And this sort of mind-blowing final sentence.
At present, these fields are truly scientific and are in search of
broad generalizations which will lead to the control of human behavior.
>> [LAUGH] >> Well,
I can't believe it took me this long to look up Watson.
>> [LAUGH] >> Let me see,
I sort of meant to say this and I skipped over it.
Both Watson and Cattell, the two lily pads I placed as what happened to break
apart anthropology plus psychology into anthropology is what it is,
and psychology became something quite different, is that eugenics and
ideas about ranking people according to different criteria were
a huge part of this psychological testing, testing of all kinds.
Rehabilitation of people was directed at immigrants.
This is a long story, I'm just giving you sort of chapter titles, and immigrants,
and the big opportunity for this way of looking at things was the First World War.
Because now there will be masses of young men who are being
conscripted into the armed services.
So what are their positions gonna be, how will we know?
Which one is gonna be this, which one is gonna be that?
Well, at this point in time,
the behaviorist psychologists were ready to test and determine, or try,
make their best effort to determine what the division of labor should be.
So okay, so just my final couple of remarks.
Let's see, it's hard.
Well, I think I'll just say, because you might wonder what my next book
is gonna be about, am I gonna be really hard on psychology, and so on?
And given what I've said, you might really think so, but actually, I'm not.
What I'm going to try to do is argue just the opposite of what you might think,
that experimental psychology, as a practiced
science, does actually not work with
a naked individual, although it has been accused of this over and over and over and
over again by historians of science, and especially, historians of psychology.
But that sitting in labs and watching what actually goes on over several years
has made it really clear that, yes, the results are quantitative.
Yes, subjects are told your subjectivity doesn't matter, yes, all that's true.
But you could not get to the end results without a very, very rich and
layered, involved sociality.
And so I'm gonna probably upset a lot of psychologists in a way
you wouldn't expect, exactly, because I think the field is,
in a way, filled with intersubjective social elements.
They're not messing it up, they're necessary for the experiments to happen.
So I'm gonna just leave you with that thought.
If I ever write this book, you can see the results.
>> [LAUGH] >> [LAUGH]
>> It's an honor to be at,
the talk's called Deduplicating the Human.
It's an honor to be at Tufts, I lived a few hundred meters from this room for
many years, so it's a particular pleasure to be inside it.
I've been reading and learning from Lisa Lowe for a long time.
In my own field of anthropology of medicine and madness,
Sarah Pinto is godlike in.
One might say she is an ishta devata of mine.
And on the subject of divinity, to be together with Emily Martin
is as close to an apotheosis as I'm likely to get.
Emily laid out the challenge carefully offered to us by Sarah and by Lisa.
These are in the best sense, grand questions, but all I produce, I fear,
So what I tried to do is to juxtapose an earlier project I've been collaboratively
involved with on the forms of regulation and the figures of maturity associated
with the global expansion and monetization of the kidney transplant operation.
In my recent work that is trying to think with a large so-called
public-private partnership, or PPP in India that is
called Unique Identification Authority of India or UIDAI.
And that through a biometric ID, links digital traces of one's
ten fingerprints and two retinas to a person's access to the state.
And in the future to the corporation promising to eliminate wastage in
the distribution of welfare, credit, subsidy, and other goods.
This ID, which consists of a random number assigned to one upon the successful
capture of ones biometric data, is branded aadhaar which is Hindi for a basis or
In each of these projects, I came to focus on a figure of what we might call
technocratic exception, organized around a hermetic of suspicion towards what
appears as ordinary and marginal human being.
Broadly what these projects share was an encounter with the dominant frame of
decolonizing government in the 20th century.
That is planned development, and its descent into
what we have come conventionally and termed the global or the neoliberal.
As a starting point for thinking about the human in terms of technocratic exception,
let me reference several anthropological works.
Both Stacy Leigh Pigg's and Jim Ferguson's early work on planned development and
Thomas Hanson's work on the rise of the Hindu right.
Technocratic rule by experts supplants the capacity of ordinary language in Pigg's
work provided an adequate grid of reference with the forms of pedagogy and
care needed for development.
And supplants the capacity of ordinary politics in Ferguson's and
Hanson's work as a ground for
the production of the future and in particular, the social yet to come.
Accepting both language and politics, if you like accepting culture,
the development status to engineer a particular circuitive pedagogy.
In the American version of Decolonizing Pedagogy in the mid-century,
encapsulated in Talcott Parson's pattern variables, and in particular,
in David McClelland's achievement orientation, speaking of psychology.
This pedagogy is organized around a now incoherent reading of Max Weber,
as offering a blueprint for modernity through the engineered cultivation of
abstemious reason and will, transforming peasants into Protestants.
In my work in renal transplantation markets and
their regulation in South India, I encountered two phenomena.
First, that in conversation with the largely female population of urban
compensated kidney donors, or if you prefer, kidney sellers.
And as opposed to a largely male rural population of sellers,
talk of the kidney operation consistently invoked another operation.
Explicitly the family planning operation or tubal ligation, and
I came to argue more generally the form of the operation is such.
Talk with men in the neighborhoods marked by an expanding those media in 1990s as
Kidney Slums also link the kidney and
family planning operations, the latter here, vasectomies.
And linked both to the hijra or
eunuch operation of castration as available to such conversation.
For men, the linkage came as both a question, would the kidney operation have
the effect of these other operations, would it unman me?
And for an elite man an accusation, these illiterate other men confuse their organs,
their genitals and kidneys, and thus they confuse their operations.
For women who had given over one of their kidneys committed it to another.
The family planning operation was inevitably prior in urban South India for
women on the economic margin.
That operation was something both like and unlike a rite de passage,
a ubiquitous feature of practices of autonomy, security, and citizenship.
If one defines this operability the likelihood that one will be given over
to the form of the operation in the constitution of oneself as
a political subject.
Then the otherwise economistic logic by which both proponents and
denouncers of a market in kidneys frame their questions might be
supplemented by the question of this form and its very demands.
One finds globally over the course of the 1920s through 1950s a particular era of
the surgeon as he, to paraphrase Carl Schmidt, who wields the exception.
The most notable figure of the genre is Alexis Carrel, one of the so-called
fathers of transplantation for his early experiments in vascular surgery.
The goal of these experiments was broadly life extension through the replacement of
organs from a stock comprised of animals or the mentally deficient.
Carrel early in the century is brought to New York to the new center for
experimental biology at Rockefeller.
And he became renowned, as Hannah Landecker has carefully discussed, for
his experiments in cell tissue culture.
But also for a book, Man The Unknown, in which he argued for
a government of the human based upon a vision of experimental duration.
Physiology to date, Carrel argued, is based upon experiments upon dogs.
Humans have the ability to encompass the duration, and
everyone was a bricksonian in this moment, to encompass the duration of dog life.
Not only as they live longer, but as they have the freedom of
vivisection on dogs to cut into and reorganize duration and horizon.
But humans cannot encompass their own duration and
they cannot easily experiment on other humans.
Here, Carrel shared the exasperation of some people Emily was talking about,
apparently, and many of his time at the imposed limits here,
that is around vivisection.
But science as an institution which Carrel modeled in his writing on the modern
Catholic Church had a duration that exceeded the human.
And an authority that could place the human under itself
as the subject of experiment.
The human must give itself over to the duration of science if the human is to
remake itself in the face of its problems.
Carrel was recruited to later infamy by Vichy France to head
a laboratory for the study of human problems.
Under an emerging dispensation in which science was given the authority proper to
its duration and could work at the limit to self experiment, vivisection.
Before his decapping Carrel had won over many followers across ideological and
national lines, including in New York, the Marxist literary critic, VF Calverton.
I read Calverton's controversial utopian novel of the 1930s,
the Man Inside as indebted to Carrel.
It is a heart of darkness narrative in which an anthropologist,
disaffected by Western civilization, travels to Africa in
search of a surgeon and scientist who has disappeared, Julie Kerr.
Who fled the US after his surgical and
psychodynamic experiments on humans went terribly wrong.
Leading to the death by his own hand of his wife.
Billy Kuric, stands the 19th century french work on hypnotic suggestion
as the means to effect change.
Operating on his wife's appendicitis without anesthesia but
rather induced trance.
Extending his work among primitivized Africans who proved more amenable to
Rendering them not only compliant, but joyous subjects,
they do not die of their operability and reform.
Surgery, I came to argue,
lends itself to such apparatuses of radical reform in exception to.
Conventional morality as it addresses a fundamental contradiction
in projects of technocratic engineering of human futurity.
Contradiction is in the figure of the marginal human over the long 19th century
and into the last one.
Simultaneously that of the primitive or
illiterate that must be subjected to a pedagogy of its reason and will.
And that of the crowd, or mass, that is legible as constitutively outside of
the possibility of reason and the reformation of will.
Land development bears deep ambivalence towards its subject that is for
the very subject that is to be educated say into a reformation of will.
And a Protestant disposition towards economy or sexuality,
this very subject is always already conceptually outside of reason and.
The possibility of any pedagogy of the will, such a claim or a contradiction in
the expert framing of marginal humanity as on the one hand primitive.
And therefore a subject to the reason of pedagogy and the other mass and
therefore outside of the inculcation of reason and will.
Helped me think through both the frequent assertions I was offered when I
Collaboratively on AIDS prevention programs in a small town, North India.
That our program would likely fail as persons were incapable of reform of
their sexuality to norms of presumptive safety.
And it helped me think through why in much of the world, surgical sterilization,
as opposed to the IUD or the pill or the condom, became the metonym and
key vehicle of eugenic feminist and neo-malthusian family planning.
The family planning operation, I argued,
produced a body that behaved as if it had undergone the.
Transformation of reason and will, leading to a Protestant subjectification and
an achievement orientation.
There's uncertainty to the very possibility of a pedagogy,
one can cut into the flesh and produce a body that acts as if it were Protestant.
That is as if there was the possibility of ischesis.
This framing of the surgical was an effort to cut into the flesh to circumvent
the limits of the government and self-government of the mass subject.
To produce a subjunctive modernity,
an as-if modernity, it was a particular kind of scholarly claim on my part.
No archive of family planning, I'm not a historian of it,
specifies such a mode of subjunctive modernity as such.
And yet I found it difficult to make sense of the world without making a claim
The engineers who designed the entire number, and
with it had captured much of the state apparatus of.
Redistribution off to the self-consciously different technocratic formation,
this is what I want to focus on today.
The first head of UIDAI was none other than Nandan Nilekani,
you may know as the hero of.
Thomas Friedman's book on the rise of Indian and
other tech powerhouse industries, The World Is Flat.
Earlier the CEO of the Infosys corporation at the heart of the global outsourcing
Like Friedman, Nilekani became a popular writer on global tech futures but
with a claim specifically on India.
His 2008 imagining India in it Nilekani's is explicit in a critique of his
father's generation, where a commitment to a technocratic forum.
That excluded entrepreneurial capital in the name of socialism and
allied itself with the closed coterie of family capitalists.
He joins his critique to a broadly circulating narrative form
of the liberal expertise.
That such sequestered status and capital arrangments breed complacency and
amplify the self interest of the deployment by bureaucrats and others.
Of the state apparatus of welfare and
development and thus create massive corruption and population injury.
For India to create a healthy, educated, mobile labor force for
India, as Nilekani puts it.
To become China, a question haunted of course,
by Hegel, it must abandon socialism.
The social yet to come for Nilekani and for many of the electrical and computer
engineers in India and in Silicon Valley who designed with whom I've been working,
will be dependent on a form of government that reimagines.
Not just only the place of the entrepreneur through massive deregulation
and privatization, but that reimagines the form of the political subject.
This form of government is termed deduplication, let me briefly lay it out.
First the nation is configured as a database,
I've little time so I'm shrinking a lot of stuff,
the shift might be attended to with some care for the regular and
social imaginary population is itself constituted as a data form and what I'm
trying to do is to attend to, it's closely related to yet distinct from the.
Flexibilization of self and
self other relations that Emily Martin turns us to in Flexible Bodies.
To the emergent form of the self and
of the social is that these are conceived in relation to a list.
The list is of a distribution, the distribution is of service, service,
just as a pause, I mean, starting this project, it was as if one had to in some.
Bachelardian way just descend into a world that was entirely new,
in which it's language was entirely, and I approached this with wonder.
Cuz I mean there is in many ways a new vocabulary organizing
questions of governance so I treat this as a lexicon.
The distribution is of service, service is an ever larger set of
goods that persons need from states and from companies, from NGOs.
The subject of the distribution is named by UIDAI as a resident and explicitly
by a political figure that brackets the question of formal citizenship.
The resident, the subject of a new foundation of governance Nilekani and
his engineers have created.
Is indexically and perhaps ontologically an entry in a list.
Her life and her future is dependent upon a proper distribution of welfare and
Distribution leaks, we term this corruption but
technically it is a problem of managing a database.
Leakage is conceived of by the engineers as duplication,
duplication is a process where by a copy of an entry is added to a list.
Leading to more of the distribution being directed towards those entries that can
most effectively duplicate their presence.
I get every funding season these days a lot of for envelopes for
Planned Parenthood each season.
One to Lawrence Co and one to Lawrence M Co and you could argue,
unless there is a rhetorics of excess leading to.
My giving money to Planned Parenthood through duplicating me,
that there's a failure to de-duplicate the list.
And this leads to the lack of efficiency at a time with the limited
funds of Planned Parenthood are needed.
So one of the questions,
deduplication becomes central and it's not just deduplication of entry on the list.
Google can hold the world's information by duplicating any
form that has copied any other form.
But I'm focusing on one very specific technique of deduplication which focuses
upon conceiving of those databases.
Which are represented as entries of lists in which the challenge is
the question of duplicate entries.
In the space of the world, we are familiar with both duplication from above,
whereby a powerful actor, or nexus of actors can exert some force over the list
in order to add duplicate entries, a classic form of corruption.
So, say, there's a distribution of of subsidized fodder,
and the nexus of politicians captures the list to the point
where they can introduce large numbers of duplicate, or
ghost names, and then direct a distribution towards themselves.
So, we can call this, technically, a duplication from above.
Also there is duplication from below in which is more, and
more persons depending on a distribution of a service to live.
Our urban migrants, often with an informal, or
illegitimate relation to land and to labor,
and often without the proper ID to secure themselves as an entry on a list.
They must rely to live and to flourish upon the craft of the copy,
and the counterfeit the fake ID, or
other index of being proper to becoming an entry.
In the space of the world, we account for such processes of duplication
through the normative language of crime, or contrast that we have rights.
But the presumption UIDAI is that duplication,
to put it plainly, just happens.
Databases are prone to error.
Any data formed, and the relationship between duplication and mutation both
in the history of sciences and the present is something I'm struggling to think with.
In terms of the question that is, what is the status, is this a natural
kind of a status of an active duplication of an event of a duplication.
Is it like certain figures which may, or may not be represented as corruption of,
or as mutation of quote, natural code.
I'm gonna argue here that the question of nature culture is
not helpful to think with the engineers.
Its mutation is not the most helpful figure to think with duplication.
The presumption that duplication happens.
Databases are prone to error.
Any data form, and certainly any list to be part of an auto poetically, or
cybernetically self organizing system must be able to deduplicate itself.
Deduplication is a standard feature of our participation in the data world.
One might render Nilekani's alternative to socialism as follows: India,
India is a database and India to become China must be deduplicated.
If you've read Hagel's aesthetics and you have a sense that India,
because it lacks, any kind of properly antithetical relationship of
the idea to the world only can produce, in its aesthetics copies.
So, India's problem is the opposite of China's.
It is the problem of which the idea is endlessly duplicated,
thus the aesthetics of the deity, or the temple.
So, the argument for the deduplication has maybe,
or maybe not complex echoes in [INAUDIBLE].
The mode of deduplication, what its engineers termed Aadhaar's concept,
is to assign each resident a unique and random 12-digit number,
to link that number to a set of digital traces of organic form that is biometrics,
and to link every list of every distribution of every service
to the biometric database UIDAI is assembling.
So, that when a resident appears at the sight of the distribution whether that is
an office, or something more mobile, a finger thumb,
or eye is given over to a scanner and either a yes, or a no is returned.
Yes, this person is yourself, you are you is how UIDAI puts it.
And thus eligible for this service, or
no, this person is not who she claims to be and is only a duplicate.
Aadhaar has received much critique, in particular,
though exclusively from the Indian left, and from the left-leading human sciences.
These critiques take several forms, and
are cogent, centering around concerns over totalizing information control.
If Aadhaar links every database to which persons are rendered eligible for
a service to itself.
And concerns over legality as Aadhaar is explicitly exceptional in that
the Nilekanian supporters did not want to be under the authority of the state and
its crony capitalism that imagining India had so strenuously challenged.
And thus UIDAI had for its first half decade, no authority to demand
that the possession of an Aadhaar number was necessary to receive service, and
that this authority remains contested under law.
This exceptional status is not only the condition of the capture of state
apparatus, and the particular sovereignty, the database and
its technicians are able to claim.
It is within the logic of the concept the fact that duplication happens,
independent of intentionality.
That it cannot be reduced to violation, but
to a problem of technical managerial rationality that engineering, and not law,
is the logos appropriate to deduplication as a condition for life and for growth.
In a way the duplicate is the realization of a structuralist conception of the world
the before organization that can not be reduced to nature,
or culture and have the conjecture of limits, of structure.
At the same time as Aadhaar stands outside of law, many parts of the state seek
to shore up its legal capacity given many legal challenges to dominate and
Thus the relation with the law is increasingly uncertain.
The challenge I want to put for
myself today through discussion is to begin to think about this form of
exception in relation to what I moment ago turned governance in the subjunctive.
In the earlier case, the subject is placed in a contradictory relation to reason, and
the flesh becomes the ground of an intervention that overcomes
the undecidability of the potential for the development of the mass subject.
In the second, the subject is placed in a contradictory relation to law,
as independent of its status under law.
Because that's an entry, it is simply prone to duplication,
independent of intention.
Distribution has become a big question, both the late economist Kalyan Sanyal and
the anthropologist Jim Ferguson had made ethical claims
where the failure of wage to ground either biopolitics, or a utopia.
Ferguson's provocation is that when measures,
like South Africa's experiment with direct benefits transfer, and
basically guarantee, draw together organize labor and high act monitorist.
We have lost the coordinates for critical theory,
unless we think what we are doing in the humanities and the human sciences.
But of note, that unlike the South African left is discussed by Ferguson,
the Indian left is far less open to the Eliconies Program.
And it's currently emerging sequelae, the shift to directement of its transfer, and
the current arguably disastrous efforts to demonetize the economy.
In part, this difference between South Africa and
India may reflect the division between labor, and
the elite left that base track of variety in early work engaged.
But the critic of Aadhaar is substantive, and I am reluctant to reduce it to that.
Central and realistic concern of the critics is over Aadhaar's promise to
end the condition of siloed information.
The silo has emerged generally across many realms of contemporary governance
including the University.
As the name for our christened state, and the convergence, or as UIDAI puts it, in
a less totalizing fashion, the federation of silos, is to address this diagnosis.
Is it therapeutics?
The fear is what may be done with such convergence.
Privately, some of the engineers themselves has suggested to me that they
shared some of this concern over totalizing information control.
But, it is worth pointing out, not to defer the concern, but to specify it.
That under the emerging terms of the concept of Aadhaar, the effort was to do
away entirely with information coded as biography, or as history.
So, let me close by trying to develop this point.
Prior and parallel to the new technocracy the late Comey and colleagues
have developed have been very other projects of the audit of distribution.
Among the most storied of these has been the social audit, tied to right of
information legislation that enables groups of persons at the village and block
groups of village level, to investigate how a service was distributed and to whom.
Among the multiple critiques and legal challenges to UIDAIs collection of
biometric data from all persons by legal scholars and other activists,
has been the argument that persons on the margin are better served by such local and
far smaller scale audits of the distributions of services.
When I began to study Aadhaar,
I took it as actually axiomatic that in order to understand what the number,
whereas people come refer to it the card and that's the paper unto itself was and
what kind of ethics that is, is it a card or is it a number?
And what kind of ethics and politics would emerge in relationship to it?
I would air on the side of caution and ally myself neither with the engineers or
Really are they major social audit and
right information activists challenge this position as morally suspect.
She'd given a lecture to Berkeley, and I was hosting a dinner for her.
This research, by the way,
is entirely tied to the privatization of the public university where I teach.
And the fact that I have intimate access to Silicon Valley
engineers is because I'm, including the person I'm gonna cite in a moment,
is because I went to raise money from it.
And much of what I do is raise money from wealthy Silicon Valley tech capital,
in my current tragic life.
But it's an interesting twitch on anthropological anxieties of a reflexivity
For me, the possibility of work is tied to an emergent entrepreneurial relationship
to capital, in relationship to the various hopes and dreams of diaspora.
So the right major social audit activist challenged by position.
She'd given a lecture at Berkeley, I was hosting a dinner for her as I do.
She offered a persuasive set of challenges to Aadhaar Lang the interest behind UIDAI
is massive scaling up about it.
Then she asked me pointedly, are you on our side or on theirs?
The same week, an electrical engineer and colleague of my university who had
collaborated with UIDAI project pressed me in the opposite way.
We were at another party, also from my institute, and
I was laying out, a false hope to raise money in this case.
I was laying out the activist position, wondering if he,
as a designer Part of an apparatus might help me think about her challenges.
He suggested to me that Aadhaar was too new to the subject to the sweeping
She and others offered.
He reprised some of the concerns with socialism that when they mentioned India.
Use social scientist he said to me challenge any effort
to think differently and yet you've failed for the past half century.
The reference was, of course, to planned development.
And while I was thinking of a suitable response given the centrality of
engineering to the Peruvian assemblage,
she offered this why do you despise us so much?
>> [LAUGH] >> At stake for both these persons
was an urgent conception of the socialist the ground a moral engagement.
To the life long activist committed to the social audit, the socialist granted in
a localized world of small scale enabling audit from the ground up.
For the engineer the socialist a figure of a just [INAUDIBLE] that could
only emerge if persons who were enabled to benefit from rationalized distribution
requiring a government that could convey the creation of duplicates and
the linkage of the common wheel.
Several of the engineers in Silicon Valley,
I interviewed were impelled by the concept they were seeking to prove,
that as long as identity was based on biography and history, one's caste and
religion, parent status, religion, village, gender, education, etcetera.
The resident would be imprisoned with an inequitable normativity.
If the activists of social audit were worried about the capacity for
totalitarian control for the engineers,
the only possible interface with the play of vested interests of the social as such
was a machine to unmake the historical and reconstituted through unique biometrics.
One senior engineer put it to me this way.
The concerns of critics were, in some ways, not unfounded, he said.
But at issue was the need central to the concept as he and others had formulated.
To design a form of identity for Indians that protected them from prejudice, and
from vested interests informing civil governance.
He and as others effort was to fashion an identity that was unique
in the sense it referred to nothing but itself.
We did not, he said in extending his comments, even want to have your name.
Aadhaar has a relatively minimal set of data fields when it was rolled out but
these included name, gender, date of your birth and address.
Conversely another form of national identification that was emerging
simultaneously with Aadhaar.
The border and national security focus national population register, NPR,
pushed by the Ministry of Defense, had multiple data fields so
this is what we're asked to provide.
NPR needed to know who one was and therefore, where one belonged.
Aadhaar and it being as a concept needed biometric traces and
in the purity of the concept and nothing else.
That the massive project of deduplicating India was itself being duplicated from
the get go by NPR deserves attention, this is not for this paper.
But my last page is my, we did not want Aadhaar to include a name the engineer
told me, not gender, not any of those identifying data fields that shift
the subject of biometric governance from being perfectly unique and
thrust it back into convention, memory, inequality, or more generally history.
If NPR increase [INAUDIBLE] for state security in
the wake of the cargo war with Pakistan and a series of subsequent terror attacks.
Dependent on the hyperterritorialization is a proliferation of
data fields that's hardly a concept of radically deterritorializing and
indeed center of a singluar diet of random number and biometric trace,
randomness function with a desired absence of biography.
And I go through lots of examples but I will skip to the last paragraph.
In reality, this engineer said to me, he could not dispense with the name.
People needed to know they had been registered.
As he narrated the basic contingencies of governance and expectation that piled back
on to the aadhaar the indices of biography that the concept should have excluded.
I was reminded of the tale recounted by of the sadhu, a holy man, and
a renouncer who possessed only a loin cloth and
one goat, the norms of decency preventing him from total renunciation but
even that iota of material possession was enough to duplicate itself treacherously,
mice chewed at it while he was asleep requiring a cat,
a cat demanded other possessions to be cared for and before you know it the sadhu
was a busy burger encumbered by attachments in many children.
>> [LAUGH] >> The theme haunts sprayed literatures of
pronunciation, particularly Gina debates over nakedness verses modesty.
One might turn the concept acetic and it's locating the social yet
to come Aadhaar has promise of the inclusion of the poor into a healthy
productive work in class like China, radically outside the social as it is.
Outside that is in the indices of relationship community history of place,
but as the engineer noted I said this hard to maintain and concepts degenerate.
Thanks very much.
>> So now I have the very taunting task of
putting some of this together and beginning a discussion, so
I have a number of questions, but they're quite open ended, and I just
Wanted to begin by noticing some really quiet remarkable
residences and I think they're not duplication that's not saying this.
But the residences that I would like to notice, and the first is the way
both of these projects are situated in different regimes of experimentation.
One within the sort of rubric of planning and
a sort of long, unfolding set of experimentation's
as the body is cut into and compartmentalized.
And the other experimentation that doesn't cut into to the body but
tries to maybe attempt to or get at something ephemeral.
And so these are very different kinds of experimentation but
then the third kind of experimentation that doesn't play out here but is so
important in thinking about these things is drug trials.
And that kind of experimentation mediated by chemistry
which may generate different kinds of processes.
So the two moves, it's actually three but
the two moves that strike me are on the one side
deduplication, again as connected to this sort of history of experimentation.
But on the other comparability and those two moves with incomparability, this is
why it's three and not two of the sort of the comparability through training.
And habituation that really quite beautiful model from the tourist straights
expedition where we live together and become like each other.
And you can do the experiment on me and I can do the experiment on you, and
we become the same.
But the other comparability, which I think is the behaviorist one.
Which seems to be,
certainly not connected to planning but within the sort of specter of control.
And so I'd be so interested to hear your thoughts on this sort of resonance
between deduplication and comparability.
And what strikes me as common to these two different processes is they're
both sort of, maybe I'm wrong but my sense is they're both sort of versions of
like sort of strategies of universalizing or strategies of universality.
And they both involve an emptying out I think Emily used the phrase of sort of
emptying out the subject.
But there's this emptying out and it's the name, biography.
So I'm wondering what is it about this emptying out?
Are these different versions of a kind of a reach for universality?
And then the final residence is that you both come around to the fact that
something social remains.
And a very specific kind of social remains.
So those are the quite remarkable residences from different
sites of history.
However I have one sort of inside baseball question,
which I'm not gonna ask just yet.
But they're different,
but they're kinda connected through the Torres Straits Expedition, and
the sort of figures who point back to European anthropology.
But also then to India and Indian anthropology through work in
the Indian Islands and such but that's a separate thing.
So open that up.
>> All I have to start with is just the, I was very struck by.
I loved that slide, the slide with hadding on the ground.
>> On the ground.
>> I mean there's a possibility of habituation or
I'm trying to figure out what the language would be technically because I don't know.
In terms of the language of UIDAI,
I mean there'd be a sense that what could be erased is history.
The social as it is.
Mean the dream of the engineers was not that we are racing the social to
produce the universal.
In fact initially it's called UIDAI and
when I first started doing this I decided I should blog it.
Because since the whole nature of this was that silos are bad.
And that scientists produce silos that I had to produce a public text that could
never settle itself.
Not hold my suffer publication, which I am notoriously bad at.
But it was, but in fact by put it up there.
>> And so I did for a while until I decided,
because I'm paranoid that people were stealing my stuff.
And I started silos again, and the blog ended after a year, but
it was- [CROSSTALK] >> [LAUGH]
>> But it was fun.
But why do I say that?
It was the, for the engineers it's not, so
in my first post I called it the Universal Identification Authority of
India cuz I thought it was precisely trying to produce a universal subject.
I was quickly corrected by people who were reading the blog.
That it was unique and not universal, and I was humiliated.
That's what the problem with having a blog in real time is.
You're starting a project,
then it was cuz literally the day I started the project I started the blog.
So it was, and that sense of non-universal but unique is a thing for me.
It's the Indians would argue that we're trying to create is the social yet
Which is a certain kind of utopian technocratic, make the world safer,
But it's none the less this radical,
I mean at certain points it rings close to the behavior,
it's this radical experimentality was there were certain kind of stakes.
So I think the difference for me as you point out was the sociality, there
were at least so it's arguably it's a politics of scale in part.
It's in the sense that the social audit wants to scale things down to
an imagined village.
And how it says, in order to remove the social and
to end prejudicial distribution.
We have to scale up as far as we can towards the total archive of the nation.
A lot of economists who are somewhere in between need to scale to
the level to the state or the block.