Maria A. P. Woolson
Book review

Muller, Benjamin.
Security, Risk and the Biometric State. Governing Borders and Bodies, Routledge, 2010.
151 pp, ISBN: 978-0-415-48440-4

Benjamin Mueller’s Security, Risk and the Biometric State, Governing Borders and Bodies, is a thought-provoking book that offers a powerful insight into the dynamics of governance, biopolitics and international relations. Through careful examination of the relationship between risk and biometrics, seen as central constituents of the practices for securing national sovereignty, the book engages directly with some of the most contentious aspects surrounding its implications for security and contemporary life. In particular, Muller observes an evolving form of governing the population through modern technologies that, in shaping a culture of risk aversion and fostering a rise in centralized state authority are changing the border’s relations with the public. The author approaches the subject in a novel way and carefully interconnects topics of modern governance, liberal power and shifts in traditional understanding of liberty and agency to raise critical questions about cultural and sociopolitical ramifications of risk management practices that rely on sophisticated technologies.

Through a dynamic framing the book weaves together notions of risk, security, technology and identity to give rise to the concept of the ‘Biometric State’, in which these practices of encoding bodies foster a shift in governance. Muller builds this idea upon Foucault’s work on biopolitics, by revisiting the shift from governing a territory to governing of the population, and takes us beyond conventional notions of the modern liberal State to critically explore its current preoccupation with “power over life” as a contemporary deployment of biopolitics. As...


Maria Alessandra Woolson. "Security, Risk and the Biometric State: Governing Borders and Bodies (review)." Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies 15.1 (2011): 208-209.