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Article Title

Proving Identity

First Page

731

Last Page

798

Document Type

Article

Abstract

United States law, over the past two hundred years or so, has subjected people whose race rendered them noncitizens or of dubious citizenship to a variety of rules requiring that they carry identification documents at all times. Those laws fill a gap in the policing authority of the state, by connecting the individual’s physical body with information the government has on file about him; they also can entail humiliation and subordination. Accordingly, it is not surprising that U.S. law has almost always imposed these requirements on people outside our circle of citizenship: African Americans in the antebellum South, Chinese immigrants, legally resident aliens. Today, though, there’s reason to think that we’re moving closer to a universal identity-papers regime.

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