Many of us have interacted with biometric technologies through facial scanners and fingerprints, either on our phone or at the airport. This talk will discuss how these technologies build on older racial research practices. Around 1900, anthropologists and biometricians introduced measurements and statistical methods in racial research to infuse it with precision. With skull-measuring instruments and formulas, they transformed skulls into data templates and quantified racial research. British and American researchers also used these metrical approaches to challenge racial dogmas, including Nazi racism. At the same time, the talk will show how they continued to reproduce old racial biases in their new methods and theories. Iris Clever's research thus reveals how biometric practices were considered objective and reproduced prejudices and assumptions. Presented by Dr. Iris Clever, SIFK Postdoctoral Researcher at the Rank of Instructor.
About the presenter: Iris Clever is a historian of science, medicine, and technology whose research explores why and how science measures what it measures. Much of her work is concerned with the quantification of bodies, the human experience of measurement practices, and the role bodies and technologies play in defining the relationship between objectivity and subjectivity in science. Her current book project, The Lives and Afterlives of Skulls, reveals how and why biometrics emerged in the 19th and 20th century as an innovative tool to shed new light on human variation while it continued to perpetuate old racial prejudices in algorithms, instruments, and human data. Iris teaches widely in history of science and medicine, cultural history, STS, race, and gender. She holds a Ph.D. in History from UCLA and a B.A. and M.A. in history from Utrecht University.