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date: 27 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter challenges traditional diffusionist approaches to the circulation of scientific and technological knowledge, exploring instead the “geographical turn” in science and technology studies through postcolonial philosophy which was developed to understand the movement of technical knowledge between west and east. The late nineteenth-century problem of unique identification of individuals, for civil and legal purposes in colonial India, provides two examples of forensic technologies, fingerprinting and criminalistics, which were developed in a colonial setting and then modified and introduced into western cultures. These examples resonate with Kapil Raj’s research on the circulation of knowledge in eighteenth century South Asia in terms of contact zones, the mutation of knowledge, trust relations in the making of technical knowledge in colonial India, and the maintenance of an efficient administration. Although this chapter focuses on historical examples, there are clear resonances with contemporary biometric identification technologies and their implications for today’s “information order.”

Keywords: postcolonialism, diffusionist model, geographical turn, fingerprinting, criminalistics, contact zones, trust, information order

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