Open Access (free)

Sévane Garibian

Open Access (free)

Helen Jarvis

The Khmer Rouge forbade the conduct of any funeral rites at the time of the death of the estimated two million people who perished during their rule (1975–79). Since then, however, memorials have been erected and commemorative ceremonies performed, both public and private, especially at former execution sites, known widely as the killing fields. The physical remains themselves, as well as images of skulls and the haunting photographs of prisoners destined for execution, have come to serve as iconic representations of that tragic period in Cambodian history and have been deployed in contested interpretations of the regime and its overthrow.

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Zahira Araguete-Toribio

This article considers how the reburial and commemoration of the human remains of the Republican defeated during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) is affected by the social, scientific and political context in which the exhumations occur. Focusing on a particular case in the southwestern region of Extremadura, it considers how civil society groups administer reburial acts when a positive identification through DNA typing cannot be attained. In so doing, the article examines how disparate desires and memories come together in collective reburial of partially individuated human remains.

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Rémi Korman

Representations of Rwanda have been shaped by the display of bodies and bones at Tutsi genocide memorial sites. This phenomenon is most often only studied from the perspective of moral dimensions. This article aims in contrast to cover the issues related to the treatment of human remains in Rwanda for commemorative purposes from a historical perspective. To this end, it is based on the archives of the commissions in charge of genocide memory in Rwanda, as well as interviews with key memorial actors. This study shows the evolution of memorial practices since 1994 and the hypermateriality of bodies in their use as symbols, as well as their demobilisation for the purposes of reconciliation policies.

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Élisabeth Anstett, Jean-Marc Dreyfus and Caroline Fournet

Open Access (free)

Open Access (free)

Patricio Galella

During the Spanish Civil War, extrajudicial executions and disappearances of political opponents took place and their corpses were buried in unregistered mass graves. The absence of an official policy by successive democratic governments aimed at the investigation of these cases, the identification and exhumation of mass graves, together with legal obstacles, have prevented the victims families from obtaining reparation, locating and recovering the human remains. This paper argues that this state of affairs is incompatible with international human rights law and Spain should actively engage in the search for the whereabouts and identification of the bodies with all the available resources.

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Admir Jugo and Senem Škulj

International interventions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that ultimately brought the war to a standstill, emphasised recovering and identifying the missing as chief among the goals of post-war repair and reconstruction, aiming to unite a heavily divided country. Still, local actors keep,showing that unity is far from achieved and it is not a goal for all those involved. This paper examines the various actors that have taken up the task of locating and identifying the missing in order to examine their incentives as well as any competing agendas for participating in the process. These efforts cannot be understood without examining their impact both at the time and now, and we look at the biopolitics of the process and utilisation of the dead within. Due to the vastness and complexity of this process, instead of a conclusion, additional questions will be opened required for the process to keep moving forward.

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Claudia Merli and Trudi Buck

This article considers the contexts and processes of forensic identification in 2004 post-tsunami Thailand as examples of identity politics. The presence of international forensic teams as carriers of diverse technical expertise overlapped with bureaucratic procedures put in place by the Thai government. The negotiation of unified forensic protocols and the production of estimates of identified nationals straddle biopolitics and thanatocracy. The immense identification task testified on the one hand to an effort to bring individual bodies back to mourning families and national soils, and on the other hand to determining collective ethnic and national bodies, making sense out of an inexorable and disordered dissolution of corporeal as well as political boundaries. Individual and national identities were the subject of competing efforts to bring order to,the chaos, reaffirming the cogency of the body politic by mapping national boundaries abroad. The overwhelming forensic effort required by the exceptional circumstances also brought forward the socio-economic and ethnic disparities of the victims, whose post-mortem treatment and identification traced an indelible divide between us and them.

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Louise Zamparutti

This essay analyses the literature on the foibe to illustrate a political use of human remains. The foibe are the deep karstic pits in Istria and around Trieste where Yugoslavian Communist troops disposed of Italians they executed en masse during World War II. By comparing contemporary literature on the foibe to a selection of archival reports of foibe exhumation processes it will be argued that the foibe literature popular in Italy today serves a political rather than informational purpose. Counterpublic theory will be applied to examine how the recent increase in popular foibe literature brought the identity of the esuli, one of Italy‘s subaltern counterpublics, to the national stage. The paper argues that by employing the narrative structure of the Holocaust, contemporary literature on the foibe attempts to recast Italy as a counterpublic in the wider European public sphere, presenting Italy as an unrecognised victim in World War II.