Proof of Death: Police Power and the Visual Economies of Seizure, Accumulation and Trophy


Justice Studies

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The phrase proof of life describes visual evidence meant to prove a kidnap victim or prisoner of war is alive. As developed here, proof of death describes a similar technique of seizure and display practiced by hunters, native warriors, soldiers and narco-traffickers meant to denote hunting prowess, domination and death. This article elaborates upon these representational practices, extending them to “police trophy shots”, the police practice of displaying large sums of money, illicit drugs, weapons and other seized materials. In the context of precarious late-capitalist economies, trophy shots as proof of death usefully reveal how police are actively involved in seizing the means of subsistence and administering, displaying and celebrating everyday domination and death.

Journal Title

Theoretical Criminology