Probabilistic reasoning and the rhetorical reconstruction of DNA profiling evidence

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Karen Richmond


forensic science, visual research methods, DNA profiling, rhetoric of science, probabilistic evidence


The co-production of forensic–scientific knowledge claims, across disciplinary boundaries, requires the mobilisation of separate (and competing) domains of expertise. The task of the interdisciplinary socio-legal researcher – exploring the collaborative practices which contribute to the construction of DNA profiling evidence – is, therefore, a complex one. It requires an understanding of the ways in which the heterogeneous groups of institutional actors, who populate the criminal justice system, set about capturing biological substrates. Further, it requires the researcher to follow a complex series of laboratory translations: technological metamorphoses, which serve to convert evidential material into graphical representations, textual inscriptions, and probabilistic outputs. This paper explores the ways in which these dynamic processes may be more comprehensively understood through the use of visual research methods. Further, it demonstrates the capacity for socio-legal modelling to contribute to interdisciplinary forensic research.

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