Accepted paper:

Working with stereotypes in facial composite drawing

Author:

Ryanne Bleumink (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic data from one year of fieldwork at the Dutch police, this paper attends to the enactment of race in general and the work of (stereo)types in particular, in the forensic setting of facial composite sketching.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic data from one year of fieldwork at the Dutch police, this paper attends to the enactment of race in general and the work of (stereo)types in particular, in the forensic setting of facial composite sketching. While describing the face of an unknown suspect or perpetrator, witnesses are often unable to verbalize the appearance of the individual they saw. To overcome this challenge, forensic artists and witnesses not only ask questions, use reference materials or relate to known objects or subjects for explanation, but they call upon (stereo)types. These (stereo)types are used to describe overall physical appearance: such as facial shape, hairstyle, skin-color and expression, of the unknown individual. By doing so, they shift between and tinker with, the individual face and 'the' collective face, or rather, the face of 'a' composed collective. Stereotypes are usually approached with suspicion and critiqued for their reductionist mode. Rather than pointing out which (stereo)types are called upon and what these are, the focus in this paper is on what these (stereo)types, as devices, do in their situated practices. How do these devices relate to race and what else do they bring about?

panel E08
Topologies of race: bringing a touchy object in STS