John Borneman

12 Abandonment and victory in relations with dead bodies John Borneman Katherine Verdery was the first to make some systematic observations about the accelerated movement of dead bodies in EastCentral 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 (Verdery 1999). Here I wish to consider the modes of appropriation

in Governing the dead
Jessica Auchter

The after-effects of mass atrocity – bodies and bones – struggle to be defined within memorial projects. This article seeks to examine the politics at play in displaying dead bodies to interrogate the role of materiality in efforts to memorialise and raise awareness about on-going violences. It focusses on the nexus between evidence, dignity, humanity and memory to explore bone display in Rwanda. It then takes up two artistic projects that play on the materiality of human remains after atrocity: the art of Carl Michael von Hausswolff, who took ashes from an urn at the Majdanek concentration camp and used them as the material for his painting, and the One Million Bones Project, an installation that exhibits ceramic bones to raise awareness about global violence. In thinking about the intersections between human biomatter, art and politics, the article seeks to raise questions about both production and consumption: how bones and ashes of the dead are produced, and how they are consumed by viewers when placed on display in a variety of ways.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Therkel Straede

This paper traces the massacres of Jews and Soviet prisoners of war in November 1941 in the city of Bobruisk, Eastern Belarus. Sparked by a current memorial at one of the killing sites, the author examines the historic events of the killings themselves and presents a micro level analysis of the various techniques for murdering and disposing of such large numbers of victims. A contrast will be shown between the types of actions applied to the victims by the German army, SS, police personnel and other local collaborators, reflecting an imposed racial hierarchisation even after their death.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Exception and rupture?
Graham Denyer Willis, Finn Stepputat, and Gaëlle Clavandier
Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal is a biannual, peer-reviewed publication which draws together the different strands of academic research on the dead body and the production of human remains en masse, whether in the context of mass violence, genocidal occurrences or environmental disasters. Inherently interdisciplinary, the journal publishes papers from a range of academic disciplines within the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Human Remains and Violence invites contributions from scholars working in a variety of fields and interdisciplinary research is especially welcome.

Governing COVID dead in southern Arizona
Robin C. Reineke

Research into the governance of dead bodies, primarily focused on post-conflict contexts, has often focused on the aspects of the management of dead bodies that involve routinisation, bureaucratisation and order. Less attention has been paid to the governance of the dead in times of relative peace and, in particular, to the aspects of such work that are less bureaucratised and controlled. This article explores the governance of dead bodies in pandemic times – times which although extraordinary, put stress on ordinary systems in ways that are revealing of power and politics. Observations for this article come from over fifteen years of ethnographic research at a medical examiner’s office in Arizona, along with ten focused interviews in 2020 with medico-legal authorities and funeral directors specifically about the COVID-19 pandemic. The author argues that the pandemic revealed the ways in which the deathcare industry in the United States is an unregulated, decentralised and ambiguous space.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal