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