• Machine Readable Race: Constructing Racial Information in the Third Reich

    Author(s):
    Luke Munn (see profile)
    Date:
    2020
    Subject(s):
    Culture--Study and teaching, Culture--Data processing, Computers, History, Germany, Race, Ethnicity
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    computation, dehomag, punch-card, reich, Computational culture studies, Computer history, German history, Race/ethnicity
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/rxta-fp35
    Abstract:
    This paper examines how informational processing drove new structures of racial classification in the Third Reich. The Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft mbH (Dehomag) worked closely with the government in designing and integrating punch-card informational systems. As a German subsidiary of IBM, Dehomag’s technology was deployed initially for a census in order to provide a more detailed racial analysis of the population. However the racial data was not detailed enough. The Nuremberg Race Laws provided a more precise and procedural definition of Jewishness that could be rendered machine-readable. As the volume and velocity of information in the Reich increased, Dehomag’s technology was adopted by other agencies like the Race and Settlement Office, and culminated in the vision of a single machinic number for each citizen. Through the lens of these proto-technologies, the paper demonstrates the historical interplay between race and information. Yet if the indexing and sorting of race anticipates big-data analytics, contemporary power is more sophisticated and subtle. The complexity of modern algorithmic regimes diffuses obvious racial markers, engendering a racism without race.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    1 year ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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