The disposal of bodies in the 1994 Rwandan genocide
Display, concealment and ‘culture’:
the disposal of bodies in the 1994
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
The concealment of bodies during
the military dictatorship in Uruguay
José López Mazz
The political violence that occurred in Latin America during the
second half of the twentieth century was deeply rooted in historic
and prehistoric cultural traditions. To study it in a scientific way
accordingly requires both the development of a specific set of cultural and historical methodologies and a leading role to be played by
archaeological techniques and forensic anthropology.
Our focus is in part on apprehending and understanding violent
Mass violence is one of the defining phenomena of the twentieth century, which some have even called the 'century of genocides'. The study of how the dead body is treated can lead us to an understanding of the impact of mass violence on contemporary societies. Corpses of mass violence and genocide, especially when viewed from a biopolitical perspective, force one to focus on the structures of the relations between all that participates in the enfolding case study. Argentina is an extraordinary laboratory in the domain of struggle against impunity and of 'restoration of the truth'. It constitutes a useful paradigm in the context of reflection on the corpses of mass violence. Its special character, in the immediate aftermath of the military dictatorship, is to test almost the entirety of juridical mechanisms in the handling of state crimes. The trigger for both the intercommunal violence and the civil war was the mass murders by the Ustaša. This book discusses the massacres carried out by the Ustaša in Croatia during the Second World War. After a brief presentation of the historical background, the massacres carried out by the Ustaša militia and their corpse disposal methods are described. Using Rwanda as a case study, the book proposes an agenda for ethnographic research to explore the relationship between concealment and display in contexts of genocide. This relationship is explored in detail after a discussion of the historical background to the 1994 genocide.
Destruction and human remains investigates a crucial question frequently neglected from academic debate in the fields of mass violence and Genocide Studies: what is done to the bodies of the victims after they are killed? Indeed, in the context of mass violence and genocide, death does not constitute the end of the executors' work. Following the abuses carried out by the latter, their victims' remains are treated and manipulated in very particular ways, amounting in some cases to social engineering. The book explores this phase of destruction, whether by disposal, concealment or complete annihilation of the body, across a range of extreme situations to display the intentions and socio-political framework of governments, perpetrators and bystanders. The book will be split into three sections; 1) Who were the perpetrators and why were they chosen? It will be explored whether a division of labour created social hierarchies or criminal careers, or whether in some cases this division existed at all. 2) How did the perpetrators kill and dispose of the bodies? What techniques and technologies were employed, and how does this differ between contrasting and evolving circumstances? 3) Why did the perpetrators implement such methods and what does this say about their motivations and ideologies? The book will focus in particular on the twentieth century, displaying innovative and interdisciplinary approaches and dealing with case studies from different geographical areas across the globe. The focus will be placed on a re-evaluation of the motivations, the ideological frameworks and the technical processes displayed in the destruction of bodies.
192 Élisabeth Anstett
Practices of concealment and their effects
The application of these practices of concealment to the evidence of
the gulag in turn poses the anthropologist, as well as the historian
and the legal specialist, with a set of questions that are essential to
understanding the social effects of extreme violence. However, in
order to pursue this line of investigation further, it is necessary to
clarify certain key points.
Firstly, as the case of the USSR clearly demonstrates, one of the
principal social effects of the confiscation of bodies
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.
A war of extermination, grave looting, and culture wars in the American West
.-M. Dreyfus (eds), Destruction
and Human Remains: Disposal and Concealment in Genocide and Mass
Violence (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014), pp. 226–42.
T. Bender, A Nation among Nations: America’s Place in World History
(New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), p. 21.
See for example B. Kiernan, Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide
and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 2007); and J. Rawls, Indians of California: The Changing Image
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984).
J. W. Caughey, California (New York: Prentice
formal institutional rules and regulations
(such as official secrecy legislation or gagging clauses), or it can be
obtained informally through unofficial concealment, taboos and
socialisation (such as codes of silence, or agreed and shared needs
The clash between openness and secrecy equates, rather too simply,
to that between good and bad, and democratic and undemocratic.
There has been a growing view in democracies across the world that
secrecy, or too much concealment, is ‘incompatible with democracy’,
and it continues to be associated with evil, with
has permitted the formation of a commission to search for the bodies
of those who disappeared under the dictatorship. Since 2010, with the
aid of archaeological expertise, this commission has engaged in the
difficult task of exposing and circumventing the strategies of concealment employed by the military, slowly and patiently bringing to light
the physical evidence of the implementation of ‘Operation Carrot’,
which involved the illegal exhumation and systematic destruction of
the remains of the dictatorship’s victims.
Opening the section on the means and