The Art of Identification

The Art of Identification network has been funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) networking grant.

The art of identification project

The aim of the network is to bring together a range of academics and practitioners in order to explore the interconnections between practical techniques of human identification and the artistic representation of personal identity. The methods by which people have proved, or been assigned, their identities have varied over time – from Early Modern insignia to the contemporary strobe light of a retinal scanner – and the term ‘identification’ can also be taken to mean a number of things, including the determination of individual personhood via paperwork, bodily examination, verbal testimony, and digital recording. This subject has been of recent interest in historical and social scientific scholarship. However, the unique perspective offered by juxtaposing these forms of representing identity with those more traditional forms of representation (literature, art, screen media) has been somewhat overlooked. Put simply, the question of who we are, in the practical sense of identifying individuals via their documents and bodies, has remained curiously absent from the question of who we are in terms of our intimate portrayals of subjectivity. The Art of Identification network aims to redress this imbalance via four linked workshops and through collaborative publication.

Project team

Principal Investigator: Dr Rex Ferguson (University of Birmingham)

Steering Committee: Professor Melissa Littlefield (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Dr James Purdon (University of St Andrews)

External resources


Four workshops:

  • ‘Facts and Fictions’, 13 October 2015, University of Birmingham
  • ‘Image and Information’, 8 December 2015, University of St Andrews
  • ‘Bodies of Evidence’, 29 March 2016, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • ‘Displaying Identity’, 28 June 2016, University of Birmingham