Witnessing, retribution and domestic reform
John Borneman

This chapter addresses reconciliation in light of specific ethnic cleansings and 'ethnicisations', with a focus on the most examples in Bosnia. The precondition of reconciliation is a desire for non-repetition and an appreciation of the inter-subjectivity of the present. Such reconciliation is improbable if not impossible without domestic reform, without a new and more inclusive politics of the domestic group. The chapter addresses two separate but complementary processes as alternatives to revenge, and as modes of possible departure from violence, part of a politics of non-repetition. The first is witnessing and the second is legal redress of violence, or 'retributive justice'. The chapter demonstrates how the socio-political logic of ethnicisation feeds off the attempt to recover an individual loss through physical reproduction. Ethnicisation is a politics of repetition and is unlikely to lead to a departure from violence.

in Potentials of disorder
John Borneman

Katherine Verdery, an American anthropologist, was the first to make some systematic observations about the accelerated movement of dead bodies in East-Central Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Empire. She noted that, in this period of political transformation, the corpses of political leaders and cultural heroes accrued certain powers leading to a struggle over appropriating those powers, and to the exhumation and displacement of their bodies. This chapter considers the modes of appropriation of the power of corpses and offers an explanation for their widespread movement in post-socialist states. This movement is a manic reaction to the death of political regimes and to the sense of abandonment that accompanies this end. Although people may understand this reaction as asserting sovereignty over the dead, it in fact demonstrates the inverse: that the dead govern the living.

in Governing the dead