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.

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:

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:
for further information.

New publication – Destruction and human remains

Destruction bookDestruction and human remains: disposal and concealment in mass violence and genocide is the latest book from editors Elisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus, investigating a crucial question frequently neglected in academic debate in the fields of mass violence and genocide studies: what is done to the bodies of the victims after they are killed? In the context of mass violence, death does not constitute the end of the executors’ work. Their victims’ remains are often treated and manipulated in very specific ways, amounting in some cases to true social engineering, often with remarkable ingenuity. To address these seldom-documented phenomena, this volume includes chapters based on extensive primary and archival research to explore why, how and by whom these acts have been committed through recent history.

Interdisciplinary in scope, Destruction and human remains will appeal to readers interested in the history and implications of genocide and mass violence, including researchers in anthropology, sociology, history, politics and modern warfare.

Destruction and human remains is available now. To purchase, please visit the publisher’s website or order using the form here.

New publication – La consécration juridique de témoins oubliés

Sevane Garibian has published ”La consécration juridique de témoins oubliés: le juge argentin face au génocide des Arméniens”, in Carrières de témoins de conflits contemporains (2). Les témoins consacrés, les témoins oubliés.

“The Turkish state perpetrated the crime of genocide against the Armenian people between 1915 and 1923.” This statement, made in Buenos Aires on 1 April 2011 by an Argentinian Federal Judge, constitutes the core of a court decision that is the first of its kind in the world and that offers a legal consecration – (re)cognition – of the forgotten witnesses of a crime denied by Turkey. The sentence takes its place in an altogether singular framework: the sui generis judicial practice of juicio por la verdad (trial for the truth), a national procedure created in Argentina in the 1990s in response to the politics of forgetting then related to the crimes committed during the military dictatorship. This practice is the direct product of an initial situation of effacement and impunity, that calls for the creation of alternative judicial mechanisms of validation of the criminal fact and consecration of its victims / witnesses.

New publication – Governing the Dead

GoverningthedeadThe Corpses of mass violence and genocide programme is pleased to present the new book series Human Remains and Violence with Manchester University Press. The first title, Governing the Dead edited by Finn Stepputat, is available now.

In most of the world, the transition from life to death is a time of intense presence of states and other forms of authority. Focusing on the relationship between bodies and sovereignty, Governing the dead explores how, by whom and with what effects dead bodies are governed in conflict and non-conflict contexts across the world, including an analysis of the struggles over ‘proper burials’; the repatriation of dead migrants; abandoned cemeteries; exhumations; ‘feminicide’; the protection of dead drug-lords; and the disappeared dead. Mapping theoretical and empirical terrains, this volume suggests that the management of dead bodies is related to the constitution and membership of states and non-state entities that claim autonomy and impunity.

This volume is a significant contribution to studies of death, power and politics. It will be useful at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels in anthropology, sociology, law, criminology, political science, international relations, genocide studies, history, cultural studies and philosophy.

For more information please visit the publisher’s website, or use the form here.

Workshop – La patrimonialisation des restes humains au Rwanda (1994-2014)

rwanda workshopDepuis 1994, peu de recherches ont été menées sur la dimension proprement matérielle de la mémoire du génocide commis contre les Tutsi, et sur la fonction qu’y assument les restes humains. Pourtant, plusieurs musées et d’innombrables mémoriaux sont au cœur de la politique commémorative menée depuis vingt ans par l’Etat rwandais. Et au sein des sites du souvenir, les restes des victimes du génocide sont fréquemment inhumés, voire présentés aux yeux du public.

L’objectif de ‘(Dé)montrer le génocide: La patrimonialisation des restes humains au Rwanda (1994-2014)’ organisée par le programme de recherche Corpses of Mass Violence and Genocide, les laboratoire IRIS et CESPRA et le département d’histoire de l’ULB, est de questionner le processus de patrimonialisation des restes humains du génocide au Rwanda depuis 1994, en s’interrogeant sur les traces matérielles de l’expérience de la violence extrême. Acteurs de terrain, historiens et anthropologues tenteront au cours de cette journée de saisir les spécificités du cas rwandais en ce qui concerne la question du traitement muséographique et patrimonial des corps.

Please see the programme here.

New Genetics and Society – new publication

imagesA special issue of New Genetics and Society has been published addressing the various approaches by academics and organisations to the identification of victims of mass disasters. ‘Genetic Identification and the Response to Mass Fatalities’ contains six papers drawing on a variety of disciplinary resources – including philosophy, anthropology, science and technology studies, and sociology – as well as the experience of practical involvement, in order to explore how DNA profiling and matching technologies have now become a routine resource in the efforts to restore social order following both natural and anthropogenically occasioned disasters and atrocities. The issue intends to stimulate further critical engagement with the ethical and social issues raised by the use of DNA-based technologies in DVI and elsewhere.

New book published: Gabriel Gatti – ‘Surviving forced disappearance in Argentina and Uruguay’

GattiGabriel Gatti has recently published Surviving forced disappearance in Argentina and Uruguay: identity and meaning in the ‘Memory Politics and Transitional Justice’ series with Palgrave Macmillan.

Due in large part to humanitarian law and transitional justice, the categories of detained-disappeared and forced disappearance are today well established – so much so that in some places like Argentina and Uruguay an intense social life has taken shape and become crystallized around them and in their wake. In the complex and dense social worlds that result, victims mix with institutions, laws, and professionals (forensic anthropologists, social scientists, jurists, psychologists, artists, archivists, writers, and so on), occupying intersecting positions and doing so with varied narratives, from the heroic to the tragic, the epic to the paradoxical. Based on extensive fieldwork in Argentina and Uruguay, this book examines and analyzes these worlds. It is aimed at those who are interested in understanding how one inhabits the categories that international law has constructed to mark, judge, think about, and repair horror.