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 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.

New chapter published: Elisabeth Anstett – ‘Des cadavres en masse’

couv60_1-small200A special edition of the journal Technology and Culture has been published to reflect on the diverse range of questions posed by the dead body in the contemporary era. ‘The Corpse on Trial‘ deals with the sensory effects of cadavers and their decomposition, bringing together essays from anthropologists, archaeologists, biologists, sociologists, historians, lawyers and film critics to compare their disciplines’ approaches to “corpse waste”, forms of representation and epistemological concerns for these often perceived objects of repulsion. Among the contributors Elisabeth Anstett sheds light on the social sciences’ approach to corpses en masse in her chapter ‘Des cadavres en masse’, and discusses the ramifications in an age of technology.

Please see here for further information.

Conference – Terrortimes, Terrorscapes?

On 1st-4th August the Akademie für Politische Bildung Tutzing will host the conference “Terrortimes, Terrorscapes? Temporal, Spatial and Memory Continuities of War and Genocide in 20th Century Europe”.

2014 marks the centenary of the beginning of the Great War and the 75th anniversary of Germany’s attack on Poland in 1939. This calls us to explore temporal and spatial continuities between the diverse horrors of war and genocide in the first half of the 20th century as well as investigate diverse forms of memory and memorialization of atrocity. Furthermore, the conference seeks to include transnational perspectives by inviting scholars from different national backgrounds working in Europe and the US. As such key concepts will be explored such as temporal continuities of war and atrocity, colonial and violence of decolonization, spatial approaches to define violence as well as gender and generational memory of war and atrocity.

For more information please see the programme here.

New chapter published: Sévane Garibian – ‘Ghosts Also Die’

Sévane Garibian has recently published ”Ghosts Also Die. Resisting Disappearance Through the ‘Right to the Truth’ and the Juicios por la verdad in Argentina”, Journal of International Criminal Justice, vol. 12:3, 2014, pp. 515-38.

This paper attempts to provide a more complete understanding of the so-called ‘right to the truth’, deriving from court-made doctrines in the human rights field and associated with an alternative form of legal proceedings in Argentina that has no equivalent anywhere else in the world: the trial for the truth (juicio por la verdad). This is a procedure sui generis created in the aftermath of the military dictatorship in response to both the politics of forgetting that prevailed in the 1990s and the continuing obstruction of criminal proceedings up to 2003 due to amnesty laws. Protecting the right to the truth fulfils three functions in turn: first, it makes possible conciliation of amnesty with the right to judicial protection; second, it constitutes the condition for real access to justice; third, it validates the reality of the crime. Each of these functions is associated with one of the three elements, which, together, comprise the struggle against impunity: investigation, sanction, and reparation. Situated between truth commissions and classic criminal proceedings, symbolic reparation and retribution, the Argentinian trials for the truth offer a new way of conceiving both the criminal-law judge’s mission and the relations among law, truth, history, and memory in the context of the rich debates about (post-)transitional justice.

For more information please see here.

New chapter published: Sévane Garibian – ‘Vérité vs. impunité’

1079Sévane Garibian has recently published a new chapter on the transitional and post-transitional phases following the Argentine dictatorship: ‘Vérité vs. impunité. La justice (post-)transitionnelle en Argentine et le human rights turn’, in Kora Andrieu et Geoffroy Lauvau dir., Quelle justice pour les peuples en transition? Pacifier, démocratiser, réconcilier (Presses Universitaires de la Sorbonne, Paris, 2014), pp. 91-109.

Le traitement juridique des crimes de la dictature argentine se fait en deux temps – la phase transitionnelle proprement dite (de 1983 aux années 90) puis post-transitionnelle (des années 90 à nos jours) –, de la peine au pardon, aller-retour. Ces deux temps comprennent plusieurs revirements traduisant à chaque fois un changement de paradigme dans la manière d’appréhender les abus commis par le régime militaire. Entre les deux : le human rights turn construit sur l’injonction d’une nécessaire lutte contre l’impunité des crimes les plus graves, productrice de nouveaux droits subjectifs de l’homme (tel que le « droit à la vérité ») qui contribuent, à leur tour, au développement du droit pénal en la matière. Les critiques engendrées par cette « pénalisation des droits de l’homme », tout comme les richesse et diversité de l’expérience argentine, illustrent les incertitudes auxquelles nous confronte toute réflexion autour de la notion même de justice (internationale/étatique, rétributive/réparatrice, judiciaire/a-judiciaire) en phase de (post-)transition politique, héritière d’une criminalité étatique de masse, et impliquant inévitablement une distorsion créatrice du droit et de ses fonctions.

The Trial of ESMA III, Argentina, 2013-2014, now available online

Trial argentinaOn September 2003 the Argentinian National Congress declared that impunity laws 23.492 and 23.521 were “absolutely void” and, in the same session of Congress, elevated to the rank of constitutional guarantee the Convention on Imprescriptibility of Crimes of War and Crimes Against Humanity. Since then, more than a hundred sentences have been announced, some of them recognizing the reality of genocide in Argentina. This means not only that justice has been obtained but also that a favourable situation has arisen for victims as well as their relatives and friends who have found a place to tell their experience and contribute to the fight against impunity.

The Argentina Trial Monitor believes it is key to participate in this process so as to record the historical moment and reflect upon what happens during the trial and upon what victims as well as perpetrators have to say. The trials are the result of years of struggle by human right organizations and other groups within the Argentine society, and they enable a productive debate over the consequences of state terror and its effects on Argentinian society’s current and future practices. We stress the importance of understanding and framing this violence as a genocide in order to highlight and better deal with the aftermath of state terror.

On November 28th 2012, the most significant trial in Argentinian history commenced. Centred on crimes committed at the Superior School of Mechanics of the Navy (ESMA) from 1976 to 1983, a period during which approximately 30,000 people were killed in Argentina, the trial will involve 88 defendants and 800 victims. It will be the largest trial to date in Argentina. Despite the importance of this and other trials in Argentina that have been held since the Argentine Supreme Court declared the impunity laws and amnesties unconstitutional in 2005, there is little English language information about the trials taking place in this country. The Argentina Trial Monitor (ATM) project seeks to address this situation.

The Argentina Trial Monitor will be jointly run by the Center for Genocide Studies at the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero(UNTREF) in Argentina and the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights-UNESCO Chair for Genocide Prevention at Rutgers University in the United States, with the assistance of some Argentine human rights organizations such as Asociación de Ex Detenidos Desaparecidos and Comisión de Familiares de Campo de Mayo and Casapueblos and affiliated Rutgers partners, including the Translation and Interpreting Program in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

To visit the ATM’s website and follow the trial online please see here.

Call for papers – Studi Tanatologici volume 7

Studi-TanatologiciStudi Tanatologici (Thanatological studies), edited by the A. Fabretti Foundation, is the only Scientific Journal in Italy specialized in the study of death and dying.

Thanatology, a complex field that requires the dialogue between different fields of knowledge, is the focal point around which converge disciplines such as History, Anthropology, Sociology, Medicine, Psychology, and others. The Journal is therefore interdisciplinary and open to national and international experiences.

The main section, “Studies and research”, features issues such as: rites and funeral practices; death and dying from a cross-cultural perspective; grief and mourning; cemeteries and funerary policies; representations of illness, body, ageing and death; end-of-life decisions; euthanasia; bioethics; palliative care; socio-cultural and historical perspectives on death. Each issue also includes a section “Classics in Thanatology and the anthropology of Death”, a Glossary and a Reviews section.

The editorial board ensures a wide dissemination of the journal both on paper and online, promoting free access through the major open access platforms. Thanatological studies is recognized by the Italian National Agency for the Evaluation of the University and Research Systems (ANVUR). The journal ensures a high level of scientific quality through a rigorous peer review process.

Authors are invited to submit original and unpublished articles to the section “Studies and research”. Contributions are accepted in four languages (Italian, English, French and Spanish) and should have a total length between 30,000 and 40,000 characters including spaces.

The submission deadline for the seventh issue scheduled for December 2014, is September 15, 2014.

Your manuscript should be sent to the editor at or

For further information, including submissions of book reviews, please see here.

Seminar – Territories of death, trajectories of bodies in mass violence contexts

Madrid conferenceFollowing the creation of territories of death, a new phase starts with the process of exhumation and the production of new spaces: spaces of exhumation and spaces of re-inhumation. The dialogue between these spaces or, more generally, the relationship between corpses produced by mass violence and the spaces in which these bodies are related raises a variety of questions: What are these places? To whom do they belong? How are they lived and imagined? What does the presence of dead bodies do to them? What political, symbolic, and religious uses have been made of these territories of death?

The seminar, Territories of death, trajectories of bodies in mass violence contexts, took place on 21 May 2014 at Casa de Velázquez, Madrid. It was organised by the École des hautes études hispaniques et ibériques (Casa de Velázquez, Madrid), Corpses of Mass Violence and Genocide (ERC programme), and the Instituto de Lengua, Literatura y Antropología (CSIC, Madrid).

Musealization of Violence in Central and Eastern Europe – Workshop

downloadThe musealization of mass violence has drastically changed since 1989, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. New political, social, cultural and scholarly agendas, the possibility to access documents and archives, and to circulate ideas and research through formerly closed borders, has allowed for new ways to document the traumatic past and to launch a common thinking about how to commemorate the past on a European and even worldwide scale.

This calls for methodological and ethical questions about the feasibility and relevance of representing or reconstructing past violence. Musealization may go along with an inexplicit, memorial void, or with the deformation or falsification of history. To understand these new or modified spaces of memory one needs to comprehend the issues at stake, including the interaction of antagonistic experiences.

The workshop, co-organised by the Corpses of mass violence programme and held at the Sorbonne and EHESS Paris, will address these issues on 23-24 May 2014. For further information please see here.

Despues de la Violencia – Après la Violence: Workshop

Despues de la violenciaThe workshop Despues de la Violencia – Après la violence will take place 8-9 May 2014 at Fundación Polo Mercosur in Montevideo, Uruguay. The event is organised by Elisabeth Anstett (CNRS – Iris), José López Mazz (Universidad de la República Uruguay) and Denis Merklen (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – IHEAL), and will discuss the European and South American legacies of extreme violence in the twentieth century.

How can democracies face their history of rebellions, massacres, state terrorism and mass crimes? The workshop will put the European and South American experiences side by side, in order to analyze the different devices and outputs of violence. Anthropologists, philosophers, historians, sociologists and lawyers will here gather to understand the limits and contributions taught by each national experience.