Accepted Paper:

The death, the living and the disappeared: bringing back absent bodies in mass atrocities through DNA, and cybernetic citizenship  

Authors:

Ernesto Schwartz-Marin (Exeter University)
Arely Cruz-Santiago

Paper short abstract:

DNA and dataveillance has been mobilised by citizens to search for truth when the state is involved in the crimes it investigates, bringing to life a participatory STS, that enrols mobile apps and grass-roots DNA databases, to face the challenges posed by mass atrocities, conflicts, and insecurity.

Paper long abstract:

Our DNA connects us to our ancestors, and our kin. Genetic connections pave the way for state surveillance, but also make possible to fight for human rights and political freedoms. For instance forensic DNA databases have been central to recover the identity of the disappeared during the dictatorships of the Southern Cone, and the civil wars and genocides in Central America. In Mexico governmental institutions officially recognise 161,000 violent deaths and 30,000 disappearances in the period between 2006- 2017; in a scenario characterised by the collaboration of the State and organised crime. This paper analyses how DNA and dataveillance has been mobilised by citizens to search for truth when the state is involved in the crimes it is supposed to investigate, and how a citizen-led forensic and anti-kidnapping model that engages with participatory research methods, mobile apps and grass-roots DNA databases, could address the challenges posed by mass atrocities, conflicts, and insecurity. I introduce the notion of cybernetic citizenship to talk about the emergence of civic practices that challenge the 'right order of things', in contexts where the dominant discourses of NGOs and governmental actors privilege a state-centred model of reparation and truth finding. In contrast to a programmatic form of civic participation and forensic science, I explore the contours of emergent, non-state centric and viral forms of scientific citizenship, that I think better respond to the challenges posed by organised crime and state sanctioned violence (s) in contemporary Mexico.

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