Amade M’Charek

Amade M'Charek

Amade M’charek, PhD, is Professor of Anthropology of Science at the Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, where she acts as the director of the research group Health, Care and the Body. M’charek is PI of the RaceFaceID project (, an ERC-consolidator project on forensic identification and the making of face and race, and co-PI of the NWA project Pressing Matter: Ownership, Value and the Question of Colonial Heritage in Museums. Her work has centred on the ir/relevance of race in science and society focusing on genetics and forensic practice, exploring issues of post_coloniality, temporality and identity. Through her recent research on migrant death, she has developed an interest in forensic methods for studying (post)colonial relations, circulations and extractions.

Professor Anthropology of Science
Department of Anthropology University of Amsterdam
The Netherlands



M'charek, Amade

Title of keynote:

Haunted: On Race as an Absent Presence in Scientific Practice

Race and science entertain a long and troubled relation. However, the second world war and the publication of the UNESCO document on Race in 1951 are typically seen as a turning point after which race has increasingly become irrelevant or even obsolete in scientific research. While race has been declared dead and confined to a troubled passed, in this talk I argue that scientific practices, psychiatry included, are haunted by the specter of race since histories tend to materialize in practices and cannot simply be left behind. I suggest that race is best seen as an absent presence, and something that requires more care and attention. I will draw on examples from the field of forensic genetics to make this more concrete. Forensic genetic technologies have constituted a major change in criminal investigation and rightly celebrated as the ultimate identifier of the individual suspect. A more recent application, DNA phenotyping, promises to deliver clues about the physical appearance of an unknown suspect based on DNA found at the crime scene. I will show that while this technology is aimed at the face of the individual, it necessarily produces a racialized collective.