Guest talk by Julia Harrington Reddy on ‘Magical Thinking: What Documentation of Identity Achieves’

Date: 12-4-2017

Description: Julia Harrington Reddy from Open Society Foundations delivered a talk titled ‘Magical Thinking: What Documentation of Identity Achieves’ on 12th April 2017.


In the past decade, states around the world have, at an accelerating rate, instituted requirements that their citizens or residents have id cards. Why are states willing to devote such significant resources to these projects and why, in states that have long had requirements, is the effort repeated so often?

The Open Society Justice Initiative works globally on anti-discrimination issues. This talk will draw upon the Justice Initiative’s projects in Kenya, Nepal, and other countries to reveal links between discrimination, citizenship, documentation of identity, and technology.

The answer lies more in culture, psychology, technology and bureaucracy than it does in practical concerns. The Justice Initiative’s work suggests that documentation requirements, contrary to all rhetoric, often institutionalizes marginalization. Although documentation of identity does not obviously affect established rights, the Justice Initiative has used a right framework to challenge this marginalization.

About the speaker

Julia Harrington Reddy is the head of Equality and Inclusion at the Open Society Justice Initiative, which is part of the Open Society Foundations. She has worked in the African regional human rights system for a decade before joining the Justice Initiative. She is based in New York.

CITAPP at IIIT Bangalore is an interdisciplinary think-tank set-up to focus on the policy challenges and the organizational demands made by technological innovation. Of particular interest to the Centre is how technological advances, along with institutional changes that harness the legitimacy and the powers of bureaucracies and market, address the needs of underserved communities.