Archaeologists and anthropologists specializing in the field of funerary customs have been used to considering the degree of social, religious and political investment placed in the dead body. The treatment of human remains following their exhumation and the legal status assigned to them as individuals pose a new set of legal and political problems of a particularly thorny nature. The studies of Francisco Ferrandiz on Spain and Elisabeth Claverie on Bosnia have revealed that the legal and symbolic status given to human remains in situations of mass violence can vary from material evidence to that of simple detritus. It is important to note from the outset that the deployment of violence through the gulag occurred on a historical, geographical and sociological scale that has rarely been equalled. The mass violence accompanied by the confiscation, concealment or destruction of bodies is considered as being distinct from mass murders committed without confiscation.
This book addresses the practices, treatment and commemoration of victims’ remains in post- genocide and mass violence contexts. Whether reburied, concealed, stored, abandoned or publically displayed, human remains raise a vast number of questions regarding their legal, ethical and social uses. Human Remains in Society will raise these issues by examining when, how and why bodies are hidden or exhibited. Using case studies from multiple continents, each chapter will interrogate their effect on human remains, either desired or unintended, on various political, cultural or religious practices. How, for instance, do issues of confiscation, concealment or the destruction of bodies and body parts in mass crime impact on transitional processes, commemoration or judicial procedures?
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, enlightening the political, social and legal aspects of mass crime and its aftermaths. Through a ground-breaking selection of international case studies, Human remains and identification 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? Multidisciplinary in scope, the book will appeal to readers interested in understanding this crucial phase of mass violence’s aftermath, including researchers in history, anthropology, sociology, forensic science, law, politics and modern warfare.