Keynote Time and Location:  7pm, Academic West Room 210 (main floor), reception to follow address (in Skybridge). Maps & Parking Information.

amademcharekAmade M’charek
Professor Anthropology of Science
Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

Amade M’charek is Professor of Anthropology of Science at the department of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests are in forensics, forensic anthropology and race. She is the PI of the project Dutchness in Genes and Genealogy, a project examining how Dutchness is enacted in collaborations between population geneticists, archaeologists and genealogists. M’charek is also the PI of the project Sexuality & Diversity in the Making. She is the founding chair of the European Network for the Social Studies of Forensics (EUnetSSF) and the convenor of the seminar series  Ir/relevance of Race in Science and Society. Her most recent research is on face making and race making in forensic identification, for which she received a five-year ERC consolidator grant in December 2013. Learn more about Dr. Amade M’charek at her website.

Keynote Abstract

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

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.


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