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Passports: identity and airports
Passports: identity and airports

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1 The passport system

Figure 1 UK passports

Passport systems have a long and varied history. They’re probably the most widespread and enduring example of a ‘regime of identification’. The term ‘regime of identification’ refers to systematic efforts made by administrative bodies and governments to identify and register their populations. The regimes we’ll study in this section had some very different aims, but they share some common consequences. In particular, through identifying their populations, social worlds decide ‘who is who’, creating new categories which formalise who ‘belongs’ and who ‘does not’.

Now watch the video below which considers the history of various objects used to identify individuals. As you watch, consider the following questions:

  • What different organisations have sought to identify people?
  • What different devices have been used to aid identification?
  • Who was identified and why?
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The passport – history
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