Accepted paper:

The Body as Evidence: Postcolonial Histories of Law and Society

Author:

Itty Abraham (National University of Singapore)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the intersections and contradictions between the long history of the body as a source of evidence in the colonial courts (e.,g tattoos, fingerprinting) and today’s in-corporated technologies of identification and surveillance, from brain scans to DNA testing.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the intersections and contradictions between the long history of the body as a source of evidence in the colonial courts and today's in-corporated technologies of identification and surveillance. Fingerprinting, DNA testing, brain scans, polygraphs, and truth serums are all techniques of identification that have come to be seen as means of offering unimpeachable judicial truth. Indian biopolitical projects, beginning with the colonial census and including the ongoing Unique Identification project (Aadhar), have also come to foreground the body and body parts by using the latest biometric technologies, including retinal scans. Together, these judicial and political practices have produced a national database composed of discrete body parts that join social institutions with political discourses of rights and entitlements: a biopolitical apparatus. Reading a recent Supreme Court decision (Selvi vs. Karnataka) against the movement to ban amniocentesis demonstrates that each apparatus produces competing visions of society, individual rights, and the public interest. Hence, politics becomes redefined as a struggle over establishing one vision of society over another while the possibilities of social change become reduced to crisis management.

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