Methodological approaches

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.

Olivia Umurerwa Rutazibwa

. The topic was thrust upon me by events in Rwanda in 1994. As a teenage, second-generation Rwandan immigrant in Belgium, I was more personally affected than fellow classmates by the hypocrisy of the international community: the preaching of respect for human rights, followed by their omission during one hundred days of mass murder before the eyes of the world. It felt like there was more to the story than ‘good intentions versus regrettable outcomes’. Ever since, I have worried about the content and purpose of (Western) humanitarian research agendas

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Alexander Korb

area. ‘The exhumations were a dreadful task’, the general said. ‘Nobody could enter the cave because the rotting bodies stank so badly. One man who we lowered down on a rope fainted and we had to pull him out again.’ 2 It seems that the soldiers were finally equipped with gas masks. During the Second World War, up to 45 million people lost their lives.3 Almost a quarter of them were victims of targeted attacks with the intent to kill and mass murders, rather than armed hostili­ ties. While the death of the victims can be said to have been well researched, many

in Human remains and mass violence
Élisabeth Anstett

Japan, Germany, Poland and Korea) act as reminders that the Soviet capital was the scene not only of mass murders, but also of mass cremations, well before the ovens of the Nazi camps. The vast majority of corpses from the gulags, however, remain buried in the vicinity of the camps. And so, given that the camps were for the most part situated in the vicinity of urban conglomer­ ations, the map of the gulags precisely matches the map of the population of the Soviet Union. Yet in spite of the proximity between the Soviet population, the camps and their mass graves

in Human remains and mass violence
Open Access (free)
Corpses and mass violence: an inventory of the unthinkable
Élisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus

Genocide: Mass Murder in ­Historical Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); M. Shaw, War and Genocide: Organized Killing in Modern Society (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003); M. Levene, Genocide in the Age of the Nation State (London: I. B. Tauris, 2005). B. Schmidt & I. Schröder, Anthropology of Violence and Conflict (London: Routledge, 2001); A. L. Hinton & K. L. O’Neill, Genocide: Truth, Memory and Representation (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009). A. Corbin, J.-J. Courtine & G. Vigarello, Histoire du corps (3 vols) (Paris: Le Seuil, 2005, 2005

in Human remains and mass violence
Open Access (free)
The tales destruction tells
Élisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus

the dismemberment of their bodies (chapter 9). It is already possible to suggest that some research hypotheses have been confirmed. This is true of the link between the ideology that led to the mass murder and the modality of the treatment of corpses, which can be seen perfectly clearly in the cases of Rwanda, Argentina, South Africa, Iran, and Armenia, as well as in that of the Holocaust. Certainly, looking at the case studies in this volume, we can say that human ingenuity has no limits when it comes to defiling, dismembering, concealing, or destroying a body, to

in Destruction and human remains
Towards atypology of the treatment of corpses of ‘disappeared detainees’ in Argentinafrom 1975 to 1983
Mario Ranalletti

in Argentina. This heterogeneous set of actors and political practices was, for the perpetrators and their civilian allies, a negative otherness5 that was labelled ‘subversion’, whose aim was to change the ‘Western and Christian’ lifestyle and essence of Argentina. Given what happened in Argentina, it is valid to ask how a professional of war (a soldier) or a security professional (a police officer or gendarme) becomes a perpetrator of mass murder and can exercise extreme violence against a largely civilian population that is unarmed and unable to resist or defend

in Destruction and human remains
Open Access (free)
The daily work of Erich Muhsfeldt, chief of the crematorium at Majdanek concentration and extermination camp, 1942–44
Elissa Mailänder

‘destruction’.5 Destruction is a broader and less normative concept than the judicial concepts of ‘murder’ and ‘genocide’, and it may be the result of any method of killing, whether it involves fire, water, gas, hunger, or cold, or whether direct and fast or stealthy and slow.6 This concept is useful in examining the mass murder that took place at Majdanek concentration and extermination camp since it can be used to analyse the systematic murder of European Jews as well as the mass extermination of prisoners of different nationalities. This makes it possible to see how

in Destruction and human remains
Open Access (free)
Universalism and the Jewish question
Robert Fine and Philip Spencer

progress has always been distant and difficult and faith in progress has not become any easier. Signs of barbarism were acutely visible in the 1990s in the mass murder of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo and the simultaneous genocide in Rwanda, and more indirectly indicated by the silence, if not effective collusion, with which these catastrophes were largely met in the ‘international community’. In addition, the scepticism with which many leftist groups and

in Antisemitism and the left
José López Mazz

repression. These supranational repressive mechanisms, which included a range of criminal activities that reached across the entire Southern Cone, would become known as Operation Condor. Mass murder’s pressing problem: the fate of the bodies Over the course of the period of political repression and dictatorship, the treatment of victims’ bodies followed different procedures. It must firstly be said that many of the disappeared political detainees were subject to harsh and systematic torture following their arrival in clandestine prisons. Systematic torture had begun some

in Human remains and identification