University of Oulu

Hidefumi Nishiyama (2022) Bodies and borders in post-imperial Japan: a study of the coloniality of biometric power, Cultural Studies, 36:1, 120-140, DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2020.1788619

Bodies and borders in post-imperial Japan : a study of the coloniality of biometric power

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Author: Nishiyama, Hidefumi1
Organizations: 1Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Informa, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-01-10


In this article, I conduct a study of what may be called the coloniality of biometric power. In recent years, scholars in social sciences and humanities have shown the continuities of colonialism and racism in the politics of biometric identification. Not only are the origins of biometrics closely related to colonial governance and scientific racism, but contemporary biometric technologies also continue to carry on colonial and racial dimensions in their infrastructures and operations. Inspired by Quijano’s notion of ‘coloniality of power’ and departing from existing social and cultural studies of biometrics, the article explores how biometrics is used for the racial classification of people, the (re)production of colonial structures and subject-object relations during and after colonialism. The article focuses on the case of fingerprinting border controls and surveillance in post-imperial Japan. This particular case geographically expands the literature on the relationship between biometrics and colonialism, which has been largely centred upon European and North American contexts. It also helps to understand how one mode of racialization through biometrics is replaced by another, which empowers a new form of racial governance. Drawing on my analysis of the postwar Japanese fingerprinting system, I suggest that it is important to register different forms of racialization through biometrics as there are different forms of racialized control in different historical and geographical contexts.

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Series: Cultural studies
ISSN: 0950-2386
ISSN-E: 1466-4348
ISSN-L: 0950-2386
Volume: 36
Issue: 1
Pages: 120 - 140
DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2020.1788619
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 5141 Sociology
517 Political science
519 Social and economic geography
Funding: The preliminary research was funded by an East Asia Postgraduate Fellowship from the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick. The main research was funded by the Academy of Finland RELATE CoE [grant number: 307348]. It was completed during my Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher's grant [grant number: 321755].
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 307348
Detailed Information: 307348 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
321755 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2020 Taylor & Francis. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Cultural Studies on 08 Jul 2020, available online: