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In Pursuit of ProofA History of Identification Documents in India$
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Tarangini Sriraman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199463510

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199463510.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 November 2019

The Document in the Digital

The Document in the Digital

(p.209) 5 The Document in the Digital
In Pursuit of Proof

Tarangini Sriraman

Oxford University Press

Considered within the history of documenting welfare beneficiaries in India, the Aadhaar is unprecedented in that the unique number is a digital, portable identity and part of ‘a larger administrative and technological regime’ (Bennett and Lyon 2008) of cloud-based authentication. This chapter argues, however, that the production of this identifier has necessitated miming existing bureaucratic habits of inscription and mobilizing the rhetoric, ritualism and the materiality common to processes of issuing and verifying identification documents. Far from being an ID that is insulated from the host of administratively restrictive genres of identification documents like ration cards and caste certificates, the Aadhaar is relevant only within a paper-based matrix of elite norms of proof, urban spatiality of power brokerage, and the politics of staking out regional identities. Based on an intensive ethnography around a rural poor community, the chapter shows that the current welfare ecology still contingent on address norms requires not so much an electronic number identifier but rather a dynamic interplay of popular, quasi-legal, and legal documents of identity.

Keywords:   Aadhaar, UID, bus porters, rural migrants, biometrics, materiality of paper, caste certificates, urban welfare ecology

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