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Laws of the Face: Re-Staging Forensic Art as a counter-forensic device

Smith, K (2020) Laws of the Face: Re-Staging Forensic Art as a counter-forensic device. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Laws of the Face is a multi-modal, participant-observer study of forensic cultures of human identification which pursues practical and theoretical objectives as complementary, focusing on methods of post-mortem facial depiction as forensic objects whose socio-cultural affordances have been overlooked. Recognising Forensic Art’s epistemological precarity within forensic science and ontological ambiguity as art, the cultural in/visibilities of the dead are considered through theories of faciality, photography and necropolitics, and the operational work of post-mortem forensic depictions is resituated with reference to the counter-forensic (Keenan, 2014a; Sekula, 2014), forensis (Weizman, 2014) and Humanitarian Forensic Action (Cordner and Tidball-Binz, 2017), with the work of citizen/netizen allies suggesting new ways to extend the forum of relational citizenship and forensic care (M’Charek and Casartelli, 2019). An operational study undertaken in a medico-legal facility in Cape Town (South Africa) results in an evidence-based framework which supports the routine uptake of standardised post-mortem facial imaging/depiction in complex operational contexts, informed by ways in which the so-called ‘migrant body’ is forcing change and innovation in forensic methods internationally. Fieldwork and semi-structured interviews (n=70) with forensic deathwork practitioners internationally provide a grounded analysis of the state of the field, culminating in a new critical framework for post-mortem Forensic Art as a form of ‘extra-ordinary deathwork’ (Moon, 2020), characterised by its re-mediating actions located both in the process of the work itself, and in the work these images are expected to perform, forensically and well as socially. Conventional frameworks of expert/amateur knowledge are challenged, and pracademic exchange promoted. The main tenets of the thesis are performed by an online artwork called Speaking Likeness, comprising eighteen audio-visual portraits of forensic artists in which aspects of the hidden curriculum of this work is revealed through embodied knowledge and arts-based research.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Forensic Art; Counter-forensic; post-mortem identification; facial imaging; citizen forensics; South Africa; global forensic cultures; pracademic; multimodal; Arts-based research
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NB Sculpture
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA1001 Forensic Medicine. Medical jurisprudence. Legal medicine
Divisions: Art & Design
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2021 09:47
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2022 10:39
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00014304
Supervisors: Wilkinson, C, Fisher, S and Fallows, C
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14304
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