Keeping race at bay: familial DNA research, the ‘Turkish Community,’ and the pragmatics of multiple collectives in investigative practice

Irene van Oorschot*, Amade M’charek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In this contribution, we analyze the recently adjudicated Milica van Doorn rape and murder case. In this case, committed in 1992, no suspect could be identified until investigatory actors employed familial DNA searching in 2017. Crucially, familial DNA typing raised the possibility of ethnic and racial stereotyping and profiling, particularly against the background of the first case in which familial DNA typing was used in the Netherlands: the Marianne Vaatstra case, which from the start had been marred by controversy about the ethnicity of the unknown perpetrator. In our analysis, we show how criminal justice actors managed this potential for racialization through strategically mobilizing and carefully managing multiple collectives. Drawing on the notions of multiplicity and non-coherence, we show we do not only empirically trace the situated ethics and pragmatics of familial DNA research in this specific case, but we also develop a theoretical argument on the multiple and non-coherent character of race itself and its attendant ethical, political, and methodological possibilities and obligations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-573
Number of pages21
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements The authors wish to thank the editors of this special issue, especially Anne Pollock, for their support throughout the conception, writing and publication of this article. We also thank Lisette Jong, Roos Hopman and Peter de Knijff for valuable conversations about the case. Finally, this work is indebted to the support of the ERC, as the article was written in the context of the RaceFace ID Consolidator grant ( FP7-617451-RaceFaceID-Race Matter: On the Absent Presence of Race in Forensic Identification).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

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