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Louise Zamparutti

This essay analyses the literature on the foibe to illustrate a political use of human remains. The foibe are the deep karstic pits in Istria and around Trieste where Yugoslavian Communist troops disposed of Italians they executed en masse during World War II. By comparing contemporary literature on the foibe to a selection of archival reports of foibe exhumation processes it will be argued that the foibe literature popular in Italy today serves a political rather than informational purpose. Counterpublic theory will be applied to examine how the recent increase in popular foibe literature brought the identity of the esuli, one of Italy‘s subaltern counterpublics, to the national stage. The paper argues that by employing the narrative structure of the Holocaust, contemporary literature on the foibe attempts to recast Italy as a counterpublic in the wider European public sphere, presenting Italy as an unrecognised victim in World War II.

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Open Access (free)

Sévane Garibian

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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.

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Helen Jarvis

The Khmer Rouge forbade the conduct of any funeral rites at the time of the death of the estimated two million people who perished during their rule (1975–79). Since then, however, memorials have been erected and commemorative ceremonies performed, both public and private, especially at former execution sites, known widely as the killing fields. The physical remains themselves, as well as images of skulls and the haunting photographs of prisoners destined for execution, have come to serve as iconic representations of that tragic period in Cambodian history and have been deployed in contested interpretations of the regime and its overthrow.

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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.

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Open Access (free)

Anouche Kunth

Braving the Ottoman‘s ban on capturing any images of the persecuted Armenians, witnesses dodged censorship and photographed pictures that would later be branded as proofat the Paris Peace Conference in 1919–20. Despite the challenge of these images to representations of the Armenian genocide, they were soon forgotten after the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne erased the Armenian Question, while time took care of destroying the corpses abandoned in the desert. This article will examine the image-disappearance dialectic through distinct temporalities of remembrance,and commemoration, each of which mobilises its own specific, iconographical semantics. In response to contemporary challenges, the repertoire of images has not remained sealed; over the last decade it has been reopened through depictions of bare landscapes and stretches of desert and bones,that suddenly pierce through the earth. The article will show how these images implicitly speak of the disappearance and seek meaning through emptiness.

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Clara Duterme

Established during the Guatemalan Peace Process, the Oslo Accord contemplates the question of compensating the victims of internal armed conflict. Not only was this accord founded on the principles of victims rights, but it also intends to contribute to the democratic reconstruction of Guatemalan society through a process of recognition of victims status and memory – intended to have a reconciling function. The article focuses on the work of two organisations implementing the Oslo Accord and aims to analyse the discourses and practices of the local actors and their perception of the application of victims rights. Civil society actors and members of the National Compensation Programme demonstrate different approaches both in practical work and in representations of what is right. However, revendication of local cultural values is present in all actors discourse, revealing their ambiguous position in regard to state government.

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Anne Marie Losonczy

Since the early 1990s, armed actors have invaded territories in the Chocó and Antioquia departments of Colombia, inhabited by Afro-Colombians and Indians whose collective rights in these territories had recently been legally recognised. Based on long-term fieldwork among the Emberá Katío, this article examines social, cosmological and ritual alterations and re-organisation around violent death. Following a national policy of post-conflict reparations, public exhumations and identifications of human remains reveal new local modes of understanding and administration. In particular, suicide, hitherto completely unknown to the Emberá, broke out in a multitude of cases, mostly among the youth. Local discourse attributes this phenomenon to the number of stray corpses resulting from the violence, who are transformed into murderous spirits which shamans can no longer control. The analysis focusses on the unprecedented articulation of a renewed eschatology, the intricate effects of an internal political reorganisation and the simultaneous inroad into their space of new forms of armed insurrectional violence. Thus the article will shed light on the emergence of a new transitional moral economy of death among the Emberá.