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, Bosnia, 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, research and identification, and return of human remains to society, this research programme directed 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 entirely financed through a grant from the European Research Council.

Workshop – The forensic turn in Holocaust Studies?

Einladung-Forsenic-TurnThe Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies has organised a two-day event in Vienna on the 25-26 June. “The Forensic Turn in Holocaust Studies?: (Re-)Thinking the Past Through Materiality” will examine how sites of the former concentration and extermination camps, as well as the mass graves at the ‘killing sites’, have become the objects of archaeological research contributing to the development of ‘Holocaust archaeology’ as a new subdiscipline.

Centred on material traces of genocidal violence, such as spatial structures, physical remnants, mass graves and human remains, the ‘forensic turn‘ could be seen as a response to the gradual passing away of Holocaust victims. At the same time, it reflects broader changes in practical and conceptual approaches to legacies of (genocidal) violence across cultures and geographies brought about by the urge for historiographical, historical, ancestral and personal clarifications, quests for justice or processes of reconciliation in its aftermath.

While acknowledging its unquestionable importance for fostering historical research on post-Holocaust landscapes, this workshop seeks to investigate the theoretical, methodological, political and practical implications of the ‘forensic turn’ for their investigation, memorialisation and experience.

For more information, and to view the complete programme, please see here.

New publication – ‘Killing Sites’

Killing sitesRemembrance of the Holocaust often focuses on those who have suffered and perished in concentration camps, ghettos or on death marches. But the killing sites, places where mass shootings took place, are still relatively unknown. Popular and official political commemorations, as well as much scholarly research, have tended to focus on the extermination camps, the gas chambers and the ghettos. The victims of these mass murders were predominantly Jewish and often lived nearby. Communities that existed and thrived for centuries perished in a few hours, hastily buried in unmarked graves and pits.

IHRA’s conference “Killing Sites – Research and Remembrance”, hosted by the Pedagogical University of Krakow, took place from 22 – 23 January 2014. The full report can be read here, naming global and regional actors in the field, summarising past endeavours, and analysing recent approaches to provide an overview of the subject. The conference was attended by a variety of experts in the field and focused on fieldwork as well as exploring regional perspectives, databases, education and commemoration.

For more information please see here.

Conference – Cuerpo, ciencia, memoria y política en las exhumaciones contemporáneas

Madrid conferenceLa conferencia final del proyecto I+D+i El pasado bajo tierra quiere detenerse ante estos múltiples regímenes de evidencia y considerar las formas en las que el cuerpo exhumado produce significados – tanto científicos como políticos, sociales y culturales – en el contexto de las exhumaciones de fosas comunes. En la última década, la práctica de exhumar se ha vuelto cada vez más importante para hacer frente a los pasados violentos. Con ello, el cuerpo exhumado ha transformado no solamente las prácticas y los valores forenses y judiciales, sino también las elaboraciones políticas, sociales y culturales de dicho pasado. En esta conferencia planteamos el diálogo entre diferentes prácticas, metodologías y preocupaciones teóricas que orientan los discursos actuales de memoria y derechos humanos desde la perspectiva del cuerpo exhumado, tomado como objeto material y discursivo. A través de un debate interdisciplinar y fomentando un diálogo entre estudios de caso comparativos, buscamos el acercamiento al cuerpo exhumado desde una perspectiva transnacional y comparada, como un objeto de análisis que puede ayudar a iluminar las complejidades de construir sentido y reivindicaciones en el espacio público a partir de las evidencias físicas.

¿De qué manera se relaciona el cuerpo exhumado como objeto de tratamiento técnico, memoria cultural y también como sujeto performativo con el mapa transnacional emergente de memorias y pasados violentos?

El congreso tendrá lugar en castellano e inglés, que tendrá lugar en el CCHS-CSIC los días 2 y 3 de julio de 2015. Habrá traducción simultánea disponible. Entrada libre con inscripción. Para registrarse, enviar e-mail a politicasdelamemoria@gmail.com antes del 29 de junio, incluyendo NOMBRE, APELLIDOS y DNI o NIE. En caso de necesitar certificado de asistencia, por favor indicadlo en la inscripción.

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.