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Discarding used organic samples in a forensic lab

The manifold materialities of human remains

Claudia Fonseca and Rodrigo Grazinoli Garrido

In this article we explore the relational materiality of fragments of human cadavers used to produce DNA profiles of the unidentified dead at a forensic genetics police laboratory in Rio de Janeiro. Our point of departure is an apparently simple problem: how to discard already tested materials in order to open up physical space for incoming tissue samples. However, during our study we found that transforming human tissues and bone fragments into disposable trash requires a tremendous institutional investment of energy, involving negotiations with public health authorities, criminal courts and public burial grounds. The dilemma confronted by the forensic genetic lab suggests not only how some fragments are endowed with more personhood than others, but also how the very distinction between human remains and trash depends on a patchwork of multiple logics that does not necessarily perform according to well-established or predictable scripts.

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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

. Krishan, D. Moore, V. Moore, M. Ojo, S. Rodrigues, P. Stokes, J. Walker, W. Zimmermann & R. Barallon, ‘Comparative analysis of human mitochondrial DNA from World War I bone samples by DNA sequencing and ESI-TOF mass spectrometry’, Forensic Science International: Genetics, 7 (2013), 1–9. For example in Mexico, see G. Moore, ‘Mexico’s massacre era: gruesome killings, porous prisons’, World Affairs, 175 (2012), 61–8. The Southeast Asian tsunami, see R. Rohan, M. Hettiarachchi, M. Vidanapathirana & S. Perera ‘Management of dead and missing: aftermath tsunami in Galle

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Jenny Edkins

of those searching. Packed into suitcases, these shoes travel the world, testifying to what has happened. The project is an example of a slow, painstaking remaking of a world unmade by violence, as well as a demand for political change and justice.5 Second, I explore the Forensic Architecture project, The Ayotzinapa Case: A Cartography of Violence. While Footprints of Memory was initially the inspiration of one individual and the costs were small, this second project is a piece of commissioned research undertaken by a university-based group that is by now well

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Identification, politics, disciplines

Missing persons and colonial skeletons in South Africa


Nicky Rousseau

practices of exhumation and reburial, thus bringing to view the ‘disciplines of the dead’ – anthropology and archaeology, and more recently the genetics field.6 While the politics of dead bodies has come to refer to the potency of dead bodies in articulating certain kinds of politics, ‘disciplines of the dead’ indexes those scholarly disciplines associated with the dead human body. Rather than counterpose politics and disciplines, my interest here is to extend these concepts to include the politics that arise within and between individuals, disciplines, and institutions

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The unburied victims of Kenya’s Mau Mau Rebellion

Where and when does the violence end?


David M. Anderson and Paul J. Lane

align themselves with, and argue in general support of, one or other of the extremes. Thus, many biological anthropologists, osteologists, bio-​archaeologists, forensic scientists and some archaeologists and museum curators, among other scholars, are strongly in favour of the principle of the retention of human remains so as to permit both current and future research on them: • To learn more about human evolution, adaptation and genetic relationships; • To explore population relationships through genetics and morphology; • To investigate variations and

Open Access (free)

Johanna Gondouin, Suruchi Thapar-Björkert and Ingrid Ryberg

portrayal of the Thai women in the series does very little to counter dominant stereotypes. Instead, we argue, it invokes a fetishising notion of the vulnerability of South East Asian female bodies as available, consumable for sexual and reproductive labour, and ultimately disposable.  123 The politics of reproduction 123 Aestheticised images of the suitcase floating in the water, with long black hair leaking out of it, are recurrent in the first episode. Examining the distorted corpse, it is this hair, determined by the forensic pathologist to be of Asian texture