Accepted paper:

Suspects' origin and DNA databases as a source of problematization

Author:

Joëlle Vailly (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation analyzes how DNA-based tests aimed at inferring suspects’ origin have been problematized (Foucault), in France. It shows that the question of the databases, real or perceived, compiled by laboratories and their potential political uses played a crucial role in the problematization.

Paper long abstract:

Forensics has started using new DNA-based tests aimed at inferring suspects' geographic origin. This presentation analyzes how recent practices in this domain have been "problematized", in Foucault's sense of the term, in the French republican context, and the role of the potential uses of any databases compiled by laboratories in this problematization. First, the launch of these new genetic tests is examined, offering a way of thinking through the work accomplished by actors who both fuel the pre-conditions for problematization and seek to deconstruct it. Then, I will focus on how this problematization is expressed, questioning the arguments used particularly by opponents who called upon ethical and political concerns regarding data use. Finally, current state regulations in this regard are outlined, showing how "points of problematization" have been construed. The study shows that the question of the databases, real or perceived, compiled by laboratories using these tests of origin and the potential political uses that could be made of them played a crucial role in the problematization. The potential discrimination of certain populations contrived to curb use of these tests in France, whereas it had very little impact on the use of traditional DNA profiles. The implications of this study for social science research on origin and on the life sciences will be discussed.

panel T084
Technologies of Criminalization: On the convergence of forensic and surveillance technologies