Forensic Citizens: The Politics of Searching for Disappeared Persons

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

The aim of the fellowship is to build upon my track record of publications and further consolidate my contributions
to academic and stakeholder understandings of the citizen-led practice of forensics amidst atrocities. I will build a
research agenda that revalues the actions of non-state agencies, communities, and families in creating new search
technologies. After a very productive doctoral fieldwork, this fellowship will give me the necessary time to analyse
data that was collected during my ethnographic work in Mexico, Colombia and Bosnia. Due to the time and format
constraints of a PhD thesis there is data which couldn't be included in the final document. The fellowship will give
me the time I need to analyse, write and further develop my contribution to human geography, science and
technology studies and cognate disciplines.

During the Fellowship I will participate in career development activities: organise an international knowledge exchange
workshop at Durham University to collaboratively write a 'Guiding Principles' document on citizen-led
practice of forensics. The workshop participants will be families of missing persons and forensic practitioners
coming from Mexico, Ireland and the UK. I will write three journal articles to be published in top tier journals(Social
Studies of Science, Political Geography and Society and Space); and consolidate and expand my research networks
in the UK.

The world-leading research carried out at the Durham Geography makes it the ideal host department to make
these interdisciplinary conversations happen. This project will benefit from Louise Amoore's research on Data,
Security and Ethics of new technologies; Gordon McLeod's work on Grenfell Tower; Lauren Martin's work
on Border and Migration Policy; Jonathan Darling's research on the politics and ethics of forced migration, as well
as Cheryl McEwan's research on Postcolonial Studies and Development

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description During the fellowship, I built upon my track record of both, my academic publications and those directed to the general public. I published the paper: Lists, Maps, and Bones: The Untold Journeys of Citizen-led Forensics in Mexico, Victims & Offenders, 15:3, 350-369, DOI: 10.1080/15564886.2020.1718046. This paper is the outcome of the invitation received by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC and the Migration Policy Centre, to participate in the International Conference on Organized Crime and Gender. The research I presented informed the creation of teaching modules for the UN funded project Education for Justice (E4J). E4J has been developed to create and disseminate education materials in UNODC mandated areas of crime prevention and criminal justice across the primary, secondary and tertiary education levels.
I also published guest articles for the Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Hub, The Conversation and Animal Politico (in Spanish).

I held a series of workshops with families of disappeared persons in Mexico in order to co-design a "Monografía". This is a learning tool (similar to a comic strip) used across primary and secondary schools in Mexico. During the workshops we develop a comic strip on 'Forensic Citizens' to create a greater understanding of the different forensic practices that families have established in order to locate their disappeared loved ones. I am in contact with the Ministry of Higher Education in Mexico in order to use this tool in classrooms.
I enhanced and cultivated new academic and practitioner networks to develop impact opportunities. I held meetings with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), I was invited to the horizon-scanning workshop on The future of science in crime and security at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. I was selected as a consultant on participatory methodologies and ethnography in difficult scenarios to the IOM's Missing Migrants Project. I was invited to be part of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Missing Persons Global Community of Practice. In July 2019, I visited the ICRC's archives in Geneva and held meeting with the Head of the Forensic Team. I've been invited as a speaker in the Keynote Panel on 'Transformative Digital Practices' at the American Association of Geographers meeting in Denver in April 2020.

I was interviewed by CNN en Español to give an expert opinion in relation to the Mexico City's plan to create a Forensic DNA Database to combat rape and violence against women. 25th September, Available at: https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/video/ley-banco-adn-forense-sheinbaum-violencia-pkg-rey-rodriguez-perspectivas-mexico/
As an output of the workshops held with families of disappeared persons; musicians and bioinformaticians, we are developing a new research project around: data science, embodiment, and music.

New research partnerships: In collaboration with colleagues from Durham Law School we successfully applied for GCRF funds to create a Network on Labour/Data Justice in the Global South. I am particularly looking at Data Justice and Domestic workers in Mexico.

Conferences: I presented my work at the American Association of Geographers' meeting in Washington; and was an invited speaker at the workshop on Global Perspectives on Kidnapping and Crimes of im(mobility) at El Paso, Texas.
Exploitation Route The learning tool we developed can be used by the Ministry of Education in Mexico to provide a wider understanding of the activities that families of disappeared persons are conducting in order to locate their loved ones. I am also, socialising this learning tool in other international forums such as in the the ICRC's Missing Persons project in which I am member of the global community of practice.

In the academic context, the concepts of 'forensic citizenship' 'citizen forensics' and 'forensic citizens' have been taken up by other academics to discuss its outcomes and implications. See for instance: http://www.isrf.org/about/fellows-and-projects/res3-1/
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description A London-based play-writer wrote a play based on parts of my research (https://www.theatreo.co.uk/). I had meetings with her and in April 2019 a preliminary performance was presented at Shoreditch Town Hall in London. We are still in touch to continue with our collaboration. We are in touch with the Ministry of Education in Mexico, in order to use the 'monografía' on Forensic Citizens as a learning tool across Mexican schools and universities. The monografía will also be available in the fellowship website.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting - Washington DC 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation at the panel on 'Feminist Digital Geographies' organised by Agnieszka Leszczynski & Gillian Rose. After my participation on this panel I was invited to the next years' AAG as a Keynote panel member on 'Transformative Digital Practices'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Forensic Citizens: Searching for Disappeared Persons in Mexico 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I held a series of workshops with families of disappeared persons in Mexico in order to co-design a Monografía. A learning tool (similar to a comic strip) used across primary and secondary schools in Mexico. During the workshops we develop a comic strip on 'Forensic Citizens' to create a greater understanding of the different forensic practices that families have established in order to locate their disappeared loved ones. I am in contact with the Ministry of Higher Education in Mexico in order to use this tool in classrooms.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Ley Banco de ADN forense en la Ciudad de Mexico 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was interviewed by CNN en Español to provide an expert opinion in relation to the Mexico City's plan to create a Forensic DNA Database to combat rape and violence against women. 25th September 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/video/ley-banco-adn-forense-sheinbaum-violencia-pkg-rey-rodriguez-perspec...