Fabien Provost

In contemporary forensic medicine, in India, the label of complete autopsy applies to a whole range of post-mortem examinations which can present consid- erable differences in view of the intellectual resources, time, personnel and material means they involve. From various sources available in India and elsewhere, stems the idea that, whatever the type of case and its apparent obviousness, a complete autopsy implies opening the abdomen, the thorax and the skull and dissecting the organs they contain. Since the nineteenth century, procedural approaches of complete autopsies have competed with a practical sense of completeness which requires doctors to think their cases according to their history. Relying on two case studies observed in the frame of an ethnographic study of eleven months in medical colleges of North India, the article suggests that the practical completeness of autopsies is attained when all aspects of the history of the case are made sense of with regard to the observation of the body. Whereas certain autopsies are considered obvious and imply a reduced amount of time in the autopsy room, certain others imply successive redefinitions of what complete implies and the realisation of certain actions which would not have been performed otherwise.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Suhad Daher-Nashif

This article aims to shed light on the post-mortem practices for Palestinian dead bodies when there is suspicion of human rights violations by Israeli military forces. By focusing on the case of Omran Abu Hamdieh from Al-Khalil (Hebron), the article explores the interactions between Palestinian social-institutional agents, Israeli military forces and international medico-legal agents. Drawing on ethnographic and archival data, the article explores how the intersectionality between the various controlling powers is inscribed over the Palestinian dead bodies and structures their death rites. The article claims that inviting foreign medico-legal experts in the Palestinian context could reveal the true death story and the human rights violations, but also reaffirms the sovereignty of the Israeli military forces over the Palestinian dead and lived bodies.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Antonius C. G. M. Robben

Thousands of people died in Rotterdam during the Second World War in more than 300 German and Allied bombardments. Civil defence measures had been taken before the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940 and these efforts were intensified during the country’s occupation as Allied bombers attacked Rotterdam’s port, factories, dry docks and oil terminals. Residential neighbourhoods were also hit through imprecise targeting and by misfired flak grenades. Inadequate air raid shelters and people’s reluctance to enter them caused many casualties. The condition of the corpses and their post-mortem treatment was thus co-constituted by the relationship between the victims and their material circumstances. This article concludes that an understanding of the treatment of the dead after war, genocide and mass violence must pay systematic attention to the materiality of death because the condition, collection and handling of human remains is affected by the material means that impacted on the victims.

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
Mass violence, genocide, and the ‘forensic turn’

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.

Open Access (free)
Sovereignty and the politics of dead bodies
Editor: Finn Stepputat

This book looks at sovereignty as a particular form of power and politics. It shows that the fate of bodies in the transition from life to death can provide a key to understanding fundamental ways in which sovereignty is claimed and performed. The contributions analyse (post-)conflict as well as non-conflict contexts, which too often are studied in isolation from one another. Focusing on contemporary issues rather than the equally important historical dimensions, they all grapple with the questions of who governs the dead bodies, how, why and with what effects. The book analyses how dead bodies are placed and dealt with in spaces between competing, overlapping and nested sovereign orders, under normal as well as exceptional conditions. It looks at contributions that draw on psychoanalysis, critical theory, the structuralist-functionalist anthropology of burial rituals and recent ideas of agency and materiality. The book first explains the efforts of states to contain and separate out dead bodies in particular sites. It explores the ways in which such efforts of containment are negotiated and contested in struggles between different entities that claim the dead bodies. The book then shows how entities that claim sovereignty produce effects of sovereignty by challenging and transgressing the laws regarding the legitimate use of violence and how dead bodies should be treated with dignity.

The disposal of bodies in the 1994 Rwandan genocide
Nigel Eltringham

8 Display, concealment and ‘culture’: the disposal of bodies in the 1994 Rwandan genocide Nigel Eltringham Introduction In their ethnography of violent conflict, ‘cultures of terror’ 1 and genocide, anthropologists have recognized that violence is discursive. The victim’s body is a key vehicle of that discourse. In contexts of inter-ethnic violence, for example, ante-mortem degradation and/or post-mortem mutilation are employed to transform the victim’s body into a representative example of the ethnic category, the manipulation of the body enabling the

in Human remains and mass violence
Open Access (free)
The bodyand counter-revolutionary warfare inapartheid South Africa
Nicky Rousseau

bodies resulting from counter-revolutionary warfare were recorded among the extraordinarily high number of ‘Unknown black males’ recorded in death registers across South Africa, re­flect­ ing the historical legacies of migrant labour, which resulted in high numbers of unidentified and unclaimed bodies; sometimes they were distinguished from the rest by the appellation terroris.35 Criminal investigations in South Africa do not require forensic pathologists to examine the crime scene. With no state pathologists outside of the main urban areas, post-mortems were conducted

in Destruction and human remains
Missing persons and colonial skeletons in South Africa
Nicky Rousseau

skirmishes or ambushes were not secretly buried, but entered the legal regimes of the dead body. Accordingly, as is obligatory with unnatural or violent deaths, these bodies were assigned to a police domain. Photographed, fingerprinted, and transported to a police mortuary, the corpse would be recorded in a mortuary register as ‘unknown black male’ or ‘unknown terrorist’, and a state pathologist or state-appointed district surgeon would conduct a post-mortem examination. In many instances, even where identity had been established, these ‘unknown’ bodies were not released

in Human remains and identification
Open Access (free)
Negotiating sovereign claims in Oaxacan post-mortem repatriation
Lars Ove Trans

5 Travelling corpses: negotiating sovereign claims in Oaxacan post-mortem repatriation Lars Ove Trans This chapter explores the process of death and repatriation of a Mexican migrant, Jacinto, from his home in Los Angeles to his native village of San Pedro Yalehua, a Zapotec Indian community located in the Sierra Juárez mountain range in the southern state of Oaxaca.1 In this process, Jacinto’s close relatives suddenly find themselves in a situation where they have to navigate the claims of various different authorities representing states (local and federal

in Governing the dead