Facing the unknown suspect: forensic DNA phenotyping and the oscillation between the individual and the collective

We ethnographically examine these Forensic DNA phenotyping practices within and beyond the laboratory to demonstrate how the promise of individuality—namely the face of the suspect—comes with the production of collectives

Roos Hopman; Amade M’charek


Scholarcy highlights

  • Forensic DNA phenotyping encompasses a set of technologies geared towards inferring externally visible characteristics from DNA traces found at crime scenes
  • The faces in the top row display the average effects of ancestry on facial shape, the heat maps in the bottom row each show different things
  • This typically depends on which analyses were requested by the prosecutor, the amount of DNA available, and analyses previously performed on the trace
  • HVR refers to Hyper Variable Region, one part of the mitochondrial DNA genome
  • These translations became clear through an interview the first author conducted with Dutch police officers on 05/10/2017
  • This technology was provided to Parabon by a US lab that works on predicting facial morphology
  • We thank all the members of the laboratories for their openness and patience in introducing us to phenotyping technologies

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