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.

Missing persons and colonial skeletons in South Africa
Nicky Rousseau

8 Identification, politics, disciplines: missing persons and colonial skeletons in South Africa1 Nicky Rousseau Locating, exhuming, and identifying human remains associated with mass violence and genocide has come to occupy an impor­tant place in the panoply of transitional justice measures. Although such work cuts across the core transitional justice issues of justice, reparation and truth-telling, it has received surprisingly little critical attention from within the transitional justice field.2 Existing studies, with some exception, can be characterized by

in Human remains and identification
Open Access (free)
Why exhume? Why identify?
Élisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus

in situations of mass violence has helped open new avenues of research, demonstrating, in particular, the procedural dimension of extreme violence and illuminating how the ideology of agents of death is once again translated into the very treatment of bodies. The second phase of the programme, the preliminary findings of which are presented in this volume’s contributions,4 interrogates the treatment of corpses and human remains after the disaster, focusing specifically on their possible discovery and identification. The study of these two separate enterprises – the

in Human remains and identification
Open Access (free)
The politics of exhumation in post-genocide Rwanda
Rémi Korman

the Rwandan Patriotic Army, the only stable institution in Rwanda. Such mass exhumations of bodies were particularly widespread in the Butare prefecture, where the Commission for the Re-launch of Pastoral Activities encouraged debate on the place that should be given to the dead of the genocide and the importance of giving victims a decent burial.5 Public exhumations were organized, during which survivors would look for any trace of their loved ones’ clothes or other objects. Where identification was possible, survivors generally wished to bury the bodies on the

in Human remains and identification
The forensic and political lives of secondary mass graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Admir Jugo and Sari Wastell

investigation, and not every grave is created for 146   Admir Jugo and Sari Wastell the same purpose. Criminal mass graves here constitute graves that are a result of a burial of extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions that break international humanitarian law and human rights laws. Non-criminal mass graves are for the practical purpose of temporary storage of human remains after disasters and crises, before the remains can be properly disposed of and buried at a later date. Remains placed in these mass graves are often tagged with a specific identification reference

in Human remains and identification
Exhumations of Soviet-era victims in contemporary Russia
Viacheslav Bitiutckii

5 State secrets and concealed bodies: exhumations of Soviet-era victims in contemporary Russia1 Viacheslav Bitiutckii Introduction This chapter discusses the search for, exhumation, and identification of the remains of victims of mass political repression during the Stalinist Great Terror (1937–38) in the USSR. It does not consider those who died in the concentration camps and prisons of the Gulag system, but concentrates rather on those who were subjected to the severest form of repression, that is, those who were shot following sentencing during judicial or

in Human remains and identification
How African-Americans shape their collective identity through consumption
Virág Molnár and Michèle Lamont

7 Social categorisation and group identification: how African-Americans shape their collective identity through consumption Virág Molnár and Michèle Lamont This chapter analyses how a low-status group, black Americans, use consumption to express and transform their collective identity and acquire social membership, i.e. to signify and claim that they are full and equal members in their society. More broadly, we analyse the twin processes by which this group uses consumption to affirm for themselves their full citizenship and have others recognise them as such

in Innovation by demand
Challenges and technological solutions to the ­identification of individuals in mass grave scenarios in the modern context
Gillian Fowler and Tim Thompson

6 A mere technical exercise? Challenges and technological solutions to the ­identification of individuals in mass grave scenarios in the modern context Gillian Fowler and Tim Thompson Introduction The identification of individuals from mass grave contexts is a difficult process which is made more challenging by a variety of taphonomic and situational variables, such as cause of death, number of bodies present, disturbance of the grave, climatic conditions, and the time since death. Clothing, personal effects, and type of burial have traditionally been used as

in Human remains and identification
José López Mazz

involved in the identification of corpses, concealed in different ways across different scenarios during this violent period. In this context overcoming the challenges of the identification process became important for understanding the practices employed by the police and military in their treatment of the bodies of their political victims, during a period that would come to be referred to as one of ‘state terror’. It presents the repertoire of procedures used by the repressors in ‘disappearing’ the bodies of political victims. It furthermore presents the strategic

in Human remains and identification
Mass graves in post-war Malaysia
Frances Tay

immediate post-war context to more recent times. What is revealing about these cases, despite the passage of time and progressive improvements in the field of forensic investigation, is the lack of protocol or application of scientific procedures.11 As such, these cases contribute little to furthering the science of forensic excavations of mass graves. However, what they do emphasize is that exhumations are not straightforward affairs of search, discovery, and identification. Forensic investigators often tout the nostrum that exhumations can ‘give voice to the dead

in Human remains and identification