The New Passport-Poor

Press Coverage

The New Passport-Poor

The New York Review of Books, 5.21.18

The adoption and standardization of travel documents on an international scale has as much to do with technology as it does with geopolitics. Until there were ways to move quickly over land and sea, it was easier to keep people in with walls, moats, fences, or coercion. But as transportation sped up and countries or empires became more interconnected by trade and by war, controls on the movement of people increased, too. It’s hard to know exactly who the first “passport” holder was, and where his or her document was issued, but according to John Torpey, a professor of sociology and history at The Graduate Center, CUNY. and the author of The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship and the State (2000), there’s evidence that early identity controls were internal — that is, within a country, province, or empire.

Submitted on: MAY 21, 2018

Category: GC Press Coverage | Sociology