Criminal Faces: Beauty, Race and Criminality in Western Thought and the Development of Digital Profiling

Presented by Edward Higgs

Monday, 21 June, 2021 - 16:00

Artificial intelligence systems are being developed to identify known ‘criminals’ through facial recognition profiling, and also to identify criminal physiognomies of those considered to be potential criminals. Such systems are being created in the global north and are known to imbed racial and social biases into what are believed to be ‘objective’ policing practices. The paper will examine the long history of criminal physiognomy in the West, that has provided precedents and contexts for the development of such systems by computer scientists and criminal psychologists. Subjects to be covered would include the ancient Greek concept of kalokagathia (the beautiful are virtuous), branding and tattooing, Cesare Lombroso and L'uomo delinquent, the composite photography of Francis Galton, and Alphonse Bertillon and creation of the mugshot. The racist assumptions underlying the development and deployment of Western criminal physiognomy will be stressed.

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