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Title:"Passport Please": The United States Passport and the Documentation of Individual Identity, 1845--1930
Author(s):Robertson, Craig Murray
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McCarthy, Cameron
Department / Program:Chemistry
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Mass Communications
Abstract:This dissertation uses the emergence of the passport in the United States to explore the social and cultural origins, development and deployment of the documentation of individual identity in the United States from the 1840s to the 1930s. Specifically this history asks how did a piece of paper come to be officially accepted as a truthful and accurate answer to the question, who are you? It answers this question through a history of the modern problematization of identification. In the nineteenth century officials usually relied on subjective sensory methods when they needed to identify citizens and aliens: skin color, accent, clothing and general deportment. By the early decades of the twentieth century a new racial, economic and state formation had developed in the United States that exposed the limitation of these practices. Official identification had become understood as an archival problematic of the classification, coordination and circulation of information. A history of the passport provides purchase on the emergence of a documentary regime which offered a way for the state to actively remember its population. In this history of the possibility of identification documents I argue that the practices of verification deployed in the emergence of a documentary regime were contested. Documentary practices were enforced through accommodations to multiple interpretations---from officials who viewed documents as a challenge to their authority, to various groups who read the application process and the requirement to carry a passport as a questioning of their honesty. I analyze this contestation through the relationship of state officials and policies to three sets of subjects: citizens, immigrants and travelers. The centralization and standardization of identification practices produced tensions around the establishment of impersonal forms of evidence and trust, and the response to the collapsing of personal identity into categories of bureaucratic eligibility. These produced an official identity which rendered identity in a form that enabled it to be governed. The novelty of these practices also produced an awareness that the state viewed its citizens as objects of inquiry. My sources are the records of the State Department and the I.N.S., congressional records, popular periodicals, and newspapers.
Issue Date:2004
Description:319 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2004.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3131015
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2004

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