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Our Environment in Miniature: Dust and the Early Twentieth-Century Forensic Imagination

Ian Burney
Representations
Vol. 121, No. 1 (Winter 2013), pp. 31-59
DOI: 10.1525/rep.2013.121.1.31
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/rep.2013.121.1.31
Page Count: 29
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Our Environment in Miniature: Dust and the Early Twentieth-Century Forensic Imagination
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Abstract

This article explores the articulation of the crime scene as a distinct space of theory and practice in the early twentieth century. In particular it focuses on the evidentiary hopes invested in what would at first seem an unpromising forensic object: dust. Ubiquitous and, to the uninitiated, characterless, dust nevertheless featured as an exemplary object of cutting-edge forensic analysis in two contemporary domains: writings of criminologists and works of detective fiction. The article considers how in these texts dust came to mark the furthest reach of a new forensic capacity they were promoting, one that drew freely upon the imagination to invest crime scene traces with meaning.

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