The invention of identification technologies is deeply connected with the surveillance of colonial populations. Fingerprinting, the forerunner of biometrics, was created by the British police in colonial India in 1897, and was also employed in Manchuria and Northeast China under Japanese occupation from the 1920’s to 1945. Why did fingerprint identification attract the Japanese imperialist power, and how effectively was it practiced? We examine narratives surrounding the Japanese identification systems in Manchuria, especially regarding Chinese workers who were placed under severe surveillance, and discuss how a similar scheme survived the lost war and was actually legitimated in post-World War Ⅱ Japan. The expansion and transformation of biometric power can be seen in the Japanese government’s repeated attempts to establish “perfect” identification systems.
Surveillance has spread from ex-colonial populations to foreign workers and to citizens, culminating in recent legislative changes concerning enhanced technologies.