Alphonse Bertillon and the identification of persons, 1880-1914 is an online project aiming to develop a collective, multidisciplinary, and international approach of the history of police identification at the turn of the century. The project revolves around the figure of Alphonse Bertillon and offers an overview of his background, his work, and the innovative techniques he directly contributed to. This transition period was marked by a regime change that deeply altered the way people were identified – identification became a key issue at every level of the structure of societies, as the links between authorities and their constituents underwent profound changes. Certain issues, although not quite new – how do we recognize persons, or define their identity? – suddenly came to the fore as first-order political issues, mobilizing experts from multiple scientific fields.
Judicial developments and policing research played a crucial role in this evolution, as the movement initiated in France by Alphonse Bertillon quickly sparked a global surge in the creation of identification departments. After being first applied to delinquents and criminals, use of these novel techniques was extended to larger categories of the population, whom police authorities specifically wanted to monitor. The general public was able to discover these techniques in the press and at international fairs, a dissemination which quickly brought about a multitude of other projects, further extending the influence of judicial identitification into the civil society. Indeed, the legal field directly influenced a number of civil practices, such as the reorganizing of census or civic registration operations.
Several topics will be considered in particular:
- The International Dissemination of Judicial Identification.
The purpose is to list the various identification departments that were created throughout the world, and document the political and institutional climate that presided over the implementation of specialized set-ups within police and justice departments, especially in Europe and the Americas. Very little research has been devoted to the implications of the identification of persons in a colonial context. This area might also be researched by exploring the specifics of the regulatory frameworks and identification technologies that were applied to colonized populations, as well as the numerous discussions and reactions elicited by the systems that were deployed. This will enable a comparative study of the various colonial empires, thus enriching our knowledge of both the administration of individuals and the judicial field in that context.
- Knowledge Networks and Identification Technologies.
We are considering promoting original work about person identification technology. Research pertaining to the inception of such technologies – e.g. anthropometry, criminal photography, or dactyloscopy – and to a socio-history of identification science is encouraged. Little is known about the dynamics of the knowledge background against which these technologies have developed. Multiple scientific fields converge at the crossroad of identification science. The influence of certain areas – such as anthropology, medicine, and forensic medicine – and scientists from such diverse fields as bibliography, chemistry, or natural science, needs to be better understood. The consequences of the use of novel identification techniques in judicial inquiry procedures is another possible lead for investigation.
- Identification Practices
Particular attention will be paid to identification practices. In the policing area, interactions between the various forces involved in person identification deserves some rigorous analysis work, based especially on local case studies, which are in short supply in our knowledge of these practices. The teaching of identification techniques and learning, the implementation of specific didactics, and issues in the training of officers may be considered as well. More broadly, topics deserving in-depth treatment include the transmission of a body of knowledge and the implementation thereof, organizational aspects of the institutions contributing to their dissemination, regulatory set-ups, and the daily work of officers.
This call for papers welcomes 30,000-sign articles in French or English. These contributions will be published online, within the framework of Alphonse Bertillon and the Identification of Persons, 1880-1914, a website hosted by the Criminocorpus platform (Criminocorpus, a Portal on the History of Justic, Crime, and Punishment.) Selected articles will be posted online in html format and can be supplemented by iconography and documents.
Authors interested in submitting a paper are invited to send a 3,000-sign abstract before september 1, 2010. Abstracts will be evaluated by the project coordinators. The deadline for paper submission is October 1, 2010. Accepted articles will be posted online on January 1, 2011.
Subsequent publication of online articles in book format (either in English or French), sometime during 2011, is currently under consideration.
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