Human remains and identification

Human remains and identification: mass violence, genocide and the ‘forensic turn’
Edited by Elisabeth Anstett & Jean-Marc Dreyfus

Human remains and identification presents a pioneering investigation into the practices and methodologies used in the search for and exhumation of dead bodies resulting from mass violence. Previously absent from forensic debate, social scientists and historians here confront historical and contemporary exhumations with the application of social context to create an innovative and interdisciplinary dialogue.

The book argues that the emergence of new technologies to facilitate the identification of dead bodies has led to a ‘forensic turn’, normalising exhumations as a method of dealing with human remains en masse. However, are these exhumations always made for legitimate reasons? And what can we learn about societies from the way in which they deal with this consequence of mass violence?

Multidisciplinary in scope, this book presents a ground-breaking selection of international case studies, including the identification of corpses by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the resurfacing of human remains from the Gulag and the sites of Jewish massacres from the Holocaust.


Introduction – Elisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus

Part I: Agents

1. Bitter legacies: A war of extermination, grave looting, and culture wars in the American West – Tony Platt

2. Final chapter: Portraying the exhumation and reburial of Polish Jewish Holocaust victims in the pages of yizkor books – Gabriel Finder

3. Bykivnia: How grave robbers, activists, and foreigners ended official silence about Stalin’s mass graves near Kiev – Karel Berkhoff

4. The Concealment of Bodies during the Military Dictatorship in Uruguay (1973–84) – Jose Lopez Mazz

Part II: Methods

5. State secrets and concealed bodies: exhumations of Soviet-era victims in contemporary Russia – Viacheslav Bituitcki

6. A mere technical exercise? Challenges and technological solutions to the identification of individuals in mass grave scenarios in the modern context – Tim Thompson and Gillian Fowler

7. Disassembling the pieces, reassembling the social: the forensic and political lives of mass graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Sari Wastell and Admir Jugo

Part III: Stakes

8. ‘The political lives of dead bodies’ and ‘the disciplines of the dead’: a view from South Africa – Nicky Rousseau

9. Bury or display? The politics of exhumation in post genocide Rwanda – Remi Korman

10. Remembering the Japanese occupation massacres: mass graves in post-war Malaysia – Frances Tay


Please order the book from Manchester University Press using the form here.