Handbook on Intervention and Statebuilding
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Handbook on Intervention and Statebuilding

Edited by Nicolas Lemay-Hébert

This innovative Handbook offers a new perspective on the cutting-edge conceptual advances that have shaped – and continue to shape – the field of intervention and statebuilding.
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Chapter 26: New forms of intervention: the case of humanitarian refugee biometrics

Katja Lindskov Jacobsen


Humanitarian actors’ use of biometrics is more widespread than commonly acknowledged in case studies of individual projects. This chapter traces the scope and development of humanitarian refugee biometrics, in order to then theorize its significance – also beyond humanitarian camps and urban refugee settings. Drawing on insights from science and technology studies (the notion of co-production, more specifically) in combination with insights from debates in intervention studies about assemblages and broader conceptualizations of intervention practices, the chapter argues that humanitarian refugee biometrics can fruitfully be examined from a perspective that pays careful attention to the new forms of intervention enabled, as this technology is rolled out globally. With reference to UNHCR’s use of biometrics, it is argued that with biometric registration of refugees, new dimensions of refugee existence are made interveneable and new insecurities emerge, for example from question about access to and sharing of sensitive biometric refugee data.

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