Composite method: experimenting with the absent presence of race in film and facial composite drawing
Ryanne Bleumink (University of Amsterdam)
Lisette Jong (University of Amsterdam)
Ildikó Plájás (University of Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
The authors produced an experimental setting in collaboration with two forensic artists to study how race comes to matter in police facial composite drawing. This methodographical paper combines written text with experimental montage to analyze the enactment and slipperiness of race in practice.
Paper long abstract:
This paper is about ways of knowing how race comes to matter in the practice of police facial composite drawing. Researching technologies of vision in the setting of criminal investigations, we encountered a mundane problem, namely limitations to use visual material collected in the field due to its sensitive nature. In order to advance our analysis of technologies of vision and the production of (visual) differences in the context of facial composite drawing, we developed an experimental film project in collaboration with two of our interlocutors. We produced an experimental setting in which we worked together with the forensic artists. In this setting one of the authors operated the audio-visual equipment, another was present as the ethnographer taking field notes and the third acted as the witness collaborating with the composite drawer to produce a facial depiction of an unfamiliar person that she had seen on a photograph. We recorded the process using different technologies, as such producing different materializations of the event: written text, audiotape, film, drawing, sensorial experience. The experimental setting opened up a reflexive space for all participants, albeit not necessarily in the same way. Tinkering with the generated materials allowed the authors to carefully analyze the enactment and slipperiness of race in practice. The resulting methodographical paper combines written text with experimental montage to address three different practices through which race seems to take shape in the process of making facial composite drawings: 1) haptic vision; 2) layering and surfacing; and 3) overlooking the normal.
Methodography of data practices in STS's ethnographic collaboration and participant observation