ID Troubles: The National Identification Systems in Japan and the (mis) Construction of the Subject

Thumbnail Image
Ogasawara, Midori
ID Card , Identity/Identification , Surveillance , Inclusion/Exclusion , Colonialism , Modernity , Others , Technology , Citizenship , Resistance
Modern Japan established three kinds of national identification (ID) systems over its population: Koseki, Alien Registration, and Juki-net. The Koseki system is a patriarchal family registration of all citizens. It began in the 1870s when Japan’s nation-state was developed under the emperor’s rule. Koseki used traditional patriarchal hierarchy and loyalty to construct subjects for the Japanese Empire and reify a fictional unity among the “Japanese” people. Until today, this disciplinary element has functioned as the norm for organizational relations in Japan. The Alien Registration System requires non-citizens to register and carry an ID card to distinguish “foreigners” from “Japanese”. This system stems from surveillance techniques used over the colonial populations in the early twentieth century: the Chinese in the colony of “Manchuria”, in northeast China, and the Koreans on the Japanese mainland. Although the empire collapsed after World War II, the practice was officially legislated to target Koreans and Chinese who remained in post-war democratic Japan. Juki-net is the recently established computer network for sharing the personal data of citizens between government and municipal authorities. Juki-net attaches a unitary ID number to all citizens and gives them an optional ID card. Juki-net uses digital technology to capture individual movement, so the system is direct, individualistic, and fluid. It has expanded the scope of personal data and shifts the foundation of citizenship to state intervention. This thesis examines how these three systems have defined the boundary of the nation and constructed categories for its subjects, which have then been imposed on the entire population. Drawing on the theories of Foucault’s bio-power and Agamben’s bare life, I explain how the national ID card systems enable the state to include and exclude people, use them for its own power, and produce subjects to support the state. Although this process is often hidden, the scheme is a vital part of the current proposal to use national ID card systems in the global “war on terror”. I argue that the national ID card systems impose compulsory classifications on individuals, threaten the public’s rights against state intervention, and spread “bare life” across the population.
External DOI