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Monday, January 28, 2019 @ 12:45 pm - 2:00 pm

The Center for the Study of Law and Society 
is pleased to announce the next speaker in the Spring 2019 CSLS Speaker Series




Binyamin Blum is Associate Professor of Law at UC Hastings College of the Law


Presenting his paper

“Going Ballistic: The Forgotten Origins of Forensic Firearm Identification”

On November 19, 1924, the British Governor-General of the Sudan and commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Army was assassinated in broad daylight in central Cairo. Though many had witnessed the act, authorities encountered great difficulty in investigating the murder and discovering the offenders. Unable to rely on eyewitnesses, authorities turned to a novel science to try the culprits: forensic ballistics. The murder trial became the first in which the unique markings of a mass-produced weapon were used to determine guilt, sending eight defendants to their death. Following this trial, the novel science of forensic ballistics served to convict other defendants in cases that had until then remained unsolved.

By exploring the Egyptian origins of forensic ballistics, this paper illustrates the colonial roots of forensic culture more broadly. It demonstrates forensic science’s necessity in an environment of mutual distrust between colonizers and colonized, and the eagerness of British authorities to apply such novel sciences to “others”—especially during times of emergency when exigency justified their use. New forensic sciences such as ballistics, tool-mark identification, fingerprinting, foot-printing and dog tracking enabled the colonial state to police and punish even in the absence of community cooperation, and without the aid or presence of eyewitnesses. Less restricted by time and space, the colonial state became—and appeared—omnipresent and omniscient.

In reexamining the origins of forensic ballistics, the paper also challenges conventional wisdom concerning how forensic sciences enter the judicial process: rather than judicial recognition relying on “general acceptance” within the relevant scientific community, the origin story of forensic ballistics suggests that expediency, rather than scientific soundness, proved to be the crucial factor.



Please join us on Monday, January 28 from 12:45-2:00p in the Philip Selznick Seminar Room, 2240 Piedmont Ave. 


A draft of “Going Ballistic: The Forgotten Origins of Forensic Firearm Identification” is available in hard copy at the Center.
Coffee and water are provided. We invite you to bring your own “bag lunch.”
We are looking forward to seeing you soon!


Jonathan Simon, Faculty Director

Rosann Greenspan, Executive Director



Monday, January 28, 2019
12:45 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


Center for the Study of Law and Society


Philip Selznick Seminar Room
2240 Piedmont Ave
Berkeley, CA 94720-2150 United States
+ Google Map

Events are wheelchair accessible. For disability-related accommodations, contact the organizer of the event. Advance notice is kindly requested.

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