'Facts and Fictions' - First Workshop of 'The Art of Identification' Network, University of Birmingham, Tuesday 13 October 2015

full name / name of organization: 
The Art of Identification

The Art of Identification network, funded by a networking grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) intends to bring together a range of academics and practitioners in order to explore the interconnections between practical techniques of human identification and the artistic representation of personal identity. The methods by which people have proved, or been assigned, their identities have varied over time โ€“ from Early Modern insignia to the contemporary strobe light of a retinal scanner โ€“ and the term 'identification' can also be taken to mean a number of things, including the determination of individual personhood via paperwork, bodily examination, verbal testimony, and digital recording. This subject has been of recent interest in historical and social scientific scholarship and has been developed via work by, amongst others, Caplan & Torpey (2001), Cole (2002), Groebner (2007), Higgs (2011), Breckenridge and Szreter (2012), About, Brown and Lonergan (2013) and Gowland and Thompson (2013). At the same time an emerging field of interdisciplinary study in the cultural implications of various forms of information gathering and forensic sciences has arisen. Particular examples of this can be found in the work of Chu (2006), Littlefield (2011) and Burney and Pemberton (2013). The Art of Identification network asserts that both these areas of research (history of identification and cultures of forensics/information) can most fruitfully be developed through the interdisciplinary sharing of their methodologies โ€“ particularly their contrasting approaches to the significance of 'representation' (artistic or otherwise) in the generation of knowledge. The focus on human identification potentially opens new ways of considering the representation of personal identity that move beyond the identity politics model which foregrounds class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality towards a more individuated, 'forensic', form. This approach has been so far overlooked in humanities research: put simply, the question of who we are, in the practical sense of identifying individuals via their documents and bodies, has remained curiously absent from the question of who we are in terms of our intimate portrayals of subjectivity.

The Art of Identification Network will be advanced through four interlinked workshops, the first of which will take place on Tuesday 13 October 2015 at the University of Birmingham. This workshop, entitled 'Facts and Fictions' will interrogate the boundaries between fact and fiction that are brought out by the profiling of criminal identities by forensic psychologists and the depiction of character (criminal or otherwise) in contemporary fiction, film and TV and should prompt careful reflection on the boundaries between positivistic disciplines, creative processes and critical practices. Modern forensic psychology utilizes an array of information in the production of detailed criminal profiles while contemporary fiction and screen media borrows from these techniques in its depiction of character. Central to this workshop is the question of how factual such fictional representation thus becomes and, conversely, how imaginative are the models of identity created by forensic profilers in the first place.

A number of participants have already been confirmed for this workshop but interested parties are welcome. The topic is particularly relevant for literary scholars, film and new media academics, creative writers and those with an interest in forensic psychology but we are keen to hear from any academics or practitioners who feel their work is appropriate. If you would like to attend please email theartofidentification@gmail.com to confirm your place.

There will be a limited number of places available for those who wish to propose a presentation too. The adopted format is 20-minute papers designed to appeal to academics and practitioners from a range of disciplines. 300 word abstracts and a recent CV should be sent to theartofidentification@gmail.com by Friday 14 August 2015.

Full details of the network can be found at http://artofidentification.com.