Accepted Paper:

The "technopolitics of likelihood": the French National DNA Database (FNAEG) and the comparison of genetic profiles  


Florence Paterson (MINES ParisTech, CNRS, PSL)
Vololona Rabeharisoa (MINES ParisTech)

Paper short abstract:

The technical and political dimensions of DNA profile comparison performed by the French National DNA database are considered in the light of internal discussions on the distinction between "rapprochement" and "identification".

Paper long abstract:

Our communication is about the French National DNA database, the Fichier National Automatisé des Empreintes Genetiques (FNAEG). This DNA database, created by a 1998 law and placed under the control of a magistrate, is exclusively used upon judicial requisition. Only in the context of a judicial investigation are the FNAEG staff authorised to run the DNA profile of a suspect or of a biological trace collected from an offence scene against the DNA database. In this paper, we consider the technical and political dimensions of this comparison practice - which the FNAEG staff call "rapprochement" (literally, bringing two or more DNA profiles together that resemble one another).

Based on the minutes of the meetings of the FNAEG technical committee responsible for the implementation of the DNA database, we followed the discussions on the distinction between "rapprochement" and "identification". This allows us to characterize the nature of this committee's expertise, which partakes to what we propose to call "technopolitics of likelihood". In contrast to discourses that celebrate or criticize the omnipotence of DNA evidence, this expertise calls for two observations: (i) it carries a specific definition of the legal nature of DNA evidence; (ii) it delimits the regal powers of the state invested in the DNA database, within the framework of a distribution of competences and prerogatives between science, police and justice.

Panel C01
Genetic technologies: intersecting criminal investigation, disaster victim identification and commercial uses