Universiteit Leiden

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Lecture | Research Seminar

Citizen Labor: correcting data and creating value in an Indian land records database

Monday 12 February 2024
CADS Research Seminars
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden

In transitioning a system of agricultural land management from its network of paper records to a digital system of software and databases, engineers and bureaucrats in Bangalore, India’s ‘Silicon Valley’, have tacitly and invisibly shifted the responsibility of maintaining data from the state administration to individuals. Digital databases of land records fragment offices and disperse data onto new sites and actors. Accessing services under these transformed conditions depends on a form of digital labor, that I call ‘citizen labor’. Digitization of public bureaucracies, through code, algorithms and software is increasingly shown to produce exclusionary effects on substantive citizenship across the world. When applied to land and property, quintessential sites for the making and unmaking of citizenship, the ensuing interpellation of citizens into laboring on their data, shows that digitization of government extracts a form of digital labor in which benefits accrue to groups and organizations beyond the laboring individual.

About Nafis Hasan

Nafis Hasan is an assistant professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Amsterdam and a visiting fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his PhD in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Californiain 2021.

His research focuses on the impact of digital technologies on the state in India, examining the technopolitics of digital media, material politics of public institutions, and technological policies for governance. His current project explores the cultural politics of the datafication of health in projects addressing infectious diseases.

Nafis has received support for his work, including grants from the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Institute of Indian Studies, and several grants from UCLA.

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