Suspect Identities by Simon A. Cole
A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 2 Critic Reviews



"No two fingerprints are alike," or so it goes. For nearly a hundred years fingerprints have represented definitive proof of individual identity in our society. We trust them to tell us who committed a crime, whether a criminal record exists, and how to resolve questions of disputed identity.

But in Suspect Identities, Simon Cole reveals that the history of criminal identification is far murkier than we have been led to believe. Cole traces the modern system of fingerprint identification to the nineteenth-century bureaucratic state, and its desire to track and control increasingly mobile, diverse populations whose race or ethnicity made them suspect in the eyes of authorities. In an intriguing history that traverses the globe, taking us to India, Argentina, France, England, and the United States, Cole excavates the forgotten history of criminal identification--from photography to exotic anthropometric systems based on measuring body parts, from fingerprinting to DNA typing. He reveals how fingerprinting ultimately won the trust of the public and the law only after a long battle against rival identification systems.

As we rush headlong into the era of genetic identification, and as fingerprint errors are being exposed, this history uncovers the fascinating interplay of our elusive individuality, police and state power, and the quest for scientific certainty. Suspect Identities offers a necessary corrective to blind faith in the infallibility of technology, and a compelling look at its role in defining each of us.


About Simon A. Cole

See more books from this Author
Simon A. Cole is Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at University of California, Irvine.
Published October 30, 2002 by Harvard University Press. 382 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, Crime. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Suspect Identities

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

in science and technology studies from Cornell, cautions that the history of criminal identification reveals that forensic, archival, and diagnostic identification have always been intertwined as society has sought to identify the perpetrator of a crime, link the criminal to past activities, and ...

| Read Full Review of Suspect Identities: A History...

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

Cole's comprehensive first book investigates the tangled intersections of scientific identification and law enforcement, entering similar territory as Colin Beavan's Fingerprints (see review above), but with more rigorous detail and attention to historical ambiguities.

| Read Full Review of Suspect Identities: A History...

Reader Rating for Suspect Identities

An aggregated and normalized score based on 9 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review