Identifying suspicious bodies? Historically tracing the trajectory of criminal identification technologies in Portugal

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Abstract

This article explores how criminal identification technologies evolved in Portugal since the end of the 19th century: from anthropometric measurements to descriptive, photographic, dactyloscopic and genetic methods. The historical trajectory of these identification technologies allows us to reflect on the continuities and discontinuities of past and current practices that aim to inscribe the individual identity as a bureaucratic category. The chronological and geographical contexts are fundamental to understand the archival uses of different techniques that seek to document (on paper and electronically) the suspicious body. Through the collection of documentary evidence (such as case files, reports, personal records and legislation), this historical analysis situates the use and implementation of these techniques in the Portuguese context. We demonstrate that the need to identify the criminal and to follow technological developments has been constantly used as a political argument to legitimise the implementation of these technologies. But we also conclude that these identification procedures tend to be extended to the entire population, widening the political will to identify and monitor not only “suspicious” bodies but also those who are regarded as “respectable” citizens.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-47
JournalSurveillance & Society
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes

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