Rémi Korman

Representations of Rwanda have been shaped by the display of bodies and bones at Tutsi genocide memorial sites. This phenomenon is most often only studied from the perspective of moral dimensions. This article aims in contrast to cover the issues related to the treatment of human remains in Rwanda for commemorative purposes from a historical perspective. To this end, it is based on the archives of the commissions in charge of genocide memory in Rwanda, as well as interviews with key memorial actors. This study shows the evolution of memorial practices since 1994 and the hypermateriality of bodies in their use as symbols, as well as their demobilisation for the purposes of reconciliation policies.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Patricio Galella

During the Spanish Civil War, extrajudicial executions and disappearances of political opponents took place and their corpses were buried in unregistered mass graves. The absence of an official policy by successive democratic governments aimed at the investigation of these cases, the identification and exhumation of mass graves, together with legal obstacles, have prevented the victims families from obtaining reparation, locating and recovering the human remains. This paper argues that this state of affairs is incompatible with international human rights law and Spain should actively engage in the search for the whereabouts and identification of the bodies with all the available resources.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Jean-Marc Dreyfus

From 1945 until around 1960, ceremonies of a new kind took place throughout Europe to commemorate the Holocaust and the deportation of Jews; ashes would be taken from the site of a concentration camp, an extermination camp, or the site of a massacre and sent back to the deportees country of origin (or to Israel). In these countries, commemorative ceremonies were then organised and these ashes (sometimes containing other human remains) placed within a memorial or reburied in a cemetery. These transfers of ashes have, however, received little attention from historical researchers. This article sets out to describe a certain number of them, all differing considerably from one another, before drawing up a typology of this phenomenon and attempting its analysis. It investigates the symbolic function of ashes in the aftermath of the Second World War and argues that these transfers – as well as having a mimetic relationship to transfers of relics – were also instruments of political legitimisation.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Laura Panizo

This article will investigate the process of confronting death in cases of the disappeared of the last military dictatorship in Argentina. Based on the exhumation and identification of the body of a disappeared person, the article will reflect on how the persons social situation can be reconfigured, causing structural changes within the family and other groups. This will be followed by a discussion of the reflections generated by the anthropologist during his or her interview process, as well as an investigation into the authors own experiences in the field. This intimate relationship between the anthropologist and death, through the inevitable contact that takes place among the bodies, causes resonances in the context both of exhumations and of identifications in the anthropologists wider fieldwork.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Marco Aurelio Guimarães, Raffaela Arrabaça Francisco, Sergio Britto Garcia, Martin Evison, Maria Eliana Castro Pinheiro, Iara Xavier Pereira, Diva Santana and Julie Alvina Guss Patrício

Truth commissions are widely recognised tools used in negotiation following political repression. Their work may be underpinned by formal scientific investigation of human remains. This paper presents an analysis of the role of forensic investigations in the transition to democracy following the Brazilian military governments of 1964–85. It considers practices during the dictatorship and in the period following, making reference to analyses of truth commission work in jurisdictions other than Brazil, including those in which the investigation of clandestine burials has taken place. Attempts to conceal the fate of victims during the dictatorship, and the attempts of democratic governments to investigate them are described. Despite various initiatives since the end of the military government, many victims remain unidentified. In Brazil, as elsewhere, forensic investigations are susceptible to political and social influences, leading to a situation in which relatives struggle to obtain meaningful restitution and have little trust in the transitional justice process.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Claudia Merli and Trudi Buck

This article considers the contexts and processes of forensic identification in 2004 post-tsunami Thailand as examples of identity politics. The presence of international forensic teams as carriers of diverse technical expertise overlapped with bureaucratic procedures put in place by the Thai government. The negotiation of unified forensic protocols and the production of estimates of identified nationals straddle biopolitics and thanatocracy. The immense identification task testified on the one hand to an effort to bring individual bodies back to mourning families and national soils, and on the other hand to determining collective ethnic and national bodies, making sense out of an inexorable and disordered dissolution of corporeal as well as political boundaries. Individual and national identities were the subject of competing efforts to bring order to,the chaos, reaffirming the cogency of the body politic by mapping national boundaries abroad. The overwhelming forensic effort required by the exceptional circumstances also brought forward the socio-economic and ethnic disparities of the victims, whose post-mortem treatment and identification traced an indelible divide between us and them.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Edward Bacal

I focus on two contemporary art installations in which Teresa Margolles employs water used to wash corpses during autopsies. By running this water through a fog machine or through air conditioners, these works incorporate bodily matter but refuse to depict, identify or locate anybody (or any body) within it. Rather, Margolles creates abstract works in which physical limits – whether of bodies or of art works – dissolve into a state of indeterminacy. With that pervasive distribution of corporeal matter, Margolles charts the dissolution of the social, political and spatial borders that contain death from the public sphere. In discussing these works, I consider Margolles’ practice in relation to the social and aesthetic function of the morgue. Specifically, I consider how Margolles turns the morgue inside out, opening it upon the city in order to explore the inoperative distinctions between spaces of sociality and those of death. In turn, I consider how Margolles places viewers in uneasy proximity to mortality, bodily abjection and violence in order to illustrate the social, political and aesthetic conditions by which bodies become unidentifiable. I ultimately argue that her aesthetic strategies match her ethical aspirations to reconsider relations to death, violence and loss within the social realm.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Deaths and politicised deaths in Buenos Aires’s refuse
Mariano D. Perelman

The appearance of corpses in rubbish tips is not a recent phenomenon. In Argentina, tips have served not only as sites for the disposal of bodies but also as murder scenes. Many of these other bodies found in such places belong to individuals who have suffered violent deaths, which go on to become public issues, or else are ‘politicised deaths’. Focusing on two cases that have received differing degrees of social, political and media attention – Diego Duarte, a 15-year-old boy from a poor background who went waste-picking on an open dump and never came back, and Ángeles Rawson, a girl of 16 murdered in the middle-class neighbourhood of Colegiales, whose body was found in the same tip – this article deals with the social meanings of bodies that appear in landfills. In each case, there followed a series of events that placed a certain construction on the death – and, more importantly, the life – of the victim. Corpses, once recognised, become people, and through this process they are given new life. It is my contention that bodies in rubbish tips express – and configure – not only the limits of the social but also, in some cases, the limits of the human itself.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Jacques Gerstenkorn

This article describes the powerplay around the recent discovery (summer 2015) of eighteenth-century Jewish graves in the French city of Lyon. Prior to the French Revolution, Jews had no right to have their own cemeteries, and the corpses of the deceased were buried in the basement of the local catholic hospital, the Hôtel- Dieu. In recent years this centrally located building was completely renovated and converted into a retail complex selling luxury brands. The discovery and subsequent identification of the graves – and of some human remains – led to a complex confrontation between various actors: archaeologists, employed either by the municipality or by the state; religious authorities (mostly Lyons chief rabbi); the municipality itself; the private construction companies involved; direct descendants of some of the Jews buried in the hospital‘s basement; as well as the local media. The question of what to do with the graves took centre stage, and while exhumations were favoured by both archaeologists and the representatives of the families, the chief rabbi – supported by the construction companies – proved reluctant to exhume, for religious reasons. In the first part of his article the author details the origins of this Jewish funerary place and current knowledge about it. He then goes on to analyse what was at stake in the long negotiations, arguing that the memory of the Holocaust played a role in the attitude of many of the parties involved. By way of conclusion he considers the decision not to exhume the graves and elaborates on the reasons why this led to some dissatisfaction.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Death, landscape and power among the Duha Tuvinians of northern Mongolia
Benedikte Møller Kristensen

3 The proper funeral: death, landscape and power among the Duha Tuvinians of northern Mongolia Benedikte Møller Kristensen The traditional funeral practice of the Duha reindeer nomads of northern Mongolia consists in placing corpses on the open ground in the wild forest (xer) to be eaten by wild animals. Under socialism, the Mongolian government issued a ban on open-air (il tavah) funerals and imposed compulsory burial of the dead in cemeteries (Delaplace 2006). This ban was a part of the Mongolian People’s Republic’s ‘dead-body politics’ (Verdery 1999) aimed

in Governing the dead