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Boletim do Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi. Ciências Humanas

Print version ISSN 1981-8122


GALEANO, Diego. Identity enciphered in the body: the bertillonnage and the anthropometric office in the police of Rio de Janeiro, 1894-1903. Bol. Mus. Para. Emílio Goeldi. Ciênc. hum. [online]. 2012, vol.7, n.3, pp.721-742. ISSN 1981-8122.

In the early years of Brazilian Republic, several lawyers, criminologists and policemen broadcast a novelty recently arrived from France: the anthropometric system for identifying people, adopted at the Parisian police by Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914). The idea of introducing the method called bertillonnage appeared in Brazil, since 1889, in government reports, travel books and newspapers. An Anthropometric Office was installed in the police of Rio de Janeiro in 1894, but barely worked until 1899, when it was reorganized and, in 1900, the identification of criminals by the method was established by a government decree. Measuring instruments and books were brought from Paris, the 'metropolis' of police identification, but the history of the Anthropometric Office of the Brazilian capital should not be interpreted as a simple process of imitation of a foreign method. This article examines the transnational constitution of the bertillonnage and the complex processes of reading, translation and adaptation involved in the use of anthropometry in the context of police practices in Rio de Janeiro.

Keywords : Anthropometry; Police; Identification; Criminal files.

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