Aletta Norval

Colchester, UK

I am Professor in the Department of Government at the University of Essex, UK, Consulting Editor of Political Theory, and a member of the Editorial Board of Theory & Event, an online journal.

My work on citizenship practices – the practical ways in which people enact and claim their identities as citizens - seeks to explore pressing questions around senses of citizenship and belonging. My current research on identity management and biometrics, drawing on my expertise in qualitative methods and political discourse analysis, examines how biometrics are affecting the way we embody our identities and perform specific roles as citizens through them. It also investigates how values such as accountability and transparency are being reformulated through the intermediation of digital spaces and technological devices. This expertise allows me to focus on the importance of exploring the political and policy consequences of the increasing centrality of online identities in everyday life. I am particularly interested in the emerging governmentality of digital identities and the way citizens perceive and manage their digital selves.

These interests link up with my research in an ECPR-funded project entitled IMPRINTS ( In this multidisciplinary, comparative research project, we examine popular, policy and professional expectations about identity management in the near future. We seek to address questions such as why we refuse ID-cards...but love our customer loyalty programs? Why are we concerned about electronic patient files.....but share many personal details on Facebook? Which taboos and desires will inform our responses to future technologies of identification and authentication?

My publications include: Aversive Democracy: Inheritance and Originality in the Democratic Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 2007); Deconstructing Apartheid Discourse (Verso 1996); in addition to articles in Political Theory, American Political Science Review, and Ethics & Global Politics. I have co-edited a number of volumes, including Practices of Freedom: Decentered Governance, Conflict and Democratic Participation (forthcoming 2013, Cambridge University Press) and Discourse Theory and Political Analysis.