Keynote Abstract: (Sur)Face: Notes from forensic identification on race and sameness.

We are getting ready for the 2017 Cascadia Seminar and are looking forward to the keynote address by Dr. Amade M’charek:

(Sur)Face: Notes from forensic identification on race and sameness.
Amade M’charek

In this paper I explore the production of sameness and its relation to race by attending to the bioligization of the phenotype in forensic identification.

It has been widely observed that while the human genome speaks to the communality in the genes, the alleged 0,1% of genetic difference has become the prime object of attention in the life sciences. And as these things go, the 0,1% of difference has also caught the attention of an ever-growing scholarship in the social sciences and the humanities. It has been argued that while genetics is not upfront about racial classifications, its technologies and methods are contributing to the molecularization of difference and the production of race. Race thus dived under the sur-face.

In my paper I want to make two related interventions. First I will argue that rather than a molecularization, a zooming-in into the body, we are witnessing a growing interest for the surface of the body. We are witnessing the return of the phenotype. In genetics the phenotype (physical appearance) is increasingly biologized. I will draw on examples from forensic genetics and show the growing interest in the biology of the phenotype and particularly the biology of the face. I will argue that the giving of a face to an unknown individual (suspect or a victim), the aim of DNA-phenotying technologies, goes hand in hand with the doing of race.

Second, genomic research on human variation and its emphasis on markers of difference contributes to an idea that whereas differences are produced, similarities and sameness are given. Indeed, an emphasis on difference seems to suggest that in the context of race, differences might be political or a negative while similarities are curiously apolitical. The production of sameness, resemblance and equivalence has thus received little attention in critical analyses. In my paper I will to switch the focus from difference to sameness and explore its potential for understanding race.The well known case of Marianne Vaatstra will figure as my prime example to unpack the politics of sameness.

Download and share the keynote flyer here: cascadia_small_poster_white

Keynote Abstract: (Sur)Face: Notes from forensic identification on race and sameness.
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