In the era of COVID-19, registration has emerged as a daily practice of governance. The ‘test and trace’ system, for example, is a spatial practice of registration which documents movement to and through community venues. Yet, at the same time as official uses of registration have expanded, so too has public engagement with the record, as citizens and institutions have sought to catalogue the daily experience of life during a pandemic.

This current topic invites reflection on everyday practices of registration. Is it a bureaucratic tool of governance used to authenticate and measure or does registration have a role in the everyday and, if so, how might the human impulse to document interact with official uses of the register?

The current topic is open to those examining registration across a wide range of socio-legal subjects including the documentation of relationships, births and deaths, sex/gender, title and land, public and green spaces, voters, migration, animals, cars, and the non-human. The topic also seeks to explore parallels and intersections with broader regimes of bureaucracy such as cataloguing, archiving, or tracing. The term ‘registration’, then, is interpreted broadly to include, for example, legal and bureaucratic forms, state documentation, wills and deeds, or census and population surveys.

The current topic invites critical reflections, empirical case studies, theoretical and conceptual analysis, and creative or personal thoughts on registration.

Suggested topics include but are not limited to:

  • Registration in COVID-19

  • Digital bureaucracies

  • Bureaucratic spaces and community hubs

  • Writing, list-making, and line-drawing

  • Registration and governmentality

  • Everyday moments of documentation


Jessica Smith (