Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-75dct Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-22T19:57:32.327Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2020

Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London


This article excavates the imperial origins behind the recent turn towards digital biometrics in Kenya. It also tells the story of an important moment of race-making in the years after the Second World War. Though Kenya may be considered a frontier market for today's biometrics industry, fingerprinting was first introduced in the early twentieth century. By 1920, the Kenyan colonial government had dictated that African men who left their reserves be fingerprinted and issued an identity card (known colloquially as a kipande). In the late 1940s, after decades of African protest, the colonial government replaced the kipande with a universal system of registration via fingerprinting. This legislative move was accompanied by protests from members of the white settler community. Ironically, the effort to deracialize Kenya's identification regime only further normalized the use of biometrics, but also failed to fully undermine associations between white male exceptionalism and exemption from fingerprinting.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


This article was first workshopped at the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London (UCL), where I received thoughtful and generative feedback from Prof. Tamar Garb, Prof. Megan Vaughan, Prof. Deborah Posel, Dr. Kafui Adjaye-Gbewonyo, Dr. Marissa Mika, Dr. Anna Marazuela Kim, and others. I am also grateful to Dr. Alden Young for reading an early draft of this article and to Prof. Keith Breckenridge for his insights into the history of biometrics in Kenya. Richard Ambani along with other staff at the Kenya National Archives were an invaluable resource as always. And thank you to the three anonymous JAH reviewers who provided extremely useful commentary.


2 See, for example, the collaborative syllabus and course, ‘Slavery, Race, Capitalism’, from the Robert L. Heilbrone Center for Capitalism Studies:

3 R. G. Kelly, ‘What did Cedric Robinson mean by racial capitalism?’, The Boston Review, 12 Jan. 2017, For recent work on the making of racial subjectivities in South Africa, see Deborah Posel's scholarship on consumerism and consumption; for example, Posel, D., ‘Races to consume: revisiting South Africa's history of race, consumption and the struggle for freedom’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 33:2 (2010), 157–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Lyon, D., Identifying Citizens: ID Cards as Surveillance (Cambridge, 2013)Google Scholar; and Whitley, E. A., ‘Perceptions of government technology, surveillance and privacy: the UK Identity Cards Scheme’, in Goold, B. J. and Neyland, D. (eds.), New Directions in Surveillance and Privacy (New York, 2009), 154–77Google Scholar.

5 Historians such as Nicholas B. Dirks and Mahmood Mamdani have shown that colonial authorities politicized and codified ethnic and caste differences through the use of censuses and identity cards. Dirks, Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton, 2011); and Mamdani, Define and Rule: Native as Political Identity (Johannesburg, 2013). For the links between eugenics and fingerprinting, see Davis, L. J., ‘Constructing normalcy: the bell curve, the novel, and the invention of the disabled body in the nineteenth century’, in Davis, L. J. (ed.), The Disability Studies Reader (2nd edn, New York, 2006), 316Google Scholar; and Breckenridge, K., Biometric State: The Global Politics of Identification and Surveillance in South Africa, 1850 to the Present (Cambridge, 2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 An earlier generation of historians of Kenya and South Africa examined the pass and ID system through a materialist lens. See, for example, Kitching, G. N., Class and Economic Change in Kenya: The Making of an African Petite Bourgeoisie 1905–1970 (New Haven, 1980)Google Scholar; and Savage, M., ‘The imposition of pass laws on the African population in South Africa 1916–1984’, African Affairs, 85:339 (1986), 181205CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 C. Sengoopta, Imprint of the Raj: How Fingerprinting Was Born in Colonial India (London, 2003).

8 Originally enacted in 1915, the Registration of Natives Ordinance was only implemented after the end of the First World War. Though the law technically required all African men above the age of sixteen to carry a kipande (aside from those living in the Norther Frontier District), colonial authorities did not register the population writ large.

9 M'Inoti, K., ‘The kipande: a colonial debate revisited’, Economic Review (Nairobi), 218 (1997), 1920Google Scholar.

10 Since its introduction in the early twentieth century, the kipande was a source of African grievance and the locus of political mobilization. In the early 1920s, both the Young Kavirondo Association and the East African Association protested against the registration certificate. H. Thuku, Harry Thuku: An Autobiography (Nairobi, 1970); and Maxon, R., ‘The years of revolutionary advance, 1920–29’, in Ochieng, W. R.’ (ed.), A Modern History of Kenya, 1895–1980: In Honour of B. A. Ogot (London, 1989), 81Google Scholar.

11 Brückenhaus, D., ‘Identifying colonial subjects: fingerprinting in British Kenya, 1900–1960’, Geschichte und Gesellschaft, 42:1 (2016), 6085CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 For studies of whiteness in Kenya, see Kennedy, D. K.Islands of White: Settler Society and Culture in Kenya and Southern Rhodesia, 1890–1939 (Durham, 1987)Google Scholar; Lonsdale, J., ‘Kenya: home county and African frontier’, in Bickers, R. (ed.), Settlers and Expatriates: Britons Over the Seas (Oxford, 2014), 74111Google Scholar; and McIntosh, J.Unsettled: Denial and Belonging among White Kenyans (Berkeley, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 For recent work on the documentary state that highlights paperwork as practice, see Messick, B.The Calligraphic State: Textual Domination and History in a Muslim Society (Berkeley, 1996)Google Scholar; S. Hull, M., Government of Paper: The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan (Berkeley, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Kafka, B., The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork (New York, 2012)Google Scholar. See also Madeleine Akrich's work on agency and technology. Akrich, M., ‘The description of technical objects’, in Bijker, W. E. and Law, J. (eds.), Shaping Technology/Building Society (Cambridge, MA, 1992), 205–58Google Scholar.

14 Starr, S. Leigh and Bowker, G. C., Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequence (2nd edn, Cambridge, MA, 1999)Google Scholar; and Thompson, S., ‘Separating the sheep from the goats: the United Kingdom's national registration programme and social sorting in the pre-electronic era’, in Bennet, C. J. and Lyon, D. (eds.), Playing the Identity Card (London, 2008), 145–62Google Scholar.

15 Longman, T., ‘Identity cards, ethnic self-perception, and genocide in Rwanda’, in Caplan, J. and Torpey, J. C. (eds.), Documenting Individual Identity: The Development of State Practices in the Modern World (Princeton, 2001), 346Google Scholar.

16 Mamdani, M., ‘Making sense of political violence in postcolonial Africa’, in Geir, L. and Olav, N. (eds.), War and Peace in the 20th Century and Beyond (Singapore, 2003), 86, 90Google Scholar.

17 As Timothy Longman notes, ‘the meager available evidence regarding the origins of … identity cards’ in Rwanda suggests ‘they were issued not with the intention of fixing ethnic membership but for more mundane administrative purposes’. Longman, ‘Identity’, 352. The extent to which colonial regimes were driven by a ‘will to know’ has been overstated in much of the early literature on colonial state surveillance. New work by Africanist scholars is reshaping scholarly understandings of state registration systems, calling into question the universality of Michel Foucault's paradigms of surveillance, James Scott's notions of legibility, and Max Weber's ideas of rationalization. See Foucault, M.The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979, ed. Senellart, M., trans. Burchell, G. (New York, 2008)Google Scholar; Scott, J. C., Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, 1998)Google Scholar; and Weber, M., with intro. by Mills, C. Wright, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. Gerth, H. H. (London, 1997)Google Scholar. See also Breckenridge, K., ‘No will to know: the rise and fall of African civil registration in twentieth-century South Africa’, in Breckenridge, K. and Szreter, S. (eds.), Registration and Recognition: Documenting the Person in World History (Oxford, 2012), 115–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Pierce, S., ‘Looking like a state: colonialism and the discourse of corruption in Northern Nigeria’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 48:4 (2006), 887914CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

18 See, for example, the ‘Report of Land Committee, Presented to His Majesty's Commissioner, East Africa Protectorate’, in C. Anderson and A. Cohen (eds.), The Government and Administration of Africa, 1880–1939, Volume IV (London, 2013 [orig. published 1905]), 24–5, 33, 37–9.

19 East Africa Protectorate, Native Labour Commission, 1912–13: Evidence and Report (Nairobi, 1913), 17.

20 Ibid. 330.

21 Official Gazette of the East Africa Protectorate, Vol XXII, no. 690, 14 Jan. 1920, 17.

22 McGregor, R. W., Kenya from Within: A Short Political History (London, 1927), 190Google Scholar.

23 B. Berman and J. Lonsdale, for instance, have overstated the scope and efficacy of the registration system. See ‘Crises of accumulation, coercion and the colonial state: the development of the labor control system in Kenya, 1919–1929’, Canadian Journal of African Studies,14:1 (1980), 55–81.

24 A. Sekula, ‘The body and the archive’, October, 39 (1986), 16.

25 For more on the history and development of anthropometry and biometrics, see Cole, S. A., Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification (Cambridge, MA, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For insight into the searchability of the Central Finger Print Bureau, see Kenya National Archives (KNA) AG 35/25.

26 KNA AG 35/35, ‘Minutes of the first meeting of the sub-committee, Labour Advisory Board held at the Labour Department on Sunday, 7 July 1946, at 9.30 AM’, 3.

27 Ibid.

28 KNA AG 35/17, letter from Acting Solicitor-General, P. A. McElwaine, to Colonial Secretary, ‘Abuses of the provisions of the Native Registration Ordinance by employers’, 20 Nov. 1925; and The National Archives, London, United Kingdom (TNA) CO 533/413/6, ‘Native Registration Ordinance, Kenya: extract from record of interview of Kenya native witnesses with Lord Passfield’, 4 May 1931.

29 KNA AG 35/28, letter from Chief Native Commissioner to the Attorney General of Kenya, 8 June 1925.

30 TNA CO 533/483/15, ‘Comparative table: the Native Registration (Amendment) Bill, 1937’, 1.

31 For more on the surveillance of the black body, see S. Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Durham, NC, 2015).

32 Clayton, A. and Savage, D. C., Government and Labour in Kenya, 1895–1963 (London, 1974), 171Google Scholar. See also TNA CO 533/413/6, C. S. Eastwood, ‘Memorandum’, 20 June 1931.

33 TNA CO 533/413/6, ‘Evidence of native witnesses’. ‘These [kipande] regulations make Kenya Africans strangers in their own land’, wrote Jomo Kenyatta in 1932; see TNA CO 533/422/1, Kenyatta, General Secretary of the Kikuyu Central Committee, ‘Memorandum of the Kikuyu Central Association to the Secretary of State for the Colonies’, Feb. 1932.

34 Itote, W., ‘Mau Mau’ General (Nairobi, 1967), 35Google Scholar.

35 For the use of money as a de facto ID in contemporary Kenya, see Balakian, S., ‘“Money is your government”: refugees, mobility, and unstable documents in Kenya's Operation Usalama Watch’, African Studies Review, 59:2 (2016), 87111CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On the discretionary power of registration agents, see Markó, F. D., ‘“We are not a failed state, we make the best passports”: South Sudan and biometric modernity’, African Studies Review, 59:2 (2016), 113–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 KNA ABK 14/36, letter from Arthur T. Wise, Chief Registrar of Natives, to David Gillett of Brooke Farm, 11 Oct. 1938. Emphasis in original.

37 Breckenridge, Biometric State, 11, 136, 216.

38 KNA AG 35/17, letter from the Chief Registrar of Natives to the Chief Native Commissioner, 6 Oct. 1925.

39 Nor were colonial officials able to fully curb such practices. In 1937, the government introduced yet another amendment to the Native Registration Ordinance to standardize the color of ink. TNA CO 533/483/15, ‘Copy of the bill as passed in the Legislative Council the 4th November 1937: An Ordinance to amend the Native Registration Ordinance’.

40 McGregor, Kenya, 189.

41 KNA AG 35/17, A Victim, ‘Kipandis and characters’, Daily Observer, 26 Nov. 1925.

42 For more on the concept of ‘black peril’, see Ray, C. E., ‘Decrying white peril: interracial sex and the rise of anticolonial nationalism in the Gold Coast’, The American Historical Review, 119:1 (2014), 78110CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

43 See Parpart, J. L., ‘The household and the mine shaft: gender and class struggles on the Zambian Copperbelt, 1926–64’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 13:1 (1986), 3656CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

44 Anderson, D. M., ‘Master and servant in colonial Kenya’, The Journal of African History, 41:3 (2000), 459–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also KNA AG 35/25, ‘Notes of meeting between the Commissioner of Police, the Office-in-Charge of Central Finger Print Bureau and the Chief Native Commissioner, held at the office of the Chief Native Commissioner on the 6th October, 1926’; KNA AG 35/25, letter from Commissioner of Kenya Police to the Chief Native Commissioner, ‘Criminal records — notification to employers as to whether individuals under reference are suitable for domestic employment’, 23 Nov. 1926.

45 In his memoirs, Barack Obama describes being given the possessions of his late paternal grandfather. Among them was a Domestic Servant's Pocket Register. Obama, B., Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Edinburgh, 2007 [1995]), 425–6Google Scholar.

46 Gatheru, R. Mugo, Child of Two Worlds: Kikuyu's Story (London, 1966), 93Google Scholar. See also KNA AG/35/35, letter from A. I. Wise, Secretary of Sub-Committee of Labour Advisory Board, to the Chairman of the Labour Advisory Board, 7 June 1946. The East Africa Women's League sought to be included in the post-war legislative discussion surrounding registration out of a desire to protect white women and children from the purported dangers of unvetted domestic help.

47 Breckenridge, Biometric State, 16.

48 Dalberto, S. A., Banégas, R., and Cutolo, A., ‘Biomaîtriser les identités?’, Politique Africaine, 152 (2018), 529Google Scholar.

49 Higgs, E., ‘Fingerprints and citizenship: the British state and the identification of pensioners in the interwar period’, History Workshop Journal, 69:1 (2010), 63CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

50 TNA CO 533/384/9, letter from the Kikuyu Central Association to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 14 Feb. 1929; letter from Edward Grigg to Lord Passfield, Secretary of State for the Colonies, 14 Nov. 1929. See also TNA CO 533/483/15; TNA CO 533/413/6; Parliamentary Debates, Commons, 11 Dec. 1929, 5th series, vol. 233, cols. 581–616.

51 TNA CO 533/413/6, Joint Select Committee on East Africa, ‘Minutes of evidence: taken before the Joint Section Committee on East Africa’, 23 June 1931; and C. G. Eastwood and H. T. Allen, ‘Native Registration Ordinance’, 15 May 1931.

52 TNA CO 533/413/6, ‘Evidence of native witnesses’.

53 See D. R. Peterson, ‘Introduction: abolitionism and political thought in Britain and East Africa’, in D. R. Peterson (ed.), Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa, and the Atlantic (Athens, OH, 2010), 1–37.

54 TNA CO 533/413/6, letter from the Governor of Kenya to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 5 Nov. 1931, 2.

55 Ibid.

56 TNA CO 533/413/6, letter from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Governor of Kenya, 10 May 1932.

57 TNA CO 533/413/6, letter from the Governor of Kenya to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 15 Sept. 1932.

58 As Zeleza explains, the kipande was ‘designed to be used as an instrument with which to keep track of labour supply … facilitate the enforcement of labour contracts’ and ‘standardize low wages’. Zeleza, T., ‘The colonial labour system in Kenya’, in Ochieng, W. R.’ and Maxon, R. M. (eds.), An Economic History of Kenya (Nairobi, 1992), 181Google Scholar. See also Berman and Lonsdale, ‘Crises’; and Anderson, ‘Master and servant’.

59 Gatheru, Child, 88.

60 Ibid.

61 Gicaru, M., Land of Sunshine: Scenes of Life in Kenya Before Mau Mau (London, 1958), 60Google Scholar.

62 KNA DC NYI 2/1/9, letter from Nanyuki Farmers’ Association to the District Commissioner, Nyeri, 4 Mar. 1935.

63 For more on the colonial use of forced labor on African reserves, see Okia, O., Communal Labor in Colonial Kenya: The Legitimization of Coercion, 1912–1930 (New York, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On the role of unfree labor in capitalist accumulation, see N. Fraser, ‘Expropriation and exploitation in racialized capitalism: a reply to Michael Dawson’, Critical Historical Studies, 3:1 (2016), 163–78.

64 Kenyans deemed ‘non-native’ by colonial authorities were typically exempt from carrying the kipande. On the exemption of Somalis, see Weitzberg, K., We Do Not Have Borders: Greater Somalia and the Predicaments of Belonging in Kenya (Athens, OH, 2017)Google Scholar.

65 Van Zwanenberg, R., Colonial Capitalism and Labour in Kenya, 1919–1939 (Kampala, 1975), 190Google Scholar; and Clayton and Savage, Government, 170.

66 KNA ABK 14/36, letter from the Chief Registrar of Natives to the Colonial Secretary, 6 Dec. 1935.

67 See KNA ABK 14/36, letter from C. Hunter of Kenya Sisal Growers’ Association to Chief Native Commissioner, 2 Dec. 1935; letter from Hon. Secretary of Koru Farmers and Planters Association to the Chief Registrar of Natives, 5 Aug. 1937; and letter from the Hon. Secretary of the Fort Ternan Coffee Planters’ Association to the Chief Registrar of Natives, 26 Aug. 1937.

68 Great Britain Commission on Financial Position and System of Taxation of Kenya and Sir Pim, A., Report of the Commission Appointed to Enquire into and Report on the Financial Position and System of Taxation of Kenya (London, 1936), 248Google Scholar.

69 Clayton and Savage, Government, 170.

70 TNA CO 533/461/12, letter from the Governor of Kenya to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 29 Oct. 1935; TNA CO 533/483/15, ‘Legal report, The Native Registration (Amendment) Bill, 1937’; and TNA CO 533/497/5, letter from the Governor's Deputy to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 18 Sept. 1938.

71 Parliamentary Debates, Lords, 9 June 1937, 5th series, vol. 105, cols. 425–66.

72 W. E. Owen, ‘Meaning of the Empire’, The Times, 10 June 1938.

73 KNA AG 35/35, ‘Press communiqué: African registration’.

74 KNA PC NGO 1/13/10, letter from the Secretariat to all Provincial Commissioners, 30 May 1947. See also H. Muoria, I, the Gikuyu, and the White Fury (Nairobi, 1994), 4–5, 158.

75 Aiyar, S., ‘Empire, race and the Indians in colonial Kenya's contested public political sphere, 1919–1923’, Africa, 81:1 (2011), 132–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

76 Hull, Government, 21.

77 Ogot, B. A. and Ochieng, W. R.’ (eds.), Decolonization & Independence in Kenya, 1940–93 (Athens, OH 1995)Google Scholar; Berman, B. and Lonsdale, J.Unhappy Valley: Conflict in Kenya & Africa, Volumes I and II (Athens, OH, 1992)Google Scholar; and Cooper, F.Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (Cambridge, 1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

78 TNA CO 533/545/1, ‘Precis of the report of the sub-committee of the Labour Advisory Board as adopted after amendment by the Board’; ‘Recommendations of the sub-committee of the Labour Advisory Board, as amended by the Labour Advisory Board’.

79 Zeleza, ‘The colonial labour system’, 181.

80 KNA AG 35/36, letter from the Acting Member for Law and Order to the Acting Chief Secretary, 8 July 1947.

81 KNA AG 35/35, confidential letter from the Director of Intelligence and Security to the Member for Law and Order, 11 Dec. 1946.

82 Ibid.

83 Ibid.

84 Ibid.

85 KNA AG/35/36, letter from Acting Member for Law and Order to the Acting Chief Secretary, 8 July 1947.

86 KNA AG 35/35, Labour Commissioner, ‘Memorandum on amendments required to the Native Registration Ordinance, Chap. 127 Laws of Kenya to implement recommendation of the report of the sub-committee of the Labour Advisory Board’; TNA CO 533/545/2, Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, ‘An Ordinance to amend the Native Registration Ordinance’ (no. 32 of 1947); and ‘An Ordinance to make provision for the registration of persons in the Colony for the issue of identity cards and for purposes connected therewith’ (no. 33 of 1947).

87 TNA CO 533/545/2, ‘Legal report: the Native Registration (Amendment) Ordinance, 1947’; ‘Legal report: the Domestic Employment (Certificate of Registration) Ordinance, 1947’; ‘An Ordinance to make provision for the registration of persons in the colony, for the issue of identity cards and for purposes connected therewith’ (no. 33 of 1947).

88 TNA CO 533/545/3, Hon. E. W. Mathu, ‘The kipande controversy’, 29 Apr. 1949.

89 TNA CO 533/562/1, Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, ‘Report of a commission of inquiry appointed to review the Registration of Persons Ordinance, 1947’, 1950, 6–9.

90 Ogot and Ochieng’, Decolonization; Berman and Lonsdale, Unhappy Valley; Cooper, Decolonization.

91 TNA CO 533/545/1, telegram from the Government of India, External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations Department to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, 21 Sept. 1947; ‘Extract from record of meeting between the Secretary of State and Mr. Krishna Menon’, 1947; and A. R. Cocker, ‘Minority report’.

92 TNA CO 533/545/3, The Society for Civil Liberties, ‘Fingerprints! preliminary analysis exposing the Labour Department's proffered case for national registration’, 1949.

93 TNA CO 533/543/3, letter from R. R. Stokes to A. C. Jones, 23 May 1949.

94 Balibar, E., ‘Is there a “neo-racism”?’, in Balibar, E. and Wallerstein, I. M. (eds.), Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities (London, 1991), 1736Google Scholar. According to Ann Laura Stoler, ‘these features of the “new” racism are familiar colonial conventions firmly rooted in earlier discourses that linked race, culture, and national identity, discourses elaborated in Europe's “laboratories of modernity” — the colonies’. See Stoler, A. L., Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley, 2002), 97Google Scholar.

95 KNA ABK 14/221, letter from May Dann to the Colonial Secretary, 4 Dec. 1951.

96 V. R. Newkirk II, ‘Five decades of white backlash’, The Atlantic, 15 Jan. 2018,

97 TNA CO 533/545/3, Hon. E. W. Mathu, ‘The kipande controversy’, 29 Apr. 1949, 3.

98 Posel, D., ‘Race as common sense: racial classification in twentieth-century South Africa’, African Studies Review, 44:2 (2001), 87114CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

99 KNA ABK 14/223, The Society for Civil Liberties, ‘Exodus?’, 1.

100 Sir Blundell, M., So Rough a Wind: The Kenya Memoirs of Sir Michael Blundell (London, 1964), 81Google Scholar.

101 Ibid. 80. Interestingly, Gandhi also drew comparisons between vaccines and fingerprinting. For more on Gandhi's fraught relationship with fingerprinting, see Breckenridge, K., ‘Gandhi's progressive disillusionment: thumbs, fingers, and the rejection of scientific modernism in Hind Swaraj’, Public Culture, 23:2 (2011), 331–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

102 Lonsdale, ‘Kenya’.

103 Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, Legislative Council Debates: Official Report, Volume XLI, 3rd session, 2nd sitting (13 Feb.–9 Mar. 1951), cols. 517–20; and Blundell, So Rough, 81.

104 TNA CO 533/545/3, ‘Commission will investigate’, East African Standard, 17 Aug. 1949; telegram from Sir P. Mitchell, Governor of Kenya, to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 18 Oct. 1949; letter from Sir Waldron Smithers to Arthur Creech Jones, 3 Oct. 1949.

105 TNA CO 533/562/1, Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, ‘Report of a Commission of Inquiry Appointed to Review the Registration of Persons Ordinance, 1947’, 1950. Photography was not considered as a method of universal registration due to both its expense and purported inefficacy compared to fingerprints.

106 KNA ABK 14/223, The Society for Civil Liberties, ‘Exodus?’, 3–4. Emphasis in original.

107 KNA ABK 14/221, ‘Petition to Queen against fingerprinting’, East African Standard, 13 May 1952; and W. T. Shapley, Society for Civil Liberties, ‘Memorandum annexed to the petition to her majesty the Queen relating to the Registration of Persons Ordinance, Kenya, 1947’.

108 Frost, R., The Enigmatic Proconsul: Sir Philip Mitchell and the Twilight of Empire (London, 1992), 202Google Scholar.

109 TNA ABK 14/221, letter from H. Groombridge to W. S. Churchill, 24 Nov. 1951.

110 See also KNA ABK 14/221, letter from Harold Groombridge to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 20 Nov. 1951; TNA CO 533/545/3, The Society for Civil Liberties, ‘Fingerprints!’; KNA ABK 14/221, ‘The petition of certain British subjects of the Colony’ to Sir P. Mitchell, Governor of Kenya.

111 Blundell, So Rough, 80.

112 J. Agar, ‘Modern horrors: British identity and identity cards’, in Caplan and Torpey (eds.), Documenting Individual Identity, 101–20; and KNA ABK 14/221, W. T. Shapley, Society for Civil Liberties, ‘Memorandum annexed to the petition to Her Majesty the Queen relating to the Registration of Persons Ordinance, Kenya, 1947’.

113 TNA CO 533/562/2, Secretariat, Nairobi, ‘The Glancy Report’, Dec. 1950; and ‘A national register’, The East African Standard, 16 Jan. 1951. The single European Elected Member who voted against the adoption of the Glancy Report, Derek Erskine, subsequently resigned from his seat in the Council. Roelker, J. R., Mathu of Kenya: A Political Study (Stanford, CA, 1976), 93Google Scholar.

114 TNA CO 533/562/1, note from Campbell to Newsam, 23 Nov. 1950; and Brückenhaus, ‘Identifying colonial subjects’, 82.

115 Clayton and Savage, Government, 296; Frost, Enigmatic Proconsul, 205; and KNA ABK 4/221, letter from Governor of Kenya to O. Lyttelton, Secretary of State for the Colonies, 25 June 1952.

116 KNA ABK 14/219, Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, ‘Registration of Persons National Registration: What Do They Mean?’ (Nairobi, n.d.), 45–58.

117 TNA CO 533/562/2, Press office handout no. 20, ‘Registration of Persons Ordinance’; Secretariat, Nairobi, ‘The Glancy Report’, 30 Dec. 1950. TNA CO 533/562/1, Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, ‘Report of a Commission of Inquiry Appointed to Review the Registration of Persons Ordinance, 1947’, 1950, 7–8.

118 Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, Legislative Council Debates: Official Report, Volume XLI, 3rd session, 2nd sitting (13 Feb. 1951–9 Mar. 1951), cols. 447–51.

119 Official Gazette of the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, Vol. LIII, no. 5, ‘A bill entitled an Ordinance to Amend the Registration of Persons Ordinance’, 16 Jan. 1951, 53–6; Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, Legislative Council Debates: Official Report, Volume XLI, 3rd session, 2nd sitting, (13 Feb. 1951–9 Mar. 1951), cols. 447–542.

120 Legislative Council Debates: Official Report, Volume XLI, 3rd session, 2nd sitting, (13 Feb. 1951–9 Mar. 1951), col. 527. The trade unionist Makhan Singh wrote that the ‘new system of identity cards and work cards (“Buff Cards”)’ had ‘the same purpose as was served by the old kipande, with the difference that there were a few modifications in the penal sanctions and that the new system was on a non-racial basis’. Singh, M., History of Kenya's Trade Union Movement to 1952 (Nairobi, 1969), 154Google Scholar.

121 Likimani, M., Passbook Number F.47927: Women & Mau Mau in Kenya (London, 1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also KNA ABK 11/1.

122 J. Comaroff and J. L. Comaroff, ‘Writing theory from the South: the global order from an African perspective’, World Financial Review (Sept.–Oct. 2013), 17–20.

123 Agamben, G., State of Exception, trans. Attell, K. (Chicago, 2005)Google Scholar.

124 Keith Breckenridge maintains that ‘in almost every respect the new biometric systems are the political antithesis of Galton's eugenicism’ and ‘offer intensely individualised identification in place of race and caste’. Breckenridge, Biometric State, 166. For scholarship on the in-built racism within technologies, see Magnet, S., When Biometrics Fail: Gender, Race, and the Technology of Identity (Durham, NC, 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Noble, S. U.Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (New York, 2018)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Benjamin, R.Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (Cambridge, MA, 2019)Google Scholar.

125 According to recent iterations of modernization theory, ‘developing’ countries can bypass earlier phases of technology and leapfrog to more advanced stages of development. An oft-cited example is the mobile phone, which has become commonplace in non-industrialized countries that lack an extensive landline infrastructure.

126 James Ferguson, for example, argues that ‘the development of more effective and inclusive techniques for identifying biological individuality should not be thought of as automatically regressive or politically objectionable’. He goes on to argue that ‘new technical forms of identity documentation and recognition … could in fact facilitate more effective and inclusive forms of state support and recognition even while requiring less, rather than more, intrusive surveillance’. Ferguson, Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution (Durham, NC, 2015), 86.

127 Breckenridge has coined the term ‘biometric capitalism’ to describe the capturing of the ‘informal’ economy through new biometric and financial technology. K. Breckenridge, ‘Biometric capitalism: infrastructures of identification and credit risk on the African continent in the 21st century’, (paper presented at Technosphere x Knowledge, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 15 Apr. 2016).

128 See Sandvik, K. B. and Jacobsen, K. L. (eds.), UNHCR and the Struggle for Accountability: Technology, Law and Results-Based Management (London, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Balaton-Chrimes, S., ‘Statelessness, identity cards and citizenship as status in the case of the Nubians of Kenya’, Citizenship Studies, 18:1 (2014), 1528CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

129 Nyabola, N.Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Kenya (London, 2018)Google Scholar.

130 Gatheru, Child, 89.