B®anding Blackness: Biometric Technology and the Surveillance of Blackness
Beginning with a discussion of an 1863 carte de visite of Wilson Chinn, a branded slave, chapter 3 examines early applications of biometric surveillance and draws a link between contemporary biometric information technology and transatlantic slavery. The diary of English planter Thomas Thistlewood, written accounts of the slave trade, runaway slave notices, and cartes de visite are analyzed in this chapter to argue that the history of branding in transatlantic slavery anticipates contemporary social sorting. Using Frantz Fanon’s concept of epidermalization, this chapter charts a genealogy of digital epidermalization by focusing on branding and the role of prototypical whiteness in the development of contemporary biometric information technology, such as fingerprint data, retina scans, and facial recognition. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the branding of blackness in contemporary capitalism with a focus on actor Will Smith’s blockbuster movies that market biometric information technology: Enemy of the State, Men in Black, and I, Robot.