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Biology and Criminology: Data Practices and the Creation of Anatomic and Genomic Body ‘Types’

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

The use of biometrics for the creation of visual ‘body types’ needs continued criminological engagement. This article discusses Lombroso’s practice of typing ‘born criminals’ vis-à-vis genomic phenotyping used to identify potential suspects. Both are prevalent examples of scientizing police and legal work. While Lombroso draws on anatomy to explain causes of criminal behavior, phenotyping is based on genomic and physiognomic correlation to help identify suspects. Despite these differences, both forms of visualizing bodies, we argue, are also a practice of marking. Especially in the context of crime and crime control, marking is a sensitive and political practice. Since typing is embedded in criminology, our analysis is also a critical engagement with criminology itself.


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