337 Cohen Hall
Mitra Sharafi, University of Wisconsin
Systems for the collection and analysis of forensic evidence in late colonial India were designed to minimize corruption, particularly the alteration and fabrication of evidence by low-ranking workers - implicitly South Asian - in the police, railroads, and postal service. This talk examines allegations of corruption made circa 1900 against medico-legal actors who were British, and the ways in which these episodes threatened credibility claims made for the new field of medical jurisprudence. I will explore the cases of assistant chemical examiner, W.S. Newman, who was dismissed for drinking the alcohol he was supposed to be testing and for improper analysis of bloodstains; Patrick Hehir, author of a leading treatise in medical jurisprudence who may have interfered in proceedings related to a high-profile abortion case in order to avoid prosecution himself; and civil surgeon C.V. Falvey, who was accused of taking bribes and altering his testimony in a series of sex crime cases. The talk will reflect upon the power concentrated in forensic experts in colonial India, and how the implicit end of creating a less contested and "embarrassing" version of western science became particularly problematic when European experts abused their power.
Co-sponsor with South Asian Studies