Corpses Of Mass Violence and Genocide

In Europe, and all over the world, mass violence and genocides have been a structural feature of the 20th century. Our research programme, Corpses of Mass Violence and Genocide, aims at questioning the social legacy of mass violence by studying how different societies have coped with the first consequence of mass destruction: the mass production of cadavers. What status and what value have indeed been given to corpses? What symbolic, social, religious, economic or political uses have been made of dead bodies in occupied Europe, the former Soviet Union, Serbia, Spain but also Rwanda, Argentina or Cambodia, both during and after the massacres? Bringing together perspectives of social anthropology, law and history, and raising the three main issues of destruction, identification and (re)conciliation, this research programme conducted by anthropologist Elisabeth Anstett and historian Jean-Marc Dreyfus, will enlighten how various social and cultural treatments of dead bodies simultaneously challenge common representations, legal practices and morality. Programme outputs will therefore open and strengthen the field of genocide studies by providing proper intellectual and theoretical tools for a better understanding of mass violence’s aftermaths in today societies. This research programme, which started in February 2012 and will develop over four years, is financed through a grant from the European Research Council.

Event: Forensic Science and Human Rights

displaymediaSince the late 1980s, forensic science has played an increasingly important role in how societies and states address human rights violations. From the pioneering work of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense), established to investigate the cases of disappeared people under the military government in power from 1976 to 1983, to the efforts to identify the missing from the wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and in countries such as Chile, Peru, Guatemala, Cyprus, and Iraq, forensic science has become a means of intervening into post-conflict societies. Its expertise is now routinely sought to help compile medico-legal facts, evidence for use in judicial proceedings, as well as to recover and identify the remains of persons missing as a result of armed conflict and, in many cases, state-sponsored violence.

Recovering and identifying missing persons, however, is more than scientific intervention. It is a profoundly social process, often driven by those most intimately connected to the violence and its victims–that is, the families of the missing themselves. Exhuming bodies and returning them to grieving families and communities are also inherently political acts. Drawing on a range of both practical and theoretical expertise, this panel examines the work of forensic science in post-conflict societies, focusing on examples in Latin America and the former Yugoslavia, as well as a new initiative within the American Academy of Forensic Science.

Body as Witness: Forensic Science and Human Rights was held at George Washington University on 6 May 2015 and included panellists Luis Fondebrider, Adam Rosenblatt, Doug Ubelaker and Sarah Wagner.

Call for papers: Corpses, Burials and Infection conference: 4th – 5th December 2015 at CRASSH, University of Cambridge

It has become a truism to state that in times of epidemic infection, the bodies of the dead become morally, ontologically, and infrastructurally problematic. Nowhere has this been better demonstrated than in the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, when burials and the handling of corpses became arenas of contestation through which both local and scientific ‘cultures’ were placed on trial.

This conference will expand the discursive space that such narratives have created, by asking; how can we problematise the perception and treatment of corpses in situations of infectious disease outbreaks? How can we denaturalise burial as an obvious space of political and ethical contestation? What kinds of pollution narrative are specific to epidemic situations, and how have these historically interacted with arguments over contagion and infection? Moreover, how does the handling of the polluted corpse come to impact upon descriptions of the healthy body? Indeed, what is the place of the healthy body in a political economy geared toward answering the question of how to dispose of the corpse?

Papers are invited from across the medical humanities (anthropology, medical history, sociology, geography, etc.) as well as from public health perspectives. Abstracts of no more than 200 words are to be sent to Nicholas Evans (ne228 [at]cam.ac.uk) by the 1st July.

For more information please visit the website here.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal – Issue 1

HRVThe ‘Corpses of Mass Violence and Genocide’ programme is pleased to announce issue 1 of the new academic journal Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal with Manchester University Press.

This first issue – in line with the journal’s interdisciplinary scope – regroups articles from a variety of authors working in a diverse range of disciplines. Each article addresses issues concerning the identification of,  and /or political roles ascribed to, human remains generated by different events around the globe. Investigating the production of cadavers en masse following environmental  disasters, Claudia Merli and Trudi Buck focus on identification and identity politics in 2004 post-tsunami Thailand. Turning to the consequences of mass violence on the fate of human remains, Therkel Straede and Louise Zamparutti each explore the Second World War period, the former in Belarus and the latter in Italy, while Patricio Galella examines Francoist Spain. Turning to a more contemporary case, Admir Jugo and Senem Škulj investigate forensic work conducted in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Online submissions can now be made via the Human Remains and Violence ScholarOne website: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/hrv

Conference – Genocide in Srebrenica: towards a long-lasting memory

SrebrenicaThe Institute for Islamic Tradition of Bosniaks has organised the international conference “Genocide in Srebrenica: towards a long-lasting memory” to be held on 12 and 13 May 2015 at the Gazi Husrev-bey Library in Sarajevo.

The 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide will be marked on 11 July 2015. The Srebrenica genocide is the worst massacre to have occurred on European soil since the Holocaust where at least 8,372 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys were systematically executed by Bosnian Serb Army and Police. The genocide in 1995 was preceded by massacres and “ethnic cleansing“ throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina since the start of the war in 1992.

Conducted in English and Bosnian, the conference will open up the floor for dialogue about genocide denial, collective memory and remembrance.

As a part of the conference program, the exhibition “Mass graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina” from Muhamed Mujkić will also be opened on May 11, in the lobby of Ghazi Husrev – bey’s library at 19:00. The exhibition will run until 20 May.

For the full list of speakers and for more information please see here.

New publication – Truth versus impunity

AfricanrhetoricSévane Garibian has published ‘Truth versus impunity: Post-transitional justice in Argentina and the ‘human rights turn”‘ in the African Yearbook of Rhetoric (vol. 6, no.1, 2015, pp. 63–73).

This paper addresses the juridical treatment of the crimes committed by the Argentine dictatorship and divides the proceedings into two stages – the transitional phase proper (from 1983 to the 1990s) and the post-transitional phase (from the 1990s to the present day) – constituting a return from punishment to pardon, and back again. Both phases saw a number of abrupt turns, each corresponding to a shift in the paradigm through which the abuses committed by the military regime were confronted. The period between these two phases, meanwhile, saw the appearance of the ‘human rights turn’ based on a prescriptive injunction to pursue what was seen as a necessary fight against impunity for perpertrators of the most serious crimes. This development gave rise to new subjective human rights (such as the ‘right to the truth’) which would in turn contribute to developments in criminal law relating to these matters. The criticisms voiced in relation to this ‘criminalisation of human rights’, along with the highly complex and diverse nature of the Argentine experience, illustrate the uncertainties with which we are inevitably confronted when attempting to re-think the very notion of justice during a stage of political (post-)transition in the aftermath of a period of state-committed mass crimes, with the inevitable degree of creative transformation of the law and its functions that this entails.

For more information please see here.

New publication – De la rupture du consensus

ArmeniaSévane Garibian has recently published ‘De la rupture du consensus. L’affaire Perinçek, le génocide arménien et le droit pénal international’ in Le génocide des Arméniens: Cent ans de recherche 1915-2015 with publisher Armand Colin.

2015 – the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide – is also the year of the (ongoing) revision by the Grand Chamber of the Doğu Perinçek v. Switzerland judgment rendered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on 17 December 2013. This paper focusses on one of the arguments set forth by the ECHR in 2013 in which Swiss criminal jurisdictions in this case of genocide denial are disfavoured: the problematic argument based around the absence of a “general consensus” on the 1915 genocide. This contribution aims to shed light on the paradoxes and consequences of such an argument that calls, notably, for a historical perspective – and demands, in particular, that we look back on the history of international criminal law.

New publication – Human remains and mass violence: methodological approaches

HMR coverThis latest book from editors Elisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus outlines for the first time in a single volume the theoretical and methodological tools for a study of human remains resulting from episodes of mass violence and genocide. Despite the highly innovative and contemporary research into both mass violence and the body, the most significant consequence of conflict – the corpse – remains absent from the scope of existing research.

Why have human remains hitherto remained absent from our investigation, and how do historians, anthropologists and legal scholars, including specialists in criminology and political science, confront these difficult issues? By drawing on international case studies including genocides in Rwanda, the Khmer Rouge, Argentina, Russia and the context of post-World War II Europe, this ground-breaking edited collection opens new avenues of research.

Multidisciplinary in scope, this volume will appeal to readers interested in an understanding of mass violence’s aftermath, including researchers in history, anthropology, sociology, law, politics and modern warfare.

Human remains and violence: methodological approaches is available now. To purchase, please visit the publisher’s website or order using the form here.

New publication – Behind the material traces of Franco’s repression

Laura Muñoz Encinar and Julián Chaves Palacios have published the paper “Extremadura: behind the material traces of Franco’s repression” in a special edition of the journal Culture and History, presenting work from the long-running “Faces and traces of violence” seminars.

The paper analyses the mass executions linked to rebels’ occupation of territories in the Extremadura region of Spain throughout the Spanish Civil War and the post-war period. The authors pay particular attention to the systematic rearguard killings in occupied areas, elimination procedures carried out in concentration camps and prisons, and the fight against the armed guerrilla during the Franco dictatorship.

Fore more information please see here.

New publication – Space and the memories of violence

Space and violence coverPamela Colombo (Corpses of Mass Violence and Genocide programme) has published an edited collection with Estela Schindel on the relation between violence, memory and space: Space and the memories of violence: Landscapes of erasure, disappearance and exception.

Focusing on enforced disappearances and genocide as violent practices aimed at destroying and erasing the traces of the ‘enemy’, the contributions gathered inquire about the manifold spatial strategies of domination and violence, but also about the powers of memory, resistance and transformation. The originality and core contribution of this book lies in the dialogue it establishes between memory studies, on the one hand, and critical studies of space on the other. The bridging of these academic fields opens up a fertile and unexplored research area.

The volume brings together young academics and prominent international scholars from a variety of disciplinary fields, including Geography, Sociology, Political Science, Philosophy, Literature, Cultural Studies, Architecture and Theatre Studies. The authors engage with the spatial deployment of past and present violence in Argentina, Cambodia, Germany, Greece, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

Please click here for more information on the publisher’s website and a sample chapter.

Conference: Exhumed bodies and memory

imatge_antropologia_forenseOrganitza: Institut Català d’Antropologia (ICA) i ERAPI-Laboratori Cooperatiu de Socioantropologia. Amb la col·laboració de l’Insitut d’Estudis Catalans i el suport de l’Institut Ramon Muntaner i el Departament de Cultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya.

L’objectiu d’aquesta jornada és divulgar el treball efectuat pels professionals de l’antropologia en el marc dels processos de recuperació de la memòria de la repressió i la violència  durant la guerra civil i el franquisme, i en particular pel que fa als equips multidisciplinars que s’encarreguen d’exhumar fosses comunes.

Més informació aquí.