This article will investigate the process of confronting death in cases of the
disappeared of the last military dictatorship in Argentina. Based on the exhumation and
identification of the body of a disappeared person, the article will reflect on how the
persons social situation can be reconfigured, causing structural changes within the family
and other groups. This will be followed by a discussion of the reflections generated by
the anthropologist during his or her interview process, as well as an investigation into
the authors own experiences in the field. This intimate relationship between the
anthropologist and death, through the inevitable contact that takes place among the
bodies, causes resonances in the context both of exhumations and of identifications in the
anthropologists wider fieldwork.
The concealment of bodies during
the militarydictatorship 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
This article will describe the contemporary scientific techniques used to excavate and
identify the dead bodies of disappeared detainees from the Uruguayan dictatorship. It will
highlight the developments that have led to increased success by forensic anthropologists
and archaeologists in uncovering human remains, as well as their effects, both social and
political, on promoting the right to the truth and mechanisms of transitional justice.
Marco Aurelio Guimarães, Raffaela Arrabaça Francisco, Martin Evison, Edna Sadayo Miazato Iwamura, Carlos Eduardo Palhares Machado, Ricardo Henrique Alves da Silva, Maria Eliana Castro Pinheiro, Diva Santana and Julie Alvina Guss Patrício
Exhumation may be defined as the legally sanctioned excavation and recovery of the
remains of lawfully buried or – occasionally – cremated individuals, as distinct from
forensic excavations of clandestinely buried remains conducted as part of a criminal
investigation and from unlawful disinterment of human remains, commonly referred to as
bodysnatching. The aim of this article is to review the role of exhumation – so defined –
in the activities of CEMEL, the Medico-Legal Centre of the Ribeirão Preto Medical
School-University of São Paulo, in international, regional and local collaborations.
Exhumations form part of routine forensic anthropology casework; scientific research in
physical and forensic anthropology; and forensic casework conducted in collaboration with
the Brazilian Federal Police; and are carried out as part of humanitarian investigations
into deaths associated with the civil–military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985. This article
aims to offer a non-technical summary – with reference to international comparative
information – of the role of exhumation in investigative and scientific work and to
discuss developments in their historical and political context.
An Interview with Celso Amorim, Former Brazilian Foreign Minister
Southern states. What role might Brazil
play in defining whatever global order is to come next? CA: Right now, Brazil is very badly placed. But I think this moment will pass. I
am confident of this. I used to say this during the militarydictatorship: ‘I am a
pessimist in the short-term and an optimist in the long-term.’ This phrase is, today,
relevant to the way I think about Brazil. The question is how far away is long-term, thinking in
existential terms for each one of us. But from a geopolitical perspective, I would say that
Brazil does have… I don
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.
Embodying the disappeared of the Argentinian dictatorship through law
Seeking the dead among the living:
embodying the disappeared of the
Argentinian dictatorship through law 1
Y así seguimos andando
curtidos de soledad,
y en nosotros nuestros muertos
pa’ que nadie quede atrás.
(Atahualpa Yupanqui 2)
The state policy of enforced disappearances in Argentina, planned
and implemented during the militarydictatorship of 1976–83, still
has a striking effect today: in the absence of any corpses of the disappeared, the families seek the dead among the living. Their quest
through the law embodies the
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.
In May 1958, and four years into the Algerian War of Independence, a revolt again appropriated the revolutionary and republican symbolism of the French Revolution by seizing power through a Committee of Public Safety. This book explores why a repressive colonial system that had for over a century maintained the material and intellectual backwardness of Algerian women now turned to an extensive programme of 'emancipation'. After a brief background sketch of the situation of Algerian women during the post-war decade, it discusses the various factors contributed to the emergence of the first significant women's organisations in the main urban centres. It was only after the outbreak of the rebellion in 1954 and the arrival of many hundreds of wives of army officers that the model of female interventionism became dramatically activated. The French military intervention in Algeria during 1954-1962 derived its force from the Orientalist current in European colonialism and also seemed to foreshadow the revival of global Islamophobia after 1979 and the eventual moves to 'liberate' Muslim societies by US-led neo-imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the women of Bordj Okhriss, as throughout Algeria, the French army represented a dangerous and powerful force associated with mass destruction, brutality and rape. The central contradiction facing the mobile socio-medical teams teams was how to gain the trust of Algerian women and to bring them social progress and emancipation when they themselves were part of an army that had destroyed their villages and driven them into refugee camps.
Towards atypology of the treatment of corpses of ‘disappeared detainees’ in Argentinafrom 1975 to 1983
and administrative trial regarding operational irregularities at the
judicial morgue of the city of Buenos Aires in relation to bodies sent
there by military authorities during the dictatorship.50 In this case,
it was the judicial branch of the militarydictatorship itself that
highlighted the attempts made to transform the ‘exceptionalism’
of state terrorism into bureaucratically and procedurally regulated
A case study: the Buenos Aires city judicial morgue
Recounting an episode that was subject to a criminal investigation –
and reconstructed in