Doing Face in Forensic Identification and Generous Methods for Studying Race
Intervenante Amade M’CHAREK (University of Amsterdam)
La séance sera discutée par Joëlle Vailly (Iris, EHESS, coordinatrice du projet ANR Fitege).
The face deserves more attention. In everyday life the face is ubiquitous. Yet in social theory the face is rather absent. In this paper I want to move beyond the representational model and attend to the work that a face can do, and to what the face is capable of. I introduce the concept of the tentacular to analyze how the face draws certain publics together and how it feeds on that public to assume content and contours. My examples come for the field of forensic genetics, where DNA-phenotyping is used to produce a ‘composite face’ of the unknown individual. I will show that this novel technology is not so much aimed at the individual suspect but at a suspect population, clusters of individuals. I argue that this population is racialized through the biologization of the phenotype. This process prompts the question: what is race? To answer this, I suggest that we need to ‘care’ for race, i.e., to invent methods that are open-ended and allow us to follow race around and examine how it shifts and changes in practice. I propose the concept of generous methods to show that the slipperiness of race is not simply a matter of ‘multiplicity’ (Mol 2002); race is not only an ‘object multiple’. As a word and a practice, race refers to different kind of things. Different realities. I will argue that the slipperiness of race can be grasped if we consider race to be an object, a method as well as a theory. Three different yet connected realities.
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