The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Reviews > Book



Vanishing Body and Fingerprints: Kazumichi Hashimoto's Fingerprint Theory - from Spiritualism to Biometrics

Yuki Shimada
Assistant Professor of the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University (School of Culture, Media and Society)

Have you ever thought about the link between your name and your body? A person's name is arbitrary. Because one could have been given a different name, no matter what kind of stories his name may have. Also, no matter how much you insist that your name and body are binded (coidentity), this is not a way to certificate objectively your identity for a complete stranger. Furthermore, when it comes to coidentity between the recent body and the body etched in peoples' memories and pictures or other documents, —even those close to the person might not be able to tell they are the same person— so we have to rely on technology and systems to objectively record physical characteristics. In other words, for our names and bodies to acquire coidentity according to society, it is necessary an objective way to prove coidentity for other people to accept this proof. This also means that our identity (or coidentity) is an uncertain thing, influenced significantly by identification technology and other peoples criteria.

The Kazumichi Hashimoto's Fingerprint Theory is a book that questions even these identification systems that were developed to overcome this uncertainty. In this book, the author critically examines the different detachments that exist with identification systems such as family registers, anthropometry, portraits and fingerprinting. For instance, the detachment between name and body; the body recorded in pictures and text detaches from the body that is changing constantly over time; and also fingerprints detached from the body as the “matrix”. An interesting approach is that the author's research uses Galton's Finger Prints as a starting point. Galton, as the father of eugenics, tried to decipher in the fingerprints specific differences and hereditary traits. Since race and origin are irrelevant to the formation of fingerprint patterns, this attempt ended into failure. However, Galton's failure is a striking evidence of the fact that fingerprints can not be used to trace the body that had stucked them on. The recently introduced fingerprinting biometric identification systems, at the moment the scanned fingerprints are being matched with recorded data, vanish the body in some sense. Since the other body parameters of the owner of those fingerprints are unnecessary for identification.

When your identity is being checked, there are probably some times that you feel a kind of concern, as if your own existence and body are being left behind. By following the trial and error involved in the creation of various identification systems, this book will show you the true nature of your concern.

Kazumichi Hashimoto. Fingerprint Theory - from Spiritualism to Biometrics. Seidosha, 2010 (recipient of the 2nd Incentive Award from the Association for Studies of Culture and Representation [Hyoushou Bunkaron Gakkai])

Yuki Shimada
Assistant Professor of the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University (School of Culture, Media and Society)

Graduated from German Literature Department of Faculty of Humanities, Ibaraki University, and entered current post after time in Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University. (Resigned as of March 31, 2011) Majors in body image and media theory. Published titles include "Dressing Up" (coauthored, Suiseisha), "Master German Grammar in 30 Days" (coauthored, Natsumesha), and published articles, "Immunity, Security, and Condoms- the Advertisements for AIDS Prevention Campaigns in Germany-"( in "Studies of Media, Body, and Image"),etc.