Identifying Suspicious Bodies? Historically Tracing Criminal Identification Technologies in Portugal



Miranda D (2020) Identifying Suspicious Bodies? Historically Tracing Criminal Identification Technologies in Portugal. Surveillance and Society, 18 (1), pp. 30-47.

This article explores how criminal identification technologies evolved in Portugal since the end of the nineteenth 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 understanding 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. This article demonstrates 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 it also concludes 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.

Identification Technologies; Portugal Criminology Citizenship; Historical Analysis

Surveillance and Society: Volume 18, Issue 1

FundersFundacao para a Ciencia e Tecnologia
Publication date31/03/2020
Publication date online16/03/2020
Date accepted by journal04/04/2019
PublisherQueen's University Library

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Dr Diana Miranda

Dr Diana Miranda

Lecturer in Criminology, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

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