Giorgio Agamben: Green Pass

[Translation posted December 3, 2021. Original at Quodlibet. Agamben uses the word ‘tesserati’ to refer to those with the Green Pass (and ‘non tesserati’ to refer to those who don’t). In other contexts, ‘tesserati’ is frequently used to refer to members of an organization, club, or political party, so Agamben’s use of the word here seems to connote more than the mere holding of a pass, but a kind of membership or belonging. I’ve tried to capture that connotation by translating ‘tesserati’ as ‘documented’ and ‘non tesserati’ as ‘undocumented’. Of course, the idea of documentation calls up a whole different set of political struggles, so I recognize the limitation and imperfection of this translation. My intention is simply to convey the political connotation of belonging—and not merely factual holding of a pass—in Agamben’s use of ‘tesserati’.]


In an earlier text, we showed the unjust discrimination against a class of citizens excluded from normal social life that follows from the introduction of the so-called Green Pass. This discrimination is a necessary and calculated consequence, but not the primary purpose of introducing the Green Pass, which is aimed not at the excluded, but at the whole of the population that has the pass. The end which governments are pursuing is in fact a detailed and unconditional control over citizens’ every movement, completely analogous to the internal passport under the Soviet regime that everyone was required to have to be able to move from one city to another. However, control is in this case even more absolute because it’s concerned with every movement of the citizen, who will have to show the Green Pass at his every movement, even to go to the movies, attend a concert, or sit in a restaurant. Paradoxically, the undocumented citizen will be freer than the one who is; indeed, the documented masses—who from now on will be counted, surveilled, and controlled to a degree without precedent, not even in more totalitarian regimes—should be the very ones to protest and rebel. It’s significant that China announced that it will maintain its systems of tracking and control even after the end of the pandemic. As should be obvious, the Green Pass is not a question of health, but of control of the population, and sooner or later, even the documented will have occasion to understand it at their own expense.

July 19, 2021
Giorgio Agamben