Identification Technologies and Biometric Power: A Transition from Occupied China to Post-World War II Japan

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Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Thursday, March 21, 20194:00PM - 6:00PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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The invention of identification technologies is deeply connected with the surveillance of colonial populations. Fingerprinting, the forerunner of biometrics, was created by the British police in colonial India in 1897, and was also employed in Manchuria and Northeast China under Japanese occupation from the 1920’s to 1945. Why did fingerprint identification attract the Japanese imperialist power, and how effectively was it practiced? We examine narratives surrounding the Japanese identification systems in Manchuria, especially regarding Chinese workers who were placed under severe surveillance, and discuss how a similar scheme survived the lost war and was actually legitimated in post-World War Ⅱ Japan. The expansion and transformation of biometric power can be seen in the Japanese government’s repeated attempts to establish “perfect” identification systems. Surveillance has spread from ex-colonial populations to foreign workers and to citizens, culminating in recent legislative changes concerning enhanced technologies.

ASAKO TAKANO is an Associate Professor at Meiji Pharmaceutical University in Tokyo, Japan. She received her Ph.D. in Social Sciences from Hitotsubashi University, and published her book in Japan in 2016, Fingerprints and Modernity.

MIDORI OGASAWARA is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Queen’s University, and a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Ottawa. She conducted field research in China to investigate the Chinese experiences of Japanese colonial identification systems and obtained her Ph.D. in Sociology from Queen’s in 2018.


Takashi Fujitani
Director, Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies; Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto

Asako Takano
Associate Professor, Meiji Pharmaceutical University in Tokyo, Japan

Midori Ogasawara
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Queen’s University; Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Ottawa


Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies


Dr. David Chu Program in Contemporary Asian Studies

East Asian Seminar Series at the Asian Institute

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