Facing the unknown suspect. An inquiry into 'the face' generated through Forensic DNA Phenotyping
(University of Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
The aim of this paper is to dissect the face (or rather, faces) of the unknown suspect that come into being through forensic DNA phenotyping, and by thinking with these four faces examine the ways in which race comes to figure in this practice.
Paper long abstract:
Forensic DNA phenotyping is a technology geared towards inferring externally visible characteristics from DNA traces found at crime scenes. In criminal cases that have hit an impasse, it can be used to predict a suspect's physical appearance, with characteristics such as eye, hair and skin color inferred from particular parts of the DNA to generate the suspect's face. The aim of this paper, then, is to dissect the face (or rather, faces) of the unknown suspect that come into being through this technology, and examine the ways in which race comes to figure in the process. I examine four versions of the face that bring into view what race becomes through DNA phenotyping. The paper starts out by taking the face as a molecular configuration of genetic parts, then looks at it as a computational landscape, moves on to the face as an infrastructure that enables particular genealogies of knowledge to travel and finally considers the affective work the face does as it is sent out into the public sphere. By thinking with these four faces, this paper shows how and when race materializes in the forensic practice of DNA phenotyping.
Topologies of race: bringing a touchy object in STS