Identification Practices and Techniques in Austria, 18th-21st Century

ÖAW/DOC Team - 09/2010-10/2013

Christoph Musik is Recipient of a DOC-team-fellowship of the Austrian Academy of Sciences at the Department of Social Studies of Science, University of Vienna (supervision: Ulrike Felt).

Identification Practices and Techniques in Austria, 18th–21st century

A interdisciplinary research project funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (DOC-team).

The aim of the interdisciplinary research project is to explore the negotiation and implementation of individual identification – which is part of an ongoing and controversial public debate – in a long-term perspective. We focus on the situation in Austria and place it in a European and global context.

We will examine how identification techniques are negotiated, developed and implemented by different human and non-human actors, in institutions of the police, scientists and computer engineers. A basic theoretical reference is Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory. We do not write a linear story, but instead we pay attention to the expectations and failures that are part of the development of identification strategies and thereby investigate a dynamic process.

We want to compare which personal features, especially body features, are supposed to identify a person in our three research contexts: how classifications are made, how such features are standardized in an early modern, technical and algorithmic context. In addition to these features, we are interested in the construction and attribution of individual and collective identities: These identities are part of identification processes, for example in the construction of individuals as criminals or beggars.

We are interested in the connection between identification and surveillance. By that, we want to contribute to an ongoing debate that includes privacy issues, individual and collective identities, public and private surveillance. By focussing on three different historical and social settings, we want to deliver distinguished explanations that are often missing from public debates.

Our common research interests will enhance an ongoing theoretical and methodical discussion within our project and lead to an additional value of our individual dissertations.


Christoph Musik

This project is funded within the DOC-programme Austrian Academy of Sciences.

For further information visit the project’s webpage & blog: