The (in)visibilities of race through Forensic DNA Phenotyping technologies
(University of Minho)
Helena Machado (University of Minho)
Rafaela Granja (University of Minho)
Paper short abstract:
The paper discusses the performative processes in which race is continuously being built within recent DNA technologies and explores the (in)visibilities of race through the perspectives of professionals who accompany directly the automatic exchange of genetic profiles to fight cross-border crime.
Paper long abstract:
Criminal intelligence has been growing considerably over the last decades through the development of several genetic identification technologies. One of these latest technological innovations is Forensic DNA Phenotyping (FDP) that aims to infer selected externally visible characteristics and the biogeographic ancestry of criminal suspects using biological materials collected at crime scenes. As biogeographic ancestry predictions result from the division and differentiation of populations through continents or population groups, associations between these and categories of race and ethnicity are often made. Complementarily, externally visible characteristics predictions also incorporate specific ethnic and racial classifications. This results from the assemblage of individuals' data based on the idea that they share particular visible characteristics or a set of visible traits. Critical voices and STS scholars have highlighted how FDP technologies can easily, but at the same time invisibly, reaffirm biological categories of race and accentuate processes of discrimination and racialization of certain population groups, making them more vulnerable to suspicion.
Within a context of increasing criminalisation of minority population groups, race has reappeared at the surface in the last decades as a political object. Inspired by the conceptualization of race's absent presence, we discuss the performative processes in which race is continuously being built. Conclusively we explore the (in)visibilities of race through the perspectives of professionals who are accompanying directly the automatic exchange of genetic profiles to fight cross-border crime, under the so-called Prüm system.
Topologies of race: bringing a touchy object in STS