"No two fingerprints are alike," or so it goes. For nearly a hundred years fingerprints have represented definitive proof of individual identity in our society. We trust them to tell us who committed a crime, whether a criminal record exists, and how to resolve questions of disputed identity.
But in Suspect Identities, Simon Cole reveals that the history of criminal identification is far murkier than we have been led to believe. Cole traces the modern system of fingerprint identification to the nineteenth-century bureaucratic state, and its desire to track and control increasingly mobile, diverse populations whose race or ethnicity made them suspect in the eyes of authorities. In an intriguing history that traverses the globe, taking us to India, Argentina, France, England, and the United States, Cole excavates the forgotten history of criminal identification--from photography to exotic anthropometric systems based on measuring body parts, from fingerprinting to DNA typing. He reveals how fingerprinting ultimately won the trust of the public and the law only after a long battle against rival identification systems.
As we rush headlong into the era of genetic identification, and as fingerprint errors are being exposed, this history uncovers the fascinating interplay of our elusive individuality, police and state power, and the quest for scientific certainty. Suspect Identities offers a necessary corrective to blind faith in the infallibility of technology, and a compelling look at its role in defining each of us.
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—William Blake, Jerusalem (1804-1820) i Identification at a Distance In the
1920s, one by one, American law enforcement agencies either introduced new
criminal identification files indexed according to fingerprints or gradually phased
The battle was initiated by New York City Police Commissioner Richard E.
Enright, a new "professional" type of policeman who liked to apply business
principles to law enforcement. In 1921 Enright convened a mammoth National
must remain vigilant against the application of genetics to the fields of
criminology and penology.1 In the past, diagnostic identification always
foundered eventually, and law enforcement institutions settled for forensic and
archival applications ...
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SUSPECT IDENTITIES: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal IdentificationUser Review - Kirkus
A critical look at the origins of criminal identification and the impact of changing technologies on the field.Cole, who received his Ph.D. in science and technology studies from Cornell, cautions ... Read full review
Suspect identities: a history of criminal identification and fingerprintingUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Most of us still think of fingerprint analysis as a kind of gold standard of criminal forensics, expressly developed as an indisputable means of catching the bad guy. Cole points out that these ... Read full review
Jekylls and Hydes
Measuring the Criminal Body
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