Workshop: Identity Documents in Use

Event, 22-23 September 2022, Vienna, Austria

Organizer: Sigrid Wadauer


The workshop deals with the co-production and use of identity documents from a historical and interdisciplinary perspective. Establishing the identity of persons was (and still is) fundamental for a variety of tasks and operations of the state. In the course of the last centuries, various forms of identification and registration became subject to ever more precise state regulations and were adapted or fully taken over by state authorities. Yet, at the same time, practices of identification, registration and categorization of individuals were never exclusively a matter of statehood and citizenship, subject to governmentality, bureaucracy, surveillance and migration control. Identity papers were not exclusively produced and used by or vis á vis state authorities. Historically, various parties could be (and remained) involved in practices of identification and registration, ranging from religious organizations, trade or occupational associations, employers, unions, political organisations, landlords, welfare organizations, companies, creditors, or recreation clubs. Such parties provided information, produced data, checked documents, or even issued their own papers. They fulfilled tasks assigned to them, while following or adopting regulations issued by authorities with (greater or lesser) enthusiasm or accuracy. At the same time, the parties involved in such tasks often pursued their own agendas, producing and using papers for their own purposes. Individuals – who in most cases are seen as wholly subjected to identification, surveillance, or control – contributed to the production of their official identities in a variety of ways: by complying with official directives and cooperating with authorities; by initiating administrative processes themselves, (co-)producing information, forging documents or dealing with missing or incoherent documents; and by avoiding or boycotting identification. It is not always apparent or conclusively established where in such entanglements state bureaucracy started or ended.

In order to investigate why certain forms of identification functioned historically as successful or failed, or were altered, or varied in an international context, the workshop will reflect on the diversity of contexts and constellations in which documents were produced and used and in which the parties involved interacted in consensus or conflict.



The workshop will take place from 23.9. 2022 at the University of Vienna (Main building, Universitätsring 1, 1010 Vienna, TP, seminar room 1 and 4) in a hybrid format. Participation is free of charge, but registration is required.

To register, please send an email to before 12.9.2022