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.

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.

INOGS Conference – presentation

Elisabeth Anstett will deliver the paper ‘Undesirable corpses: Destruction of bodies and denial of memory in the Gulag’ on 6 December 2014 at the INGOS conference in Cape Town.

By examining the Soviet concentration system, the paper will address the burial procedure (or lack thereof) for the millions of prisoners sentenced to forced labour from 1918. It is a notable feature of the Soviet State that they did not return the bodies of the dead to their families. The paper will interrogate the variety of practices used on the bodies to dispose of them “without a trace”, and the effects the issues this raises on the memory of the Soviet camps today.

For the full conference programme, please see here.

Call for papers – Material traces of mass death

The international event ‘Material traces of mass death: the exhumed object’ will be held on 4th-6th November 2015, Marseille.

Within the context of a historiography and of practices in renewal, the multidisciplinary team wishes to pursue reflections on a particular dimension of the material traces of mass deaths. If mass graves shelter human residues of the victims they also contain various objects, which equally challenge professionals of exhumations, researchers or relatives of the victims. Too often left aside (except by archaeologists), being considered appendices of skeletal left overs, these objects are not only rich in information, but they are also carriers of emotions and multiple interrogations. It is to these objects, signifying per se, their function in the practice of exhumation and their uses posterior to the practices of reburial and maintenance of memory, which this seminar is devoted.

Papers may focus in a non-exhaustive manner on the following themes:
- The object as a source: The object in a mass graves is a major carrier of knowledge: it represents one of the fundamental elements of expertise, anthropological treatment and scientific data.
- The object as a sign: Material traces of the massacre, which constitute the object, refer to the human being whom possessed it as a sort of metonymy and therefore disposes of a stronger evocative power. Thus the objects find themselves in the centre of the museum’s representations of mass violence.

The paper proposals, approximately 300 words and written in French or in English, should be accompanied by a brief CV (1 page maximum) and sent before the 12th January 2015 to the following address: objetsfosses@gmail.com

Fore more information please see here.

Conference – Traité des nouveaux droits de la mort

pgm-TDM1Il n’existe aucun ouvrage juridique à ce jour qui embrasse les questions funéraires et du cadavre de manière exhaustive. Afin de combler ce manque, le colloque projeté et organisé sous l’égide de l’association Collectif l’Unité du Droit offre une dimension transdisciplinaire qui sera valorisée non seulement à travers le prisme juridique de l’Unité du / des droit(s) (public, privé, pénal, historique, européens, etc.) mais encore au-delà des frontières juridiques en faisant appel à la médecine, à l’anthropologie, à l’histoire, aux arts, à l’urbanisme, aux religions, à l’économie, à la bioéthique, à la philosophie, etc.).

Ie projet s’articule autour de deux grandes thématiques (I. La mort, activité(s) juridique(s) et II. La mort, incarnation(s) cadavérique(s)) qui déboucheront sur des propositions concrètes (et notamment législatives) à l’instar d’une nouvelle définition du cadavre et de son statut juridique.

Le colloque <Traité des nouveaux droits de la mort> aura lieu à l’Université du Maine (13 & 14 novembre 2014) avec pour porteur principal le laboratoire Themis-Um.

Workshop: Towards a criminology of mass violence and the corpse

AFF Towards Criminology 06112014-page-0Criminology emerged in the 19th Century as a Europe-wide technology of enquiry into crime and its control. Despite this, European criminologists have only very recently begun to confront the mass atrocities committed on continental soil and in the name of the imperial/ideological ambitions of member states. This workshop aims to contribute to the development of a European criminology of mass violence and genocide.

Bringing together leading European scholars of crime and punishment whose work touches on mass violence, together with experienced practitioners of forensic archaeology and humanitarian emergency response, the workshop has four principle aims: (i) to contextualise the area by analysing trends in the prevalence and nature of European mass violence and corpse disposal; (ii) to understand the socio-legal status and forensic value of cadavers, together with their potential criminological value; (iii) to describe theory and methods that can make sense of the treatment and distribution of dead bodies by perpetrators; and (iv) to understand the links between the legal/professional handling of corpses in peacetime and the illegal handling of them in times of conflict. In so doing, we hope to lay some of the foundations for theoretical, methodological and practical engagement with the subject matter, better understand how societies do and do not come to terms with a legacy of mass violence, and assist in the important project of re-ascribing value to radicallydevalued lives.

The workshop, organised by criminologist Jon Shute, will be held at the University of Manchester on 6th-7th November 2014. Please see the programme here and contact: l.radford@corpsesofmassviolence.eu
for further information.