Forensic cultures in historical perspective: Technologies of witness, testimony, judgment

This article explores the history of forensic science in terms of ideologies and institutions rather than developing technique. It presents an analytical framework for characterizing forensic institutions and practices, past and present. That framework highlights the distinct issues of means of witness, accredited testimony, and the reaching of juridical decisions. The article applies the framework by comparing four forensic ‘formations,’ which have been prominent at various times and places in the western world from the early modern period onward: these are the central European heritage of the Caroline code, a Eugenically-oriented forensic enterprise of late nineteenth-century America, the forensic perspective in nineteenth-century British India, and the representation of forensic certainty in contemporary American popular culture. The article concludes with a critique of what seems an increasingly common expectation: that forensic science evolves independently of legal institutions, and can ultimately displace them
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2012.09.005
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Silvia De Renzi (2002). Witnesses of the Body: Medico-Legal Cases in Seventeenth-Century Rome. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 33 (2):219-242.

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